Sept. 1, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

K Street Files: Secular Coalition Finds Religion (on K Street)

Started just four years ago, the Secular Coalition for America has gotten its lobbying sea legs and moved into its own new digs on K Street.

The group, which recently named former Maine state legislator Sean Faircloth as its executive director, used the fact that it now has a K Street address as a fundraising device in a recent e-mail to supporters.

The coalition got a little creative in its fundraising ask, including a list of possible contribution amounts: “$666 buys a legislator’s soul, we’ve heard — if that was bad information, we’ll substitute a new computer and printer” and “$232 might pay for a round of golf at a private country club with a member of Congress? We don’t know — we don’t do that. But if you send us $232, or any other amount, we will put it to good use lobbying for the rights of atheists, agnostics, and humanists.”

Coalition spokesman Jesse Galef said it’s a “point of pride” that the coalition has moved to K Street. It previously was co-locating with the American Humanist Association.

K Street “is notorious for having high-powered lobbyists,” Galef said. “The fact that a secular lobbying organization is on it shows we are a legitimate political power.”

Tobacco Brouhaha. The Canadian government’s proposal to ban flavored cigarettes has prompted several U.S. tobacco interests to lobby Members of Congress to pressure Canada to not inadvertently ban American blend cigarettes.

The legislation, which was intended to prohibit candy-flavored cigarettes, has evolved into a bill that would ban cigarettes that contain burley tobacco, according to tobacco farm groups such as the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, the Kentucky Farm Bureau, the International Tobacco Growers’ Association and Philip Morris International.

“The information we’ve got says they want to ban all flavors in Canada with the exception of menthol,” said Roger Quarles, president of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association. “That means all flavorings and consequently all burley tobacco used in American-made cigarettes, would be banned.”

Burely is a major tobacco crop in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

American-made cigarettes include a “slight amount of flavoring to take away an inherent sting which is almost every time completely undetectable to the consumer,” Quarles said.

The tobacco groups have launched an advertising campaign in Capitol Hill publications, including Roll Call, saying that Canada could “destroy an entire segment of the American tobacco farming community.”

So far, several Members of Congress have written letters to their counterparts in Canada. The tobacco growers were successful in getting the legislation delayed until the Canadian government comes back in session in September.

But even if it’s enacted, that doesn’t mean tobacco groups will stand down. Quarles said they believe the legislation could violate international trade laws.

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