Altria vs. Dole

Posted November 14, 2003 at 5:38pm

With time running out on a watershed deal to pair new tobacco regulations with a buyout for farmers, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) has launched an 11th-hour effort to add a slimmer, multibillion-dollar aide package for Southern tobacco farmers to a year-end spending bill. [IMGCAP(1)]

Dole, who launched her campaign after Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) conceded that a broader deal is unlikely this year, hopes to include $6 billion to $8 billion in the omnibus bill to buy tobacco quotas from farmers in her state and elsewhere.

But Dole’s effort may be stamped out by an unusual foe: Altria Corp.’s Philip Morris.

In an e-mail to Capitol Hill last week, Altria lobbyist John Scruggs said the leading U.S. tobacco company is “adamantly opposed to a stand-alone quota buyout.”

The company also sent a two-page memo to lawmakers saying that Philip Morris only supports the buyout if it is coupled with a once-hated bill to regulate the industry.

“The so-called ‘buyout’ is not really a buyout — it is a bailout,” the company wrote to lawmakers. “When this proposal was linked to [Food and Drug Administration] regulation, at least it would have resulted in dramatic gains for the consumer who — make no mistake about it — would ultimately have to bear the brunt of these payments.”

If that doesn’t sound like an advertisement from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, check out this doozy from the Philip Morris e-mail: “With FDA part of the equation, consumers could look forward to benefits such as performance standards to make all tobacco products less toxic than they are today and greater assistance to assist those who would like to quit.”

So what’s behind the message from Philip Morris? According to tobacco lobbyists, the firm desperately wants federal regulations so that it can help solidify its industry-leading position.

Strict regulations, such as a ban on advertising, would make it more difficult for R.J. Reynolds’ Camel and Winston brands and Brown & Williamson’s Kool, Pall Mall and Lucky Strike brands to catch up to Philip Morris’s industry-leading Marlboros.

Still Farming for Support. Burley Tobacco Co-op, a group of tobacco farmers, has hired Williams & Jensen to help push for legislation that would buy out federal tobacco contracts from farmers.

Burley is one of several sets of tobacco farmers who have bulked up their representation in Washington as they push for the tobacco deal.

Going Nuclear. The Nuclear Energy Institute has long sponsored some of the most sought-after trips for Members of Congress and their staff during breaks in the year.

New travel documents show that the trade group shelled out $18,911.81 to send Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and his wife on a tour of a nuclear power plant in Italy during the August recess.

The Senator spent nearly $3,000 in meals alone during the six-day trip to the Ansaldo-Camozzi Nuclear and Special Components Facility. The plane ticket cost $14,233.

A Chambliss spokesman noted that Georgia is home to two nuclear power facilities: “He had an opportunity to dialogue with the people involved in Italy’s decision to dismantle their nuclear power plants in the 1980s — both from the construction and operations side — and talk with private sector folks as well. Nuclear energy is an important issue to the economy, our national energy policy and to everyone.”

Another Molinari on K Street. Six years after former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) retired from Congress, there is a new Molinari on K Street.

Guy Molinari, Susan’s father, and his Staten Island-based company, the Molinari Group, have signed up to lobby for their first client in Washington.

According to newly released lobbying disclosure forms on PoliticalMoneyLine.com, the Molinari Group represents the Staten Island University Hospital on Medicare and Medicaid issues. The elder Molinari is a former Staten Island borough president.

Global Crossing Seeks Help. A group of investors hoping to push Global Crossing out of bankruptcy has hired a Washington lobbying firm to help them sell the company to Singapore Technologies Telemedia.

According to lobbying forms, the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors of Global Crossing has hired Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP to help it secure the support of the Committee on Foreign Investments, which can block the deal.

Preston Gates also reported that it has been hired by the Aleutian Spray Fisheries to work on a ground fish rationalization measure.

Lobbying for Bowls. Piper Rudnick has been hired by the newly formed Football Bowl Association to round up support on for changing the way college football’s season-ending championship series is organized.

The Football Bowl Association represents dozens of teams in small- and mid-sized conferences who believe that the current Bowl Championship Series tilts the playing field toward teams in the six major conferences.