John McCain May Be Hazardous To Your Health

By Sean Reagan

One of the nice things about having John McCain around is, well, just how long he’s actually been around. Like Bob Dole, John McCain has some serious mileage. And that translates into a record ripe for the scrutinizin’.

Take, for example, Big Tobacco.

Arizona doesn’t grow tobacco. That means that John McCain would never take money from, say, Philip Morris, Inc. or U.S. Tobacco, Inc., right?


McCain has been toking Big Tobacco PAC dollars since the mid-eighties. When he ran for the Senate in 1986, the Tobacco Institute wrote him a $1000 check. One year later, they paid him $2,000 in “speaking fees.”

In 1991, they ponied up another grand for his reelection efforts. Think they did it because he wasn’t delivering for them?

In 1986, a grateful McCain voted against the so-called “Petri Amendment,” proposed by Wisconsin Rep. Thomas Petri. Petri wanted to eliminate $35.4 million in tobacco subsidies from the Farm Bill because they were “wasteful.” McCain helped kill that amendment.

(These days, McCain really really hates those kinds of big wasteful subsidies in Farm Bills but hey. That was then, this is now, right?)

It doesn’t stop there. Between 1985 and 1994, McCain pocketed a total of $26,500 from Big Tobacco.

But look. Let’s be reasonable. McCain takes their money, he blows their smoke – at least he’s consistent, right? I mean, this straight-talkin’ man of honor and integrity wouldn’t do an about-face on Big Tobacco, would he?

Of course he would.

In 1998, McCain suddenly decided that no, smoking was bad and it had to be stamped out, and he was just the man to do it. He supported, with the Clinton White House, a $1.10 per pack tax increase to fund public health programs, particularly those directed at underage smokers – McCain really wanted to protect the kids.

During this period, McCain’s falling out with the industry intensified, not least because he backed the $1.10-per-pack tax. The industry ended up spending an estimated $40 million to defeat the bill, one of the most expensive campaigns against a piece of legislation at the time, with McCain as the primary target.

But hey. A man sees the light, starts doing the right thing – we should be understanding. We should be sympathetic. ‘Cause now that McCain is against Big Tobacco (after being for Big Tobacco), he wouldn’t actually go back to Big Tobacco. Would he?

Well, yes. He would.

Last year, McCain voted against legislation that would have used a 61-cents-per-pack tax to expand a children’s health program. He told a television reporter earlier this year that he would have a “no new taxes” policy as president.

Maybe 1998 kids were more important than 2008 kids?

Charlie Black, McCain’s senior campaign advisor, was actually a lobbyist for Big Tobacco back when McCain was against Big Tobacco after he had been for Big Tobacco which he is now is again.

Still with me?

Black’s wife, Judy – co-chair of Woman for McCain – is a former executive at The Tobacco Institute. In a letter on McCain’s website, she wrote:

We believe John McCain addresses all the things that really matter to us.

I’m sure he does, Judy. I’m sure he does.

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5 Responses to “John McCain May Be Hazardous To Your Health”

  1. This is a great analysis. There must be lots of other groups like Big Tobacco who have a hold on McCain. And his flip-flopping on campaign finance is really fascinating — it should be possible to get some mileage from that. It will be interesting to see how Obama’s campaign uses this — and how much is left to others like the DNC and unions to spread the word.

  2. Nice work Sean.  You are right <a href=””>John McCain</a> is bad for you health and wallet, kind of like tobacco.

  3. Hmm, It looks like I can’t embed links here…

  4. Keep up the good work.

  5. As the old cock crows, so does the young 😉

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