The Republican Party received $100,000 donations last month from tobacco giants Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, which are lobbying for Congress to accept a huge settlement against cigarette-makers.
A report to the Federal Election Commission shows that each company gave $100,000 in “soft-money” donations in June. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. gave $15,000.
The report also showed the Republican National Committee returned a $750 donation from a Paraguayan man, Miguel Larreinegabe, because of questions about whether he was a U.S. citizen. Foreigners may not donated to U.S. campaigns.
The tobacco donations came just days before the industry reached a historic settlement that, if it becomes law, would protect cigarette-makers from future damage claims in exchange for $368 billion for anti-smoking campaigns and compensation to the states for medical bills for smoking-related illnesses.
The deal is subject to approval by Congress and the president. The contributions - to a Republican National Committee panel that collects money for state elections - are part of a strategy by tobacco companies to give generously to Republicans who can be counted on to support the deal, said one analyst.
“Their current strategy is to give almost all party money to Republicans and gird their support among individual Democrats in tobacco states to at least hold the present deal together, or strengthen it,” said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia.
As of June 30, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds together had given $575,000 in soft money to the RNC this year, the FEC report showed. Such donations may be used for party-building but not for candidates.
By comparison, Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds donated a total of $1.13 million to the committee in 13 months ending Dec. 31, 1996.
The RNC garnered $1.3 million in soft money last month. Other big donors included M & M Holdings Inc., a Tennessee property development firm that gave $75,000, and telecommunications giant TCI Inc., which gave $40,000.
Six-month figures for the Democratic National Committee will be available around the end of July.
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