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The Battle over the Media Campaign

By August 24, the Conference Committee had made its report available. The Coalition seemed satisfied with the result regarding the Health Education Account. An internal ACS memo concluded that the recommendation was “quite close to the agreement reached by the Coalition and other parties in the form of amendments to SB 1099.”[37] At this point, the revenue was divided into one-time and ongoing expenditures. One-time expenditures included $15 million in reserves, $30 million in competitive grants, and $14 million in unallocated funds. Ongoing expenditures were broken down into state programs and local programs. State programs included $3 million for oversight and data collection and analysis, $15 million for the media campaign, $20 million for CHDP screening, and $12 million for competitive grants. Local programs included $36 million for school-aged populations and $36 million for high-risk populations.

At Miller's request, the Coalition members reaffirmed their support for SB 1099 as it existed on August 18, 1989. Miller had asked the Conference Committee to incorporate the substance of SB 1099 into the AB 75 package and reported that SB 1099 would not have a separate hearing. At that point the Coalition decided that a single bill should cover


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appropriations from the Health Education Account and the medical service accounts; tobacco interests and the CMA would presumably have more difficulty killing the anti-tobacco education program if it were part of a larger bill that included the appropriations for the medical services accounts.[38] According to Miller, “We wanted to make it so that they couldn't have all that money for their clinics and their hospitals unless they voted for health education as well.”[12]

The media campaign was the main bone of contention; Miller expected the industry to try to kill it. Steve Scott, political editor of the California Journal, observed that the media program “was the main issue because…it was that component that bothered them [the tobacco industry] the most. I mean the tax was the tax, there was nothing they could do about it, but the notion that Californians would be educated and that there would be a specific media component to it was what terrified them.”[39] As Miller and Scott expected, in September, after AB 75 had moved out of the Conference Committee, the tobacco industry emerged from the shadows and launched an all-out lobbying blitz to kill the anti-tobacco media campaign.

During the final days of the Conference Committee, tobacco industry contract lobbyists saturated legislators.[41][40][41] On September 13 Assembly Members Bronzan and Isenberg and Senators Keene and Rosenthal sent an alert to their fellow members warning them that twenty-five lobbyists had been hired by the tobacco industry to try to kill the provisions authorizing the anti-smoking television ads.[42] Miller recalled the dramatic standoff inside the Conference Committee:

The blitz of lobbying was awesome—the tobacco industry brought in the “first team” from Washington, D.C., and New York. They literally hired every contract lobbyist around. They would hire a lobbyist just to win one vote. Judge Garibaldi, then the preeminent contract lobbyist, told Senator Watson the industry offered him a blank check—he could fill in any amount he wished, just to add his clout to the contest.

Prior to adoption of the Conference Committee report, the industry had brought high pressure on the six members to target all tobacco education to youth. They clearly had the Republican members, and were about to win some of the Democrats (and destroy health education). Before a vote could be taken, however, Phil Isenberg and Bruce Bronzan stood up from the table, stepped to the front of the room, and publicly refused to have anything further to do with the conference. Both men shamed their colleagues, Isenberg described the youth proposal as one of the cheapest tricks he had witnessed. The demonstration by both men effectively killed the “youth only” effort and assured adoption of a legitimate health education proposal.[13] [emphasis added]


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When the bill moved to the Assembly floor, tobacco lobbyists were lined up three and four deep along the public railing outside the Assembly chamber, sending messages in to legislators and talking to them as they went into the chamber.[43] Mary Adams, the ACS lobbyist at the time, noted, “The tobacco industry was handing out $10,000 checks to any and every lobbyist it could find who would work on the issue. It was a hoot to see who was at the railing! They would have hired my cat if she had been a registered lobbyist!”[44] The industry was successful in reaching some legislators, most notably Senator Maddy and Speaker Brown, both of whom questioned the value of using Health Education Account money for a massive and untested media campaign.[19]

Fortunately for public health advocates, the tobacco industry went too far and generated a backlash among many legislators. In Bronzan's words, the lobbying campaign became “so gross and so obvious that it becomes dangerous for [lawmakers] to associate themselves with it.”[43] The health advocates alerted the media to the tobacco industry's lobbying tactics. Walters summed up the effort in his Sacramento Bee column: “The tobacconists may have made a tactical error. Their heavy-handed push drew attention from news media, which put the politicians on the spot and, in the end, they abandoned the drive and the ad money remained.”[45] Walters declared the industry's defeat a public victory over narrower interests.

In 1989 politicians still saw implementing the voter mandate as a priority. The industry had put itself in the limelight with a too-obvious lobbying effort. Once again, outside attention had worked to the advantage of the health groups and to the defeat of the industry.


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