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The CMA's Quiet Withdrawal

As the campaign progressed, the proponents' efforts continued to be hamstrung by the CMA for two reasons. The CMA had not come through with the money it had promised, and as a part of the Coalition, the CMA was a target for the tobacco industry. David Langness, a CAHHS board member who served on the Coalition's Executive Committee as the AHA representative, offered an explanation for the CMA's behavior: “At that point, the allocations were set, the language was cast in stone [and] it was a done deal. …They [the CMA] knew that if we lost, it was no skin off their nose. …The doctors committed to a large amount but never paid it, which is funny in a way, because they are who are reaping the greatest reward now. Maybe they were smarter than all of us.”[44]

Despite the CMA's low level of participation, the tobacco industry remained concerned that the CMA might move in with serious money for proponents and held off on its doctor-bashing campaign to insure that this did not happen. The doctor-bashing tactic came late and was not a

central focus of the campaign. According to Raimundo, “We had been holding back a little, hoping that they [the CMA] wouldn't get involved in the campaign, not wanting to do anything to piss them off and send them in…we had run out of things to talk about. We had to come up with another issue. So we started in on the docs.”[29] At a Tobacco Institute planning meeting, held on July 6, 1988, to discuss Proposition 99, participants discussed three basic messages to be used in their advertising campaign against the initiative: police burden/crime increases, tax money into doctors' pockets, and government interference/fairness. Roger Mozingo, director of state activities for the Tobacco Institute, observed, however, that “how we address the doctors issue is obviously sensitive; thus, our approach will have to be carefully positioned.”[45] The doctor issue had likely tested well in focus groups, but the industry was clearly not embracing this as a major strategy, perhaps as a result of its conversations with the CMA.

Nonetheless, the CMA used the anticipated tobacco industry opposition to Proposition 99 as its excuse for not making more of a commitment to the campaign. Langness observed,

They [CMA] said, “Oh they're [the tobacco industry] going to spend 40-50 million dollars and they're going to defeat you with sheer money and no matter how much money we put in, it's going to be going down a rat hole.” So what's unfortunate was, we based our campaign on the eventuality of CMA money and it never came. And we weren't able to do a lot of things that we would otherwise have been able to do had it come. And also, during the second period after their “guns and gangs” campaign failed to do anything in the polls, the tobacco industry really hit the doctors. I don't know if you heard any of their ads about the golf clubs dropping in the trunk of the Mercedes. But they were obviously the most visible target. And frankly had we bounced them at that point, had we just kicked them out, it probably would have been smarter. Because it would have removed that target from the campaign.[44]

In June 1988 the CMA Council, in fact, had formally decided to back off in its support for the campaign. It agreed

not to contribute additional funds to the tobacco tax initiative campaign. The CMA believes it is not in the best interest of physicians to battle the tobacco industry, which has pledged to defeat the November ballot measure with a multi-million-dollar campaign that is likely to single out physicians as personal beneficiaries of the revenues generated. Part of the revenue from the increased tobacco tax will be used for health education and to offset the uncompensated care problem. The CMA will support the initiative by providing physicians with information about the initiative through California Physician magazine and possible all-member mailings.[46] [emphasis added]


This decision was not made public at the time, however, and Jay Michael continued to press for more of the Proposition 99 monies to go into health care.

There were even official conversations about kicking the CMA out of the Coalition. According to Langness,

We talked about it in meetings. People were angry as hell. Because basically what the docs did was played an end game on us. They committed to a certain amount of funds, we based the campaign on those funds, then when we look forward to such a point where the campaign was locked in, they said, “Oh gee, sorry, we ran out of money.” They know that if we lost, it was no skin off their nose. And if we won, great! They'd get a cheap victory. I think all of us got an education in extremely cynical coalition politics at that point.[44]

The Coalition did not act on these feelings, however; the CMA remained in the coalition.

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