Tobacco’s Demise in Washington

OPENSECRETS BLOG recently sketched an unlikely comparison between the political influence of big tobacco and that of education. While the former’s command in Washington has largely waned since the 90’s, the opposite can be said of the education “industry.” Both have gradually become more partisan, tobacco leaning increasingly to the right, and education to the left.

So what actually happened to tobacco?  Its demise is explained thusly:

In most election cycles between 1992 and 2002, the majority of the industry’s contributions came in the form of soft money. When the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 banned those contributions beginning with the 2004 cycle, tobacco dropped from 41st to 66th among industries in terms of overall donations, and to this day has not recovered.

Yet records of annual lobbying expenditures indicate a decline that originates well before 2004:


1998 was, after all, what might be considered a watershed year for tobacco.  The massive settlement between “Big Tobacco” and 46 attorneys general demanding remuneration for tobacco-related health costs was a huge blow to the indsutry, and included provisions that limited its lobbying activity.  For an alphabetical list of industry profiles, visit

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