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Altria/Philip Morris Pours over $6 Million into Defeating IM 25 Tobacco Tax

Speaking of out-of-state money, you know who’s paying for all those “Vote No on 25” posters and tear sheets and stickers and floor mats around the cigarette displays at your local gas station? The company that makes those cigarettes, Altria, the old Philip Morris, which through its Client Services Division has poured $5.9 million (plus $465K in donated time and services) into stopping the buck-a-pack tobacco tax for vo-tech tuition:

"South Dakotans" Against Higher Taxes, pre-general report, 2018.10.22.
“South Dakotans” Against Higher Taxes, pre-general report, 2018.10.22.
"South Dakotans" Against Higher Taxes, pre-general report, 2018.10.22.
“South Dakotans” Against Higher Taxes, pre-general report, 2018.10.22.
"South Dakotans" Against Higher Taxes, pre-general report, 2018.10.22.
“South Dakotans” Against Higher Taxes, pre-general report, 2018.10.22.

Oh, and that measly $45K from RAI Services Company? That’s Reynolds Tobacco.

The anti-IM 25 committee calls itself “South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes. Pierre-based treasurer Dawna Lietzke signed the report, but there’s not one South Dakota dollar in this campaign.

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson’s pro-IM 25 committee still has no pre-general report up on the Secretary of State’s website. But I’m confident they will not have $5.9 million in income or $4.3 million in expenses to report.


  1. Dana P 2018-10-24 08:46

    I look forward to the likes of Mr Daugaard, his son-in-law……ooops, I mean his Chief of Staff, Tony Venhuizen, decrying the on-slaught of out-of-state money being poured into South Dakota’s election.

    Citizen’s United. “Corporations are people, my friend” (Mitt Romney)

    It all makes me wanna vomit.

  2. bearcreekbat 2018-10-24 10:36

    This thread creates an interesting personal dilemma. Seeing the selfish interest of the tobacco economic faction with no regard to the potential human loss and suffering from tobacco use, and then exploiting those financial interests by investing in questionable propaganda to affect the vote seems incredibly repulsive, and most naturally creates a viseral reaction in me that suggests voting no on the measure.

    On the other hand, I have a strong philosophical desire to allow every fully knowledgable person the freedom to ingest whatever she or he concludes improves their lives without harming others without significant governmental interference. Arbitrarily increasing taxes on tobacco seems inimical to that freedom. The ability to bring tort claims against tobacco companies that mislead or conceal important health information from consumers seems an appropriate remedy respecting individual choice while reigning in inappropriate busniess practices.

    Plus, I have no objection to increasing taxes on everyone who can afford to pay, but this increase is not targeted in that manner.

    What to do, what to do? I haven’t voted yet and will read with care and thought any comments on DFP that urge a vote one way or the other.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-24 12:51

    Dana, the 24/25 tandem is enough to make me think that Mickelson planned to draw Big Tobacco into a seven-figure campaign against 25 to serve as an object lesson in why 24 is a good idea.

    BCB, I recognize your dilemma. I share your loathing of the tobacco industry, and could justify a YES vote to pass the tax just to punish them for their arrogant disregard of the public welfare. But does that aspect of the policy make up for the weaknesses in the policy itself that you see?

  4. Timoteo 2018-10-24 15:50

    I (early) voted “YES” to IM25.

    Explanation: I am okay with SD spending more money to lower the cost of tuition at tech schools. Perhaps they will abscond with the money and use it somewhere else, as the anti-IM25 propaganda suggests. I am okay with that too. It seems HARD for the state legislature to come up with any money lately. Whatever it helps, and to whatever extent, surely it is better than not having that revenue in place.

  5. Roger Elgersma 2018-10-24 17:50

    Their adds are in conflict with themselves. First they say that there is no option for the money to be used for K-12. Then they say that there is no control over where the money gets spent. If there is no control then it could be spent for k-12.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-24 22:26

    Timoteo, your vote is reasonable, and akin to the position that I took on sales tax for teacher pay in 2016.

    Roger, you intelligently point out the failure of IM 25’s big-money opponents to include logic in their advertising. They’re selling opposition to IM 25 the same way they sell cigarettes, without regard for factual consistency. Words are merely tricks for manipulating people into behaving as the corporate overlords wish.

  7. Dana P 2018-10-24 22:42

    I see what your thinking is there, Cory. And I agree. I wonder if others see this?

  8. Debbo 2018-10-24 23:46

    The thing about tobacco use, and it’s not news to most DFP readers, is that we often have to share health care costs for COPD, various cancers and other conditions brought about by its use.

    One of the best things about the tobacco settlement in the 90s (?) is that some states used the money for anti-tobacco public campaigns focused chiefly on education. They were fairly successful. I’d be more likely to support an increased tobacco tax if the majority of the $ was guaranteed to go directly to similar anti-tobacco efforts.

    I used to be a heavy smoker, 3 packs per day, and I know smoking is very, very hard to give up. Pricing people out of the market has been effective.

  9. leslie 2018-10-26 00:25

    Sen Heitkamp received $12.4 Mil campaign contributions and 3000 new volunteers since voting against Kavanaugh. Republican Krammer received $650, 000. Best of luck from SD Senator!!!

  10. leslie 2018-10-26 00:51

    Bizarre is what comes mind. Republican state plan to finance job training for employers by taxing addicted smokers while big tobacco resists knowing state stalled and misused tobacco settlement money. Meanwhile Guardian extensive articles detailing world’s 2500 billionaires wealth grew 20% in 2017.

  11. Debbo 2018-10-26 11:36

    Leslie quoted, “Meanwhile Guardian extensive articles detailing world’s 2500 billionaires wealth grew 20% in 2017.”

    That’s a very, very sick economy.

  12. mike from iowa 2018-10-26 11:41

    Has anyone noticed Dem candidates going straight to hell negative on wingnuts, like wingnuts are doing to Dems?

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