Daschle Calls For Probe Into Tobacco, Health Care Ad Campaigns
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 2) -- Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is calling on Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate whether the tobacco industry and health insurance companies are violating federal election laws with their ad campaigns targeting federal legislation.
In a letter to Reno, the South Dakota Democrat based his request in part on a complaint filed Monday with the Federal Elections Commission by the National Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
The anti-tobacco group says the tobacco industry, which has poured $40 million into ads opposing the recently defeated McCain tobacco bill, plans new ads endorsing Republican senators who voted to kill the bill. The group charges that effort violates federal laws that prohibit corporations from contributing money to candidates.
"I fear that these practices will constitute a trend and result in yet another loophole in our campaign finance laws," Daschle wrote. He said the National Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' complaint "makes a persuasive case that this next phase of advertising is solely intended to affect the outcome of federal elections, not public policy."
In addition, Daschle called on Reno to investigate the health insurance industry, which he said "is now employing an identical advertising strategy in it attempt to defeat federal reforms of managed care practices and health maintenance organizations."
Tobacco industry spokesman Scott Williams said that its advertising would comply with federal law. Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Health Plans, characterizing Daschle's call for an investigation "an attempt to silence our ads and to gag us."
"Our ads are focused squarely on the issue of government mandates, both state and federal, and not even on any specific piece of legislation," Pisano said.