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County Cigarette Tax Hike Big Boon To Lobbyists

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 31, 2013 3:15PM

2013_1_31_burning_cigarette.jpg A report released Wednesday by Cook County Clerk David Orr’s office showed lobbying firms hired by tobacco companies accounted for nearly 10 percent of the $2.4 million paid to lobbyists last year to influence Cook County officials, almost certainly a result of the $1 hike in the county cigarette tax.

So the tobacco industry is hiring lobbyists. What else is new? Well, as Orr told the Sun-Times, the question raised here is what work is actually being done by the lobbying firms.

Republic Companies, also known as Glenview-based Republic Tobacco, paid out the most for lobbying on tobacco issues of any firm last year: $140,000. But reports show the firm Republic hired to do the lobbying — Chicago-based All-Circo Inc. — held no meetings, placed no phone calls or sent emails to elected leaders or staff during the year.

Orr tells the Sun-Times that raises more than a few questions.

“It is of concern to me that this much money was spent and it was a somewhat controversial issue and yet no contacts were allegedly made,” Orr told the Sun-Times. “It raises some serious questions about whether any lobbying took place or not.”

All-Circo’s John Kelly told the Sun-Times the firm was hired to fight against the county’s first-ever tax on loose tobacco that was passed in 2011 and the money they earned from Republic last year was to educate retail stores that sell loose tobacco to continue buying their inventory from Republic instead of looking out of Cook County.

Phillip Morris parent company Altria paid lobbyists $39,000 to meet with officials and RAI Services Company, the parent company of R.J. Reynolds, paid the firm of Nicolay and Dart $10,000.

The full lobbyist report showed All-Circo earned $840,000—roughly 35 percent—of the money paid to firms influencing county officials. Nice business if you can get it.

By the way, Orr’s office makes lobbying information public and you can search the records here.