Altria, formerly known as Philip Morris, has been one of the Republican Party’s most loyal financial backers over the years.
Since 1990, the nation’s largest tobacco company has given 75 percent of its $19 million in campaign contributions to the GOP, according to a recent study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. [IMGCAP(1)]
But is Altria now shifting its contributions to Democrats?
Some lobbyists in the tobacco industry say that Altria has begun to send a greater share of its political dollars to Democrats to generate greater support among Democrats for its No. 1 legislative priority of the year.
Altria wants legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate cigarettes for the first time.
Altria believes that the new regulations would make it easier for it to retain its status as the leading cigarette-maker — especially as the FDA clamps down on cigarette ads. New regulations could also reduce the company’s liability in future lawsuits.
Because the Republican Party in general opposes new federal regulations, Altria has had to reach out to Democrats to move the bill. So Altria has been careful to give more of its political dollars to Democrats as it tries to build support for the legislation across the aisle, some tobacco lobbyists say.
In the 2001-02 election cycle, 29 percent of Altria’s donations from its political action committee went to Democrats.
This cycle, Democrats have received 39 percent of the $447,500 handed out by Altria, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
Altria also for the first time gave just as much money — $100,000 — to the Democratic convention as they did to the GOP convention.
Altria spokeswoman Dawn Schneider said that “there was not more attention provided to one convention over the other.”
At the same time, some of Altria’s competitors — who oppose the new FDA regulations — have increased their contributions to Republican lawmakers.
R.J. Reynolds has given 85 percent of its $417,000 in political donations to the GOP so far this cycle — up from 83 percent in the previous cycle; Brown & Williamson has sent 87 percent of its $133,000 in contributions to Republicans, after sending 82 percent their way in the past cycle; and Lorillard ramped up its GOP giving to 84 percent this cycle from 76 percent last cycle.
GOP Firms Outpace K Street. Most lobbying firms on K Street have not had a banner year in 2004, according to recently released lobbying figures for the first half of the year.
But in a town where a Republican president sits in the White House and the Republican Party controls both houses of Congress, one set of lobbying firms are thriving: shops controlled by Republicans.
Washington’s four major all-Republican lobbying firms saw their lobbying revenues climb by nearly 50 percent in the first six months of the year, compared with the first half of 2003.
By contrast, the 25 biggest lobbying firms on K Street grew by a paltry 8 percent during the same period, according to a Roll Call review of lobbying revenues.
Barbour Griffith & Rogers, the Federalist Group, Alexander Strategy Group and Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock earned $19.6 million in fees for lobbying Congress in the first half of the year.
That was a 46 percent jump from the first half of 2003, when the firms billed $13.4 million for their lobbying duties.
The Federalist Group, aided by a key merger, set the pace for the GOP firms.
Republican partners Stewart Hall and John Green more than doubled their lobbying revenues to $5.8 million for the period — up from $2.6 million last year — after merging their practice with that of veteran Republican lobbyist Wayne Berman.
Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock and the Alexander Strategy Group each saw their lobbying revenues climb by more than one third.
The firm run by Don Fierce, Mark Isakowitz and Kirk Blalock recorded a 39 percent jump in fees, to $3.2 million, while the Alexander Strategy Group, helmed by former aides to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), posted a 36 percent jump in fees.
Barbour Griffith & Rogers recorded the smallest percentage increase of the all-GOP firms, but at 19 percent it was no slouch. It hauled in the most lobbying revenues of any all-GOP firm: $6.8 million in the first half of the year.
Barbour Griffith & Rogers, which lost founder Haley Barbour to the Mississippi governorship, now ranks among the top 10 firms on K Street, according to the Roll Call analysis.
“With Republicans expected to maintain control of both houses of Congress and the re-election of President Bush, we are confident our all-Republican lobbying firm will continue to help clients achieve the results they seek in Washington and state capitals,” said Loren Monroe, a vice president at Barbour Griffith & Rogers.
K Street Moves … After a run of bad publicity, Greenberg Traurig has dumped public relations firm Edelman Worldwide in favor of Black Arrow Media Strategies, run by native Washingtonian Jason Maloni. A former strategist with Powell Tate, Maloni founded Black Arrow Media Strategies at the beginning of 2003. … Brett Heimov has left the office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to join the Dutko Group as a vice president. … George Wolfe has returned to Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough after three years in the Bush administration to manage the firm’s Washington office.