Backers of a statewide initiative to ban smoking in bars and restaurants fear Big Tobacco’s huge contributions to a competing measure will blow away their efforts like the wisp from a lit cigarette.
Campaign finance reports submitted Thursday show that Missouri-based RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. has given nearly $3 million to promote Proposition 206, which would roll back smoking bans in cities such as Tempe and allow smoking in bars and restaurants statewide with certain restrictions to reduce secondhand smoke. Bars, restaurants and others have provided another $30,000 in contributions.
Proposition 201, which would eliminate all smoking inside bars and eateries, has received just over $850,000, more than $300,000 of which came from the American Cancer Society. Other contributors include the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.
“It’s being entirely bankrolled by the tobacco interests,” Cancer Society lobbyist Michelle Pabis said about Prop. 206. “As a nonprofit health organization, we’re never going to be able to compete with that dollar amount.”
Prop. 206 spokeswoman Camilla Strongin, a partner at Phoenix-based political consulting firm The Symington Group, said the initiative is not a poison pill. Instead, Strongin said it’s a serious effort to protect those who don’t wish to endure secondhand smoke, while preserving the rights of adults to make their own decisions about exposure to smoking.
“I think we’ve been very forthright about the support from RJ Reynolds,” Strongin said. “Their involvement in this is certainly welcomed.”
Still, she would not explain why the tobacco giant was so interested in a serious antismoking effort.
“I don’t speak on behalf of the company,” Strongin said.
The committee promoting Proposition 203, which would increase funding for early childhood development programs through an additional 80-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes, has received the second-largest amount of contributions, about $2.8 million.
A broad base of contributors including banks, developers and investment firms, gave money through two campaign groups: “Yes on 203" and “Arizonans for a Fair Beginning.” There is no organized opposition to the measure.
Three ballot measures that faced legal challenges will be on the ballot after rulings Thursday by the Arizona Supreme Court.
They are Proposition 106, a conservation and Arizona Land Department reform measure; Proposition 107, which would restrict marriage to heterosexual couples and prohibits the state from recognizing civil unions; and Proposition 207, which limits eminent domain powers and requires landowner compensation when government actions reduce property values.
Backers of Prop. 106, which would set aside up to 694,000 acres of state trust land for preservation and allow the state Land Department to use a percentage of the proceeds from land sales and leases to fund planning efforts, have reported contributions of about $1.3 million through three separate campaign groups.
Opponents, led by the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, have raised about $770,000.
Campaigns for and against the anti-gay marriage Prop. 107 have received roughly the same amount of financial support, with supporters raising about $460,000 and opponents collecting just more than $570,000.
The campaign for Prop. 207, the property rights initiative, has received nearly $930,000 in contributions, while the anti-Prop. 207 effort has raised just $11,300.
The battle over raising Arizona’s minimum wage to $6.75 an hour also has received lopsided support, with most contributions going to supporters. Backers of Proposition 202 have raised nearly $550,000, and the measure’s critics have collected about $28,000.
Proposition 204, which would require farmers to provide larger pens for pregnant sows and feeder calves, has garnered more than $490,000 in support, while its opponents, led by the National Pork Producers Council, have raised about $720,000.