Dueling Dollars

Big Tobacco, Big Oil raise $144 million to oppose tax hikes; supporters kick in bucks, too

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Oil and tobacco companies and their allies have raised nearly $144 million to defeat propositions 86 and 87 in California, which would boost tobacco and oil taxes to pay for health and alternative energy programs, the Associated Press said.

Proposition 86 would triple the tax on a pack of cigarettes, to $3.47, and boost taxes on other tobacco products to raise $2.1 billion a year for a variety of health programs, including tobacco prevention and education, nursing education and emergency room and public clinic funding.

Proposition 87 would impose a tax on oil production to raise $4 billion for loans, grants and subsidies to promote alternative fuels and more energy-efficient vehicles.

Both are among 13 on the state's November 7 ballot.

Led by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA, tobacco companies have poured $61.5 million so far into the campaign against Proposition 86. PM USA and its parent company, the Altria Group, have given $34 million through last Thursday, AP said, and R.J. Reynolds has contributed $22.8 million.

Supporters reported raising $13.9 million. Major contributors include the American Cancer Society, $2.2 million; the American Heart Association, $682,000; the American Lung Association, $288,000; and the California Hospital Association, $10 million. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $250,000 in support.

Oil companies have raised $82.4 million so far to try to kill Proposition 87. Most of that money has come from Chevron and Aera Energy, a joint project of Shell and ExxonMobil.

Supporters have contributed $50.9 million, including $43.6 million from Hollywood producer Stephen Bing.

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