Don Bauder 7:49 p.m., May 22
America's two biggest tobacco companies are spending big bucks to beat Proposition 29, the "Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research Act" on June's ballot, and a sizable chunk of the wealth is currently being spread to San Diego television stations.
Meanwhile, some high-profile locals with longstanding ties to San Diego's biotech establishment, which stands to benefit financially from the measure, are lending their support to the proposition.
If approved by voters, Prop. 29 will add a dollar per pack to the state's cigarette tax, boosting total per pack taxes to $1.87.
The California Legislative Analyst says that would bring the state $735 million a year in new tax revenues, mandated for smoking reduction, cancer research, and tobacco sales police.
Voters narrowly rejected 2006's Proposition 86, which would have levied an extra $2.60 on a pack of cigarettes, according to BallotPedia.Org, so the the tobacco industry is girding its loins for an all-out fight to stop the latest proposal.
According to a disclosure report posted online by the state Secretary of State's office, the industry's campaign fund, "No on 29, Californians Against Out-of-Control Taxes and Spending," raised $12,088,658 from the beginning of this year through March 17.
Contributions have included $4,005,392 from the American Snuff Company of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and other R.J. Reynolds subsidiaries.
Phillip Morris and related companies kicked in $8,083,266.
A lot of that cash is expected to go for television spots, and media buyers for the tobacco giants are already placing sizable bets in the state's major TV markets of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
According to the campaign's filing, KFMB, Channel 8, has so far been paid $214,897; KGTV, Channel 10, has recieved $196,031; KNSD, Channel 39, has gotten $143,726; and KWSB, Channel 69, has recieved $62,156.
KUSI, Channel 51, has gotten just $60,970, but the campaign is only beginning and the tobacco firms are expected to spend much more.
On the other side of the issue is a fund called "Californians for a Cure," whose backers include the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, and "cancer research doctors," according to its filing.
It raised $2,090,724 from the first of the year through March 17.
Besides the heart and lung associations, major contributors have included the Lance Armstrong Foundation, with $150,000, the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which gave $25,000, and the University of California San Francisco Foundation, with $50,000.
Three wealthy Point Loma and La Jolla locals have also kicked in to support the tax hike: real estate mogul Malin Burnham, whose Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute bears his name--and who is a big supporter of San Diego's biotech business lobby, a likely beneficiary of increased tax funding--gave $5000.
Peggy and Peter Preuss, a venture capitalist, cancer research philanthropist, and former University of California regent, contributed a total of $5046.46