Tobacco giant Reynolds American spent $ 16 million on political donations in 2020

  • Reynolds American, maker of Camel and Newport cigarettes, donated millions in 2020 to political entities.
  • The Biden administration wants to ban menthol cigarettes, manufactured by Reynolds American.
  • Republicans and Democrats have benefited from the donations.

The second-largest tobacco company in the United States spent more than $ 16 million on political donations in 2020, a show of force that foreshadows the difficulties the Biden administration could face as it seeks to ban cigarettes mentholated.

Reynolds American has made more than 700 donations totaling $ 16,229,475 to candidates, committees, voting initiatives and PACs on both sides of the aisle and at all levels of government, according to a new corporate governance document posted on Reynolds American’s website and reviewed by Insider.

Contributions came either from Reynolds American directly or from its Corporate Political Action Committee.

Read more: FDA plans to ban menthol cigarettes and all cigar flavors, and Biden approves

In a show of the company’s strength, Reynolds American, the maker of Camel, Pall Mall and Newport – the nation’s most popular menthol cigarette – last year donated $ 10 million to the California Coalition for Fairness. “.

The bland-named group is backing an effort to repeal a 2020 California law that banned flavored cigarettes. The law is currently suspended until 2022 pending a referendum.

Reynolds American also gave $ 25,000 to a committee controlled by California Democratic assembly member Adam Gray, who introduced a vaping bill that anti-smoking advocates said was more lenient to tobacco companies than an outright ban.

Other notable contributions from Reynolds American include $ 600,000 to the Republican-backed Congressional Leadership Fund, a payment of $ 50,000 to the Republican Mayor’s Group Community Leaders of America, and $ 225,000 to GOPAC, which aims to “educate and elect a new generation of Republican leaders. “

The company also provided significant financial support to the Republican National Convention last year, donating $ 350,000 to the host committee in Charlotte, North Carolina, formed before COVID-19 forced the convention to downsize and relocate to Washington, DC.

Reynolds American has also donated a quarter of a million dollars to the Jacksonville 2020 host committee, formed to support an alternative Republican convention site in Florida before President Donald Trump abruptly canceled it.

Donations to Democrats or Democrat-affiliated groups include $ 10,000 to the super PAC Jobs & Opportunities, $ 30,000 to the Democratic Attorneys General Association and $ 55,000 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

The Illinois Democratic Party also benefited from Reynolds’ largesse, getting $ 12,000 in 2020.

Reynolds American also distributed smaller amounts in the order of three to four digits to people vying for such local races as aldermen for such powerful positions as governor – a demonstration of their desire to gain allies in everything. the specter of American politics.

Representatives for Reynolds American did not return requests for comment.

“Products manufactured by the operating companies of Reynolds American Inc. are sold, taxed and regulated in all 50 states,” says Reynolds American in a corporate document describing its philosophy of political contribution. “The engagement of RAI companies in political, legislative and regulatory processes is important to their business, as issues directly relevant to RAI and its operating companies are systematically determined by these processes.”

Reynolds American has made political donations for years as the federal government fights a long war to prevent smoking-related illness and death.

Smoking causes nearly half a million deaths in the United States each year, and more than 16 million people in the United States live with conditions caused by smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Under Biden, the Food and Drug Administration wants to ban menthol cigarettes, which they say initiates young smokers and harms vulnerable communities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also critical the tobacco industry for “aggressively marketing menthol products to youth and African Americans, especially in urban communities.” African Americans have the highest percentage of menthol cigarette consumption compared to other racial and ethnic groups, according to a General report of the American surgeon from the late 1990s.

“Banning menthol – the last flavor allowed – in cigarettes and banning all flavors in cigars will help save lives, especially among those disproportionately affected by these deadly products,” said the April 29 FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

Angela Wang contributed to this report.