Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. tobacco industry enjoyed tremendous success in beating back tobacco tax increases at all levels of government. But as the industry becomes ever more reviled and the economy goes further in the tank, raising cigarette taxes has become a much easier political proposition. Twelve states raised their cigarette tax in 2007 and 2008, with proposed legislation to do the same in 17 more states, as of February 2009. The federal government recently approved a tobacco tax increase of almost 62 cents per pack. When it goes into effect on April 1, it will bring the total federal tax on a pack of cigarettes to $1.00, to help fund the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which was passed in the wake of controversy over the manufacturing standards of Chinese toy companies, set new lead limits for toys, clothes and other products which are aimed at children under 12. Associated Press reports that the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Childrenswear -- which it states "represents manufacturers and family business workers" -- is leading the protests against the new standards.
Berman has long been the front man through which corporations have aggressively attacked their opponents without leaving fingerprints. Known to his own friends and enemies alike as "Dr. Evil," Berman has perfected the art of setting up non-profit "charitable" groups to advance corporate interests. The groups have deceptively helpful-sounding names, like "Guest Choice Network," the "Employment Policies Institute" or the "Center for Consumer Freedom," but really serve as well-funded attack dogs for the tobacco, alcohol, chain restaurant, tanning and other industries. The groups' non-profit status makes their funding hard to trace, which has permitted Berman to operate in the shadows for decades while pocketing millions from unpopular industries for his work thwarting public interest legislation.
"Our goal is straightforward," wrote the head of the Center for Energy and Economic Development, now called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. "Persuade states that voluntary sequestration activities and technology investments are appropriate policies to address climate change concerns, while government mandatory controls are not." The 2004 memo (pdf), written to the head of Peabody Energy, also details the industry front group's efforts to "sow discord among the RGGI states," the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative by ten U.S. states. That was done via front group-sponsored research that concluded the RGGI states would face "negative economic consequences" for reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while having "an infinitesimal affect on global GHG concentrations." On the federal level, the memo boasts, "We activated the Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) citizen army to call targeted U.S. Senators," in opposition to the McCain-Lieberman climate change bill.