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Tobacco Assn. Leads in Fees to Lawmakers

July 10, 1989|From United Press International

WASHINGTON — The tobacco industry, facing increased calls for curbs on smoking in public places, last year led the list of honorariums paid to members of Congress at $123,400, an independent study showed today.

The Tobacco Institute, the industry's association, was clearly ahead of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, at $113,500, and the American Bankers Assn., at $106,550, in total fees paid for speeches and appearances by lawmakers, according to the study by the public interest group Common Cause.

In all, 20 associations and companies paid at least $50,000 in honorariums during 1988, the study said. As expected, money tended to be channeled to congressional leaders or to members of committees with jurisdiction over interests of the donors.

Such payments have drawn increased criticism for Congress, and President Bush last week proposed banning honorariums by Jan. 1, 1991, although Congress is not likely to go along without an increase in salaries.

Lawmakers are limited to $2,000 per appearance but can keep overall as much as 40% of their salaries in the Senate and 30% in the House. They can take more if the surplus goes to a charity of their choice.

Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer said in releasing the study, "Millions of dollars of special interest honoraria are undermining the integrity and credibility of Congress. The honoraria system must be banned."

Common Cause cited the National Venture Capital Assn., a proponent of cutting the capital gains tax, as an example of targeted honorariums. The group gave $29,000 of its total $33,000 to 22 members of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee.

The Tobacco Institute spread its honorariums among 86 House members and eight senators of both parties.

Others among the top honorarium contributors: American Trucking Assns. Inc., $89,500; Connell Rice and Sugar Co., $84,000; Securities Industry Assn., $76,850; Chicago Board of Trade, $71,000; RJR/Nabisco Inc., $69,500; Grocery Manufacturers of America, $67,000; McDonnell Douglas Corp., $66,000; Northrop Corp., $62,000; National Restaurant Assn., $61,000.

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