Tobacco Companies Spend More Than $6 Million Against SD Initiative

Your Money Matters

It’s not unusual for out-of-state money to be used to support an issue in a South Dakota election, but the amount of cash a tobacco company is spending to fight an initiative this election may surprise you. 

When those in favor of Initiated Measure 25 kicked off their campaign, they said out-of-state tobacco companies are funding the fight against the measure. IM 25 would raise tobacco taxes to give more money to technical schools. 

Campaign finance reports reveal tobacco companies have spent nearly $6.5 million to fight the initiative. That includes $6.2 million from the Philip Morris’ parent company. 

“They should know that the opponents to the tobacco tax increase are interested in selling cigarettes. They’re not interested in education in South Dakota. They live in North Carolina,” Republican State Representative Mark Mickelson said.

The numbers pale in comparison to the last time South Dakota voted on a tobacco tax increase. Back in 2006 R. J. Reynolds and Philip Morris only spent around $230,000. 

“They’ve seen their markets in the United States decline. They’ve seen their market in South Dakota decline. They’ve made a habit of fighting these measures in other states,” Mickelson said.

Overall out-of-state money has been playing a big role in South Dakota’s elections. 

Remember how actor Kelsey Grammer was used in ads to support Marsy’s Law in 2016? That campaign was funded by an out-of-state interest to the tune of $1.2 million. Overall in the 2016 election groups from outside of South Dakota spent almost $10 million. 

Then this year actress Jennifer Lawrence is in ads for Amendment W. 

Out-of-state interests have also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to that campaign.

You can bet that a lot of the ads you’re seeing this election are not paid for by companies here in South Dakota. 

Even though the group opposing IM 25 is mostly funded by tobacco companies, it’s called South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes. 

The chairman for SDAHT released a statement to KELOLAND News: 
“South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes (SDAHT) has assembled a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals who oppose Initiated Measure 25 and is running an aggressive campaign to educate voters on why they should reject this flawed measure. SDAHT’s campaign finance report reflects this. South Dakota consumers will pay $35 million more in taxes every year under IM-25, but the measure includes no taxpayer protections to ensure funds are spent how South Dakota voters are promised and not diverted to the General Fund or other projects.”

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