Where there’s smoke

Smoke-filled back rooms are a fixture of California political mythology. Those days may be over, but tobacco is still a steadfast companion to many of our local solons. The American Lung Association last week released its report “Tobacco Money in California Politics,” and plenty of Sacramento-area politicians are on the take.

According to the report, in 2005 and 2006, the state senator from Nevada City, Sam Aanestad, took $6,600 from the Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris. His colleague in the state’s upper chamber, Dave Cox from Roseville, did the same, while also collecting a cool $2,000 from Philip Morris—for a total of $8,600.

On the Assembly side, Sacramento’s Roger Niello took a combined $5,300 from Altria and RJ Reynolds. But the biggest local beneficiary of Big Tobacco was Assemblyman Guy Houston, who represents a sprawling district from Elk Grove to Livermore. Houston took $6,600 from Altria, $4,000 from RJ Reynolds and topped it off with another $2,000 from smokeless tobacco company UST Inc. for a total of $12,600.

In 2006, all four Republicans voted against bills that would have expanded prohibitions against smoking in public spaces, banned Internet sales of cigarettes in California and made it illegal to smoke in the car with young children. Coincidence? View the whole report at www.californialung.org.