RAI Services and Altria, two of the largest tobacco companies in the world are financing opposition to a ballot referendum in Montana that would benefit as many as 94,000 people by providing them with government-funded healthcare in the state. The corporate parents of the cigarette brands Camel and Marlboro violated the rules of campaign and finance as they failed to disclose support to MATH- Montanans Against Tax Hikes- a group that is campaigning against the measure. Jonathan Schleifer of the Fairness Project which is supporting the measure said that the choice is very simple as the universal truth is that tobacco kills whereas Medicaid saves lives. A voting will be conducted this November in Montana about whether or not the extra $2 tax hike will happen. The extra money collected will be used to help poorer people in matters of healthcare. As Obama’s flagship legislation helped in Medicaid’s expansion, it is also known as “Obamacare” sometimes. The measure lets government decide whether or not to provide health insurance to people whose income is slightly above the federal poverty line.
As the program’s expansion will expire in 2019, the tax levied on cigarettes packs can help avoid 94,000 Montanans from being left with any healthcare facilities and keeps it from shrinking. The extra money would mean permanent expansion of the measure. The World Bank, the WHO and US surgeon general think that increasing cigarette tax from $1.7 per pack will encourage smokers to quit and keep youngsters away from smoking. The race to oppose tax hike is only second to campaigns about unseating Democratic American senator Jon Tester. Big tobacco, meaning the industry heavyweights, is strongly opposed to the tax hike proposal. RAI Services and Altria have together spent a whopping $7.7 Million by contributing to MATH. The companies have been accused of not registering as “incidental committees” when opposing the ballot initiative and of not disclosing travel expenses about cigarette lobbyists flying to the state to lobby Montana Chamber of Commerce.
Although MATH didn’t have public presence in mid-May, the situation heated up in June. MATH stated that the Montana polling was to benefit Altria and RAI Services and not to influence voters. Then the three got together to oppose the ballot initiative. RAI Services and Altria are now MATH’s sole funders. The other campaigns run by the Montana Group earlier are Count on Coal Montana and United Property Owners of Montana. Although RAI and Altria didn’t comment or respond, MATH stated that the tax hike could mean Montanans being on the hook for tens of millions of dollars annually.