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[個人寫作] The Enactment of the McCain Bill in 1998

The Enactment of the McCain Bill in 1998: A Review of
The Role Played by the Actions on Smoking and Health (ASH)


During the past decade, advocacy organizations commonly known as “public interest groups” have become increasingly prominent in American society and politics. These groups are not a new form of political organization; they have existed far back into American history. It is important to try to learn about public interest groups and their political behavior. Public interest groups offer individuals one means of participating collectively in politics policy outcomes. Thus, my sections focus on interest group activities at the agenda-building state and succeeding stages of program development, policy implementation and evaluation and on relationships with personnel in Congress and at various levels of the executive branch. In addition, I will take ASH as my example for me to examine how the interest groups in the United States to form an agenda, especially focus on the case study: the McCain Bill.

 Interest Groups Missions and Primary Functions:

<1>. Definition of Interest Groups

As Graham Wilson notes, one of the basic problems for interest group studies is the problem of definition. He notes that a wide variety of organizations are described as interest groups or pressure groups and he, therefore, asks the question” Are we to conclude that any organization which seeks to any degree to influence public policy is therefore to be regarded as an interest group?” His approach is to “rely on the requirement that interest groups be organizations which have some autonomy from government or political parties and that they try to influence policy.” As a working definition, we suggested the following: “A pressure group may be regarded as any group which articulates demands that political authoritative in the political system or subsystem should make an authoritative allocation.” In order to exclude from these definition political parties and other groups, whose objective is to take over the government, it is usual to add a note that such groups do not themselves seek to occupy the position of authority.

<2>. Building a Public Agenda

More commonly in interest group propaganda the attention-getting device not only catches the eye or ear but also arouses attitudes that are related to the ones the propagandists wishes to develop. In the second place, the propagandist dealing with a complicated or subtle matter may simplify it in a few phrases or a slogan, so that a layman will grasp the point and feel that he is master of the subject. Take Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) for example:

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness about the many dangers of cigarette smoking and protecting the rights of nonsmokers against second-hand smoke. Ash functions both as a collective voice for those concerned with the problems of smoking and a smoking poses to society. Using scientific and educational resources along with its legal expertise, ASH fights the war against smoking through public awareness campaigns, legal actions, and the assistance it offers during the drafting of congressional legislation. John F. Banzhaf III is both the organization’s executive officer and founder and he acts as the head of the ASH. In ASH’s fight to protect nonsmokers from the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, ASH pursues a umber of avenues, including public education, legislative monitoring and reform, and legal action.

<3>. Interest Groups Interaction with Congress

Techniques of interest groups in the legislative process:

(1) The Defensive Advantage and the Size of the Public Alliances and Logrolling.

The two principal forms of mutual assistance among interest groups are alliance and logrolling. The alliance, whether formal or informal, involves the development of a common strategy among several groups in pursuit of a policy which bears some substantive relations to the interest of each. Logrolling, on the other hand, involves a group’s giving support to a proposal that they bear no relation or only the most tenuous relation to its own objectives; in return it receives similar support from the group it has assisted. The most familiar form of logrolling is in connection with appropriations for local improvements such as flood-control works and harbor developments, but the practice is not limited to such projects.

(2) The Use of Public Congressional Hearings.

It is difficult to discuss tactics as isolated techniques of influence. Interest groups use different tactics in conjunction with each other during an advocacy effort. This could be no truer than for testifying at congressional hearings, because in and of itself it is thought to be waste of time. The reason for this is that despite the fact that testifying does not have a substantive influence; it does seem to have important symbolic value. Appearing at hearings helps to legitimatize further efforts to influence legislation.

Public interest groups consider putting their views into the official record (printed reports of committee hearings) as part of the game, or one of the norms of congressional lobbying. Although the actual testimony given at hearings is do represent a significant stage in the legislative process. Hearings do reflect the transference of legislation from the idea stage to the agenda stage where legislation is officially being considered.

For a group trying to get Congress to consider a newly arising issue, the holding of hearings is an extremely important step. Unless an interest group senses substantial support within a committee or subcommittee, they are unlikely to expend the considerable resources necessary to push for such hearings. Although the decision to testify at hearings is a minor one, requiring only a small amount of resources and being well worth the benefits of being “on the record,” the decision to press a potentially unwilling committee to hold hearings is something else entirely. It will be done only by groups when they feel that an issue is of major consequence and are willing to stick with their effort not only through a single session or a single Congress, but for the duration. The wheels of Congress sometimes turn very, very slowly.

In famous politician V.O. Key’s point of view, a major point of contact between Congress and the interest group is the committee hearing. One legislative proposals of importance, when the appropriate committee of Congress holds public hearings, representatives of organized groups appear to present their case. At times their presentation may rest on substantial factual research and provide genuine help to the committee in estimating the effects of a proposal; the hearings, incidentally, give committee members an opportunity to push as deeply as they wish into the motivations and interests of the group. The committee members may indulge in a bit of heckling and push the group representatives hard for justifications of their position.

While committee hearings are designed primarily to enlighten the committee members, they may also be an element of a broader propaganda strategy to advance or defeat a measure. The purpose of may not be so much to inform the committee as to gain publicity in the press. The management of hearings may, indeed, be designed to give one set of organizations the opportunity to build an impressive case and to handicap the opposition by drastic limitations on its hearing time. Moreover, though hearings may not always change legislators’ minds, they produce a record to support a position—in their direction—and make it appear that the legislator is responding to some widely held view in society.

Given the controlling influence of the committee on many legislative questions, often an interest group contents itself with an appearance before the committee, and perhaps with interviews with committee members, to make certain that the group’s views are understood. The lobbyist then philosophically hopes for the best possible outcome on the assumption that he has presented his case on a complicated question with which the committee members have to wrestle.

(3) The Avalanche of Mail.

Groups frequently urge members to participate in such activity, supplying the names of Representatives and Senators and giving sample wording for letters and wires. The press frequently reports such avalanches of paper in stories on a highly controversial legislative measure with the implication that the sheer bulk of these communications has a significant bearing on the legislator’s decision.

ASH’s educational initiative can be divided into three areas. First, the organization educates people about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. For example, ASH makes available an informational booklet titled “Taking Action to Protect You and Your Family from Tobacco Smoke.” Second, ASH educates nonsmokers on their legal rights and provides supporting legal help. To this end it makes available copies of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaint form that nonsmokers can use to file complaints against smoking in the workplace. The form, provided by ASH, contains the correct legal language by law and OSHA must investigate the complaint. Finally, ASH educates the public on legislation. The ASH Web site is updated daily with press releases, relevant news stories and commentary on legislative events and organization business.

ASH spends considerable energy working to inform and educate members of Congress concerning technical, medical, statistical and legal aspects of issues as they relate to cigarette smoking. ASH gives input on pending legislation and suggests reforms. ASH also strongly encourages its members and visitors to put pressure in congressional members through phone calls, Emails and letters.

ASH continues to monitor the regulations governing smoking in the workplace and restaurants, on buses, trains, planes and other public places. The growing popularity of cigars has also become an issue for the organization. In addition, ASH has entered into the debate over smoking as a deciding factor in determining child custody arrangements when a child is severely medically affected by smoke due to allergies, asthma or smoke sensitivity.

Case Study: The McCain Bill

During the 1990s tobacco companies found themselves increasingly involved in litigation against individuals whose health had been adversely affected by smoking. Many of these lawsuits were class action suits—a suit brought collectively by many people making the same allegation. Senate attorneys general began filing suits demanding millions of dollars in damages, arguing that their states were incurring enormous expenses caring for people whose health had been adversely affected by the use of cigarettes.

In the late 1990s public pressure fore the federal government to intercede via some form of legislation continued to grow. Finally, in 1998 tobacco legislation began making its way through Congress. One important proposal was dubbed the “McCain Bill’ after its primary sponsor, Senator John McCain, chairperson of the Senate Commerce Committee. Use all its public awareness and influence channels, ASH worked to ensure that the bill was passed in a form that could alter the future of smoking in the United States.

In the late 1990s public pressure fore the federal government to intercede via some form of legislation continued to grow. Finally, in 1998 tobacco legislation began making its way through Congress. One important proposal was dubbed the “McCain Bill’ after its primary sponsor, Senator John McCain, chairperson of the Senate Commerce Committee. Use all its public awareness and influence channels, ASH worked to ensure that the bill was passed in a form that could alter the future of smoking in the United States.

The McCain Bill proposed placing a per-pack fee on cigarettes, starting at 65 percents in 1999 and rising to $1.10 by 2003. Other provisions of the bill gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broad authority in the regulation of tobacco products and set an annual limit of $6.5 billion on tobacco company payouts in damages from liability cases. Finally, the bill proposed establishing restrictions on tobacco advertising and marketing strategies attractive to young people. Billboard advertisement, stadium signs, T-shirt and other promotional giveaways, and the use of human and cartoon figures in tobacco products ads would be banned under the bill.

While the McCain Bill was a significant step forward in the implementation of federal regulation of tobacco products and companies, ASH was critical of the bill. Specifically, the organization felt the bill did not go far enough in the areas of price increases and regulation, and the cap on liability payments was viewed as favorable to tobacco companies.

ASH promoted the need for a significant price hike, citing numerous studies showing price to be the biggest deterrent to teen smoking and citing the lack of solid evidence showing restricted advertising to carry the same results. In a 1998 CNN interview, Banzhaf stated, “The tax increase is far less than the entire public health community and the National Academy of Sciences believes is necessary to really significantly reduce teen smoking. We’re looking for a two-dollar-a-pack tax increase. That will help shock the kids out of smoking.”

In April 1998, shortly after the McCain Bill cleared the Senate Commerce Committee by a vote of 19 to 1, R.J. Reynolds threatened to withdraw from negotiations and was quickly joined by other tobacco companies. At issue was the constitutionality pf certain aspects of the bill, including marketing and advertising restrictions and penalties for failure to bring down youth smoking rates. The tobacco industry was also deeply concerned about losing the ability cap. Without setting a limit on the damages that could be awarded in any one court case, they argued, excessive litigation could put their companies out of business. Although it was not legally required, Congress hoped to come to an agreement with the tobacco industry, thereby avoiding potential battles over the industry’s constitutional rights.

Despite ASH’s criticisms, the McCain Bill was seen by many as the best chance to enact national tobacco legislation. However, on June 17, 1998, the Senate defeated a move for cloture—an attempt to end debate and put the McCain Bill to a vote. The bill was a dealt a final blow when the Senate voted to return it to the Commerce Committee for more study.

Opponents of the bill said that too many amendments—including one for tax cuts and one establishing drug abuse programs—had made the bill more about taxing and spending than about tobacco. Supporters of the bill claimed that pressure from tobacco companies had doomed the bill. 


After the McCain Bill was essentially killed in the Senate, it was its opponents rushed to defend their stand on a tax-and-spend bill while its supporters predicted that those who opposed it would hear from angry voters in the fall elections. The public response was lukewarm. While many voters agreed that federal tobacco legislation was necessary, they also agreed the bill had too many unrelated amendments. And while some Republicans seats in Congress were lost in the November 1998 elections, tobacco issues did not seem to be a factor in those elections. Nonetheless, ASH and other public health groups decried the defeat of the McCain Bill and vowed to continue their efforts to create national tobacco legislation.

Although ASH’s hopes for the McCain Bill may have seemed unrealistic, the efforts by it and other anti-smoking groups in support of the bill resulted in one of the most effective public-awareness and health-issue companies ever launched. While the McCain Bill essentially disappeared, strong feelings that remain on all sides of the tobacco issue guarantee that public debate and activism will continue in to the future.

Throughout ASH’s history, ASH has worked diligently to inform nonsmokers of the dangers of tobacco smoke. Perhaps, even more importantly it established the legal basis for the right of nonsmokers to be free from exposure to tobacco smoke, thus opening the door to increased pressure and legal action against tobacco manufactures.

Besides, it has been a hundred years since the U.S. federal government started to regulate the cigarette industry, but there are three major differences of Clinton Administration’s regulations of cigarette industry:

A. President Clinton played an aggressive and key role in the whole regulatory process.

B. The nature of Clinton’s cigarette regulations is a convergence of economic and social regulations, unlike the regulations before which were only either economic or social, President Clinton, furthermore, use his cigarette regulations as an weapon to attack his political foe.

C. The political climate of antismoking which President Clinton created moved on to the states and courts, and set up a solid background for cigarette industry regulations in the future.

Reference Materials:

1 .L. Harmon Zeigler, Interest Groups In American Society, Second Edition
2. Jeremy J. Richardson, Pressure Groups
3. Carol S. Greenwald, Group Power-- Lobbying& Public Policy
4. David B. Truman, The Governmental Process-- Political Interest and Public Opinion
5. V.O. Key, Jr., Politics, Parties& Pressure Groups, Fifth Edition
6. Berry, Jeffrey M., Lobbying For the People: The Political Behavior of Public Interest Groups
7. Special Interest Group Profiles for Students
8. 1994 Congressional Quarterly ALMANAC, P359~P360
    1997 Congressional Quarterly ALMANAC, P3-3~P3-7
    1998 Congressional Quarterly ALMANAC, P15-3~P15-15
9. Connolly, Ceci. “Tobacco Bill Clears Senate Panel” Washington Post, 2 April 1998.
10.“Snuff out Poor Tobacco Deal” USA Today, 2 April 1998.
11. Stout, David. “Gringrich Says Bill on Tobacco Has Little Hope” Washington Post, 18 April 1998.
12. Weinstein, Henry. “Tobacco Firms Threaten Assault on Cigarette Bill” Los Angel Times, 4 April 1998.

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