Dear Senator Collins,
On May 1st 2012, you issued the following request to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:
"Please document each instance from fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2011 where CDC awardees used federal funds to pay for lobbying activities. The activities to be reported include those which are listed in 18 U.S.C § 1913 and include: any advertisement, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device (such as emails, websites, videos, audio, or other electronic communications), intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or an official of any government (including local and state governments), to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation. The information should be documented and provided in a word-searchable format that includes the name of the awardee, total amount of the award, date the award was granted, the stated purpose of the award, a list of all activities in the aforementioned list that the awardee carried out with federal funds, and an indication of whether or not the desired outcomes in state or local policy or legislative changes took place."
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Senator Collins, I am writing to inform you of one clear instance where a CDC awardee "used federal funds to pay for lobbying activities." In 2010, the St. Louis County Department of Health, along with St. Louis University and its 501c3 Tobacco Free St. Louis, used a substantial portion of a $7,593,110 2010 CDC grant to lobby the St. Louis County Council and other St. Louis municipalities in order to alter existing legislation and impose new ordinances. Indeed the grant award summary lists these legislative changes among the objectives of the grant:
"Strengthen the clean indoor air bill recently passed by the citizens of St. Louis County. Increase the number of comprehensive ordinances in municipalitites and educational settings. Enact a minimum pricing retailer law."
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Please find attached a contract in which St. Louis University agrees to lobby for these legislative changes through its group Tobacco Free St. Louis in exchange for $545,000 of federal grant money from the St. Louis County Department of Health.
Furthermore, a substantial portion of a multi-million dollar ad campaign paid for by the CDC grant was used to pressure the St. Louis County Council to remove voter-approved exemptions from the current St. Louis County Clean Air Ordinance. One such ad, paid for by the CDC grant has been widely aired on many local radio stations and directly implores the St. Louis County Council to remove all exemptions. This ad is also featured on the Tobacco Free St. Louis website under the heading Unfinished Business along with contact information of St. Louis County Councilmen.
Please review the compilation of quotes from local news stories at the end of this letter which documents the two year long use of federal money to lobby for the alteration of an existing County ordinance and the imposition of two new municipal clean air ordinances. The St. Louis County Council refused to yield to this illegal pressure, but the grant goal of two new muncipal clean air ordinances was achieved in the St. Louis County municipalities of Brentwood and Creve Coeur.
Senator Collins, this illegal campaign has been a great anxiety and strain on local businesses currently exempted under the existing voter-approved County ordinance. I ask that you ensure that any unspent grant money received by the St. Louis County Department of Health in 2010 from the CDC not be used for any further lobbying, but rather be spent legitimately to educate the public concerning the dangers of tobacco.
Director of Keep St. Louis Free
- St. Louis County, flush with a $7.6 million federal stimulus grant, is launching a major assault on smoking.
In addition, the project sets a goal of persuading at least two additional municipalities to adopt smoking bans more restrictive than the county's. Ballwin, Clayton and Kirkwood currently have such measures."
- Fraser said frustration drove her last month to call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the agency that last year gave St. Louis County a $7.6 million federal stimulus grant to help end smoking. She spoke with Ron Todd, the CDC's grant liaison to the county."One of the county's stated goals in accepting the grant from the CDC was to eliminate the exemptions by 2012," Fraser said.
- St. Louis County's health director, Dr. Dolores Gunn, said Thursday that an anti-smoking organization had broken no tax law in its use of federal grant money.
- Pat Lindsey, executive director of Tobacco-Free St. Louis, said the group intended to go to the County Council soon to ask it to remove the exemptions.
- Pepper also noted Tobacco-Free St. Louis has a contract with St. Louis County that should affect the group's tax-exempt status. Among the items in the document's scope of work is that the group would try to persuade the St. Louis County Council to include all workplaces, restauarants and bars in the ban and try to persuade at least two municipalities in the county to adopt "strong, comprehensive smoke-free ordinances." The county uses federal stimulus money to finance the contract.
- As Daily RFT first reported March 8, Tobacco-Free St. Louis recently received a county contract (paid for by federal stimulus dollars, natch!) worth $545,000. The group was charged with "developing and implementing an education and advocacy plan to educate St. Louis County Council members about the need to remove exemptions from St. Louis County's current smoke-free ordinance."
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- "The non-profit agency Tobacco Free St. Louis has a $545,000 contract with St. Louis County to -- among other things -- urge the county council to remove exemptions from the county smoking ban.
As we reported last week, the contract is being paid with federal stimulus funds, raising questions about whether federal tax dollars are being used to pay for lobbying (which is strictly verboten). "
- "But now Daily RFT has learned that the county is using some of the money to hire a non-profit organization to "educate" its own elected officials -- the St. Louis County Council -- and "advocate" that the council toughen up the county's new smoking ban. Even though that effort is targeted at changing a county ordinance, the project manager at the department of health, Barry Freedman, insists that it is not a case of federal dollars being used for lobbying."
- "As we reported last month, Tobacco Free St. Louis recently received a $545,000 contract with St. Louis County, paid for by federal stimulus funds, to (among other things) lobby for a tougher smoking ban in the county."