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Stogie Commentary: Clearing the Air about the CCA

29 Jul 2010

Last week, the left-leaning Huffington Post published a hit piece entitled “Congressional Cigar Association is Front for Lobbyists.” By sensationally linking lobbyists and tobacco, the article has prompted denials by Congressmen and plenty of hand-wringing by commentators, particularly those who are predisposed to disagree with Republicans (like the one who sponsored the association) and dislike  tobacco. I’ve even seen many of my fellow cigar smokers recently refer to the article as exposing something shady.

congressBut what exactly is wrong with the Congressional Cigar Association (CCA)? So far as I can tell, absolutely nothing.

While I’ve never attended a CCA event, I’ve been invited to them, and have spoken with people who have attended. Far from clandestine or “shady,” the events are described to me as fun and educational. They simply involve Congressional staffers enjoying cigars with a beverage or two. Tobacco, after all, is a legal product, and my experience in DC suggests that a sure way to attract low-level Hill staff and public policy types is with discount drinks.

At CCA events, typically someone from the cigar industry talks about the unique process of making handmade cigars, and maybe gives staffers some insight into the burdens placed on family businesses by cigar taxes and regulations. It’s factual information that they don’t hear from the well-funded and well-connected anti-smoking lobby.

The Huffington Post article makes a big deal of the convoluted House ethics rules (and believe me, as someone who has read parts of them, they are definitely complex and convoluted). But ultimately even that line of inquiry comes up empty, as it seems the CCA has worked with the House Ethics office since its inception, and no violations have been found.

What was conspicuously absent from the Huffington Post article, and the commentary that surrounded it, was any discussion of the fact that communicating with Congress (better known as lobbying) is a constitutionally-protected act. After all, the First Amendment specifically states that citizens have the “right to petition government for redress of grievances.”

Maybe the Huffington Post author’s real agenda is that he doesn’t think cigar smokers and cigar makers should be able to exercise these rights. But fortunately the Constitution doesn’t let the Huffington Post decide who can or cannot petition the government, no matter how they may wish they had that power.

And that seems to be the real story here. Anti-tobacco lobbyists have been circling Capitol Hill for years, pushing legislation to cripple the rights of cigar smokers. And now that the cigar industry has dared to come up to Capitol Hill to defend their product and show congressional staffers the victims of their legislation, the anti-tobacco forces want to shut them up and shut them down.

Patrick S

photo credit: wikipedia

8 Responses to “Stogie Commentary: Clearing the Air about the CCA”

  1. Big Ted Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

    The way I see it…

    -CCA can help expose congress to the unique aspects of handmade cigars (as opposed to cigarettes, machine made smokes)

    -CRA provide grass roots pressure

    -CAA represent cigar makers on capitol hill

    -IPCPR represents mom and pop cigar shops

    Maybe after a few years of that, Congress will start to see that cigars are very different from Big Tobacco.

  2. Gary J. Arzt Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 1:23 am #

    Nowhere was it claimed that CCA was "…funded by an industry trade group."

    So,Ted, the misconceptions about the group and event continue to be perpetuated, even by the well intentioned.

    As for my friend Barry's comments about CRA…I haven't seen him awarded the mantle of infallibility.

    Frankly, in light of Huffington Post's purpose; I believe the story is best left to die a natural death.

  3. Charlie Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 1:32 am #


    The problem I see there is that having the CCA ranks filled with lobbyist and funded by an industry trade group; makes the cigar industry seem a lot like “Big Tobacco.”

    Perception vs. reality is key when addressing politics.

    I think the IPCPR through B&Ms does a lot of grassroots work. As Barry at acigsmoker mentioned recently, I’ve yet to see CRA get their name out there, plenty of B&Ms have gotten on local news, etc…

  4. dmjones Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    I just have one simple question: since when is the HuffPo considered a "reliable news source"? I personally would put more trust in the National Enquirer (broke the John Edwards mistress/love child story…got it mostly right) than the pseudo-intellectual ravings of the madmen they have publish on the HuffPo. Just sayin…

  5. Charlie Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 11:49 am #

    Gary, perhaps I misspoke. The CCA is sponsored by the IPCPR. Given how much the group is capable of raises through dues and the expenses, sponsors likely cover 3x + dues.

    David, there’s little refutation from the CCA about the HuffPo story and the facts it got. Furthermore, it’s an editorial. HuffPo continues to be a top 10 political website in hits and has one its fairshare of awards. I don’t agree with the politics behind the National Review, but I respect the journalistic process that it upholds. HuffPo in my mind is legit. I also have yet to see where they got something wrong in this story.

  6. mighty Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    In my perspective, what is the heart behind the story? I ready plenty of articles about 2 soldiers losing their lives in a battle. The factual information in the stories is the same, ie, two soldiers died. But one story tells how they were heroes protecting innocents, while the other portrays them as invaders in a foreign land.

    So just because some of the raw “facts” might technically be true, what is the heart behind this story? Most likely to continue to provide a slanted opinion aimed at using some “facts” in an effort to discredit and muckrake their readers. This country is going down the drain.

    It’s our rights smoking a legal product today, and it will assuredly be something different in the future. The mightiest of oaks can be felled with enough time and a little cut each day.

  7. Gary J. Arzt Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    Why not leave it alone until you have the facts. IPCPR does not fund the Congressional Cigar Association…or sponsor it. That would be in violation of House Rules. Rep Bilbray “sponsored” the group as required by House Rules.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Weekly News (August 2, 2010) | TheCigarFeed - Monday, August 2, 2010

    […] here, which were critical of the Congressional Cigar Association. Patrick S, from the Stogie Guys, took a different approach defending the CCA’s legitimacy and questioning HuffPo’s intentions. There was an also a […]