Citizens for a Smoke-Free Cape on Monday reported total contributions of nearly $83,000, almost all of which came from the American Cancer Society, to persuade voters to pass a citywide smoking ban next week.
That figure left leaders of the opposition, which reported a relatively meager $3,070, aghast. Meanwhile, Smoke-Free Cape contends the opposition rhetoric is meant to put a smoke-screen over the health hazards of secondhand smoke.
"That floors me," said Doc Cain, spokesman for Stand Up Cape, What's Next? "To me, that's absurd. I'm flabbergasted that the ACS would spend this insane amount of money to try to affect a policy in a town of 35,000 people."
State campaign rules require campaign filings eight days before the election, with Smoke-Free Cape submitting its report to the Missouri Ethics Commission and Stand Up Cape turning in its report to the Cape Girardeau County clerk's office. Both did so before 5 p.m. Monday.
For the period Feb. 19 to March 24, Smoke-Free Cape received cash contributions of $69,625, all but $25 of which came from the American Cancer Society. The $25 donation came from Heartland Advanced Practice Nurses Network of Cape Girardeau. During that period, the society gave five monetary donations totaling $69,600 and its Washington, D.C.-based Cancer Action Network gave a $2,681 in-kind contribution.
During the previous reporting period ending Feb. 19, Smoke-Free Cape reported contributions of $10,680, and $10,340 of that was an in-kind contribution from the cancer society. All told, $365 of Smoke-Free's contributions have come from individual donors.
'All means available'
Smoke-Free Cape spokeswoman Dale Humphries said the group is using "all means available" to communicate with voters on the issue and to ensure they are clearly informed on the facts.
"The sizable investment in the campaign reflects how important this issue is to the health of our community," she said.
Humphries called it unfortunate that the opponents have chosen to distract voters from the real issue of secondhand smoke exposure in the community.
"Rather than focus on their divisive rhetoric, we choose to concentrate on the task at hand, which is to pass this common-sense measure and give everyone in Cape the freedom to breathe smoke-free indoor air," Humphries said.
Sheri House, a member of Smoke-Free Cape and an employee at the American Cancer Society, took umbrage to accusations that the society is not a local organization and is contributing "outside money." She pointed out that the society has a local office on Farrar Drive and that it has helped provide nearly 1,000 tangible services to the people of Cape Girardeau County over the past 12 months. The organization also, she said, has $10.6 million invested in research in Missouri.
"We are a local organization," she said.
Smoke-Free Cape listed only four expenditures, including two payments totaling $67,850 to the Campaign Workshop in Washington, D.C., for "voter communications." On its website, the Campaign Workshop describes itself as a group that designs mailings, social media, online banner ads and print ads. Smoke-Free Cape also spent nearly $1,000 at Horizon Screen Printing for printed material and $700 at PDQ Printing, both of Cape Girardeau.
In its first report, Stand Up Cape reported contributions of $3,070 from individual donors. The two largest donors were Tom Newman and Truman Lemons, who gave $500 and $600 respectively. Each own coin-operated machine companies that place machines like jukeboxes, dart boards and pool tables in Cape Girardeau bars and restaurants. They each said their businesses would be hurt if the smoking ban passed, with one estimating business could be cut by as much as 50 percent.
Stand Up Cape reported expenditures of $341 to Concord Printing for campaign fliers, $401 to the Southeast Missourian for adding inserts to newspapers, $1,128 to Horizon Screen Printing for yard signs and $425 to Cape Central Publishing Co. to print campaign materials.
With a week to go, Stand Up Cape reported $863 cash on hand and Smoke-Free Cape reported $354.33 cash on hand.
Cape Girardeau, MO