Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Health groups put heat on tobacco over Prop 56


With an impromptu dab grabbing headlines, California political campaigns appear relatively calm compared to the hot mic, marital infidelities and other controversial revelations shaping the 2016 presidential election.

Today heart, lung and cancer groups are raising the stakes and conjuring up images of dead children in a new attack on the tobacco industry opposing a $2 cigarette tax increase on the November ballot. The health groups are dropping 5,600 “toe tags,” used to identify bodies at the morgue, from a body bag in front of cigarette-maker Altria’s lobbying office in Sacramento. The cardboard tags represent the number of California children who become hooked on tobacco every year and later die from illnesses associated with the habit.

The health groups and the tobacco industry are longtime foes. For decades, heart, lung and cancer societies pushed lawmakers and California voters to make it more difficult for people to smoke, often to be rebuffed by the deep-pockets of Altria and fellow-cigarette peddler R.J. Reynolds.

Last week the two tobacco companies gave another $9.5 million to “No on 56,” bringing the campaign’s fundraising total to $66.3 million. The campaign is using the money to blanket the airwaves with misleading ads denouncing Proposition 56 as a special-interest tax grab. Proponents, sitting on a campaign pot of $24.7 million and a much stronger coalition than previous years, must find more creative ways to sway voters. Hence, toe tags, which will be dropped at 11 a.m. at 1415 L Street, Altria’s government relations office.

WORTH REPEATING: “I look around the room and I see people who are energized. People are excited.” - Sue Blake, chair of the Sacramento County Republican Central Committee, during a Sunday debate-watch party for Trump.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Sacramento Republicans remain faithful to GOP nominee Donald Trump.

BANK SCHEME: The fallout from the Wells Fargo banking scandal continues today as the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee holds an oversight hearing over the company’s recent $185 million settlement with federal regulators. Following the announcement that bank employees opened millions of fake accounts in customers’ names, State Treasurer John Chiang suspended California’s investment business with Wells Fargo late last month. Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Los Angeles, serves as chair of the committee and will lead the hearing, which begins at 10 a.m. at Calabasas City Hall.

ZIKA: Approximately 328 Californians have been infected with the Zika virus while traveling abroad, but so far no one has contracted the disease within state borders, according to data released Friday by the California Department of Public Health. Zika and its impact on California will be discussed at a hearing held by the Select Committee on Infectious Diseases in High Risk Disadvantaged Communities at 10 a.m. in Los Angeles.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna