According to numbers released last month by the Center for Responsive Politics, Rep. Mike Thompson is the top Congressional recipient of campaign donations from beer, wine and liquor interests in the 2007-2008 election cycle. Thompson's $144,266 in contributions was mainly received from a number of $200-$9,200 donations from individual wineries in his district, with PACs like the Wine Institute, the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Anheuser-Busch contributing around $20,000. Coming in a distant second, with a mere $36,300 in liquor industry donations, was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Among all politicians, Thompson ranked fourth in alcoholic contributions, behind Hillary Clinton ($210,750), Rudy Giuliani ($186,725) and John McCain ($152,400). After Thompson, Barack Obama came in fifth with $121,423 liquor dollars, and Mitt Romney gathered $86,051 to finish sixth.
In a statement released on March 28 by his Eureka office, Thompson said, "The majority of my contributions come from over 5,000 individuals from throughout our district. I represent the Napa Valley, the premiere wine growing region of the nation, rivaled only by Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Yolo Counties — and Humboldt County, which is fast becoming a premiere wine growing region as well, all of which are in our district. Their contributions represent approximately 13 percent of those I received last year and I'm proud to have their support. California wine represents a $52 billion industry in our state, generating over 309,000 jobs in California alone. It is not only important to our state but to our district as well."
The top contributors to Thompson's 2007 campaign were Sacramento real estate company AKT Development ($27,600), Lockheed Martin ($10,000) and Target Corporation ($10,000). Lockheed and Target gave the same amounts in 2006, and Johnson & Johnson contributed $6,000 in 2007. Thompson's receipts from 1989-2007 total $8,302,518, and in 2006 he raised so much money he game some of it away to other Democrats.
All this makes one wonder whether or not Thompson, a Napa wine grower himself and founder of the Congressional Wine Caucus, is properly representing his pot-growing constituency as well as his donors. After all, the retail value of California's medical marijuana market is estimated at $870 million — $2 billion per year, according to a report by Oakland's Measure Z marijuana policy committee.
Thompson's voting record has been consistently pro-pot reform in recent years, and he co-sponsored the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana bill, which failed. Asked whether he would support Rep. Barney Frank's landmark bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of "small amounts" of marijuana, which Frank announced he would introduce on Bill Maher's March 21 Real Time show, Thompson said in his statement, "Since I've been in Congress, medical marijuana legislation has been unable to gain traction. It seems unlikely efforts to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use will fare any better." Thompson considers the illegal marijuana industry an important issue, he recently wrote to one Mendocino County resident Jeanne King, saying, "I believe major action is needed to fight this growing problem," while citing the 300,000 plants taken last year from national forest land in Mendocino.
The House will soon vote on Byrne grants, controversial federal monies that fund drug task forces throughout the country. California received over $52 million in Byrne grant funding in 2007. The state was handed $32 million directly for programs like CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting); Humboldt County received $13,445 and Eureka got $18,517. The Humboldt Sheriff's department has dismantled its drug task force and instead partnered with Del Norte county to get a $421,000 grant for Cal-MMET, a multijurisdictional methamphetamine enforcement task force.