Tobacco giant gave $250,000 to group representing black-owned newspapers

After National Newspaper Publishers Association President Benjamin Chavis Jr. visited Reynolds American’s headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., he left impressed — and with hopes of big money from the tobacco giant.

Ultimately, Reynolds American last year gave $250,000 to the organization, which from its Washington, D.C., headquarters represents the interests of more than 200 African-American-owned community newspapers across the nation.

The donation — listed in a new Reynolds American corporate governance document reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity — represented the largest contribution Reynolds American made in 2015 to nearly three-dozen nonprofit organizations, many of which are politically active and typically keep their funders secret.

Other small, but notable Reynolds Americans’ contributions in 2015 helped Americans for Prosperity, a “social welfare” nonprofit connected to billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, and Americans for Tax Reform, led by anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist.

During the 2014 midterms, Americans for Prosperity spent more than $2.35 million advocating against mostly Democratic U.S. Senate and U.S. House candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. During the 2012 election, it spent more than $33.5 million in a bid to deny President Barack Obama re-election.

More than a dozen Michigan-based nonprofits also received modest contributions from Reynolds American, whose operating companies manufacture such cigarette brands as Newport, Pall Mall and Camel, and of late, non-tobacco products including Vuse e-cigarettes.

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