Sunday 23 January 2022

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 65 - Conclusions

 Overview of previous posts here

It is clear all the economists were fully aware they worked with the Tobacco Institute. Yet still I think it is possible when joining the network, some of the economists presumed they were sought to nothing but expressing their worldview. They were part of one big corporate conspiracy though, even if in the beginning not all of them might not have realized this themselves.

The tobacco industry used and exploited the libertarian bias of the economists. And the industry knew they would write the conclusions wanted by the industryBefore even contacting one, the industry was sure it would find a guy concluding taxes are evil, and that guy would be publishing it in a journal. It's not hard to find out why the industry was so sure: libertarians always conclude there shouldn't be taxes or tax-increases. The industry simply exploited their predictability.

George Berman's testimony in court shows the tobacco industry exploited Robert D. Tollison's libertarian bias to recruit him. The Tobacco Institute never told Tollison he needed to defend the tobacco industry. Instead, they fed him arguments so Tollison would come to that conclusion. in the words of Berman "we had focused a leading economist's mind on this particular problem and he was now able to be a spokesman for the solution he had come up with". Question: independently ? Berman's answer: "independently".

Of course Berman's answer "independently" isn't entirely correct: the industry fed his bias, and by doing so has been able to alter his mindset, picking up the tobacco issue. While Tollison indeed may have concluded for himself taxing is evil, his conclusion wasn't entirely independent.

The extremist worldview of the economists is obvious, and as shown even the industry sometimes had doubts on this worldview, afraid it could harm the industry being associated with people attacking tax-increases with op-eds like the one by Cotton Maher Lindsay titled excisetaxes: fascist finance, effectively comparing tobacco excise taxes to the practices of Italian fascism under dictator Benito Mussolini. A bit far-fetched, no? 

Or what to think about thois one; Tollison and Wagner writing the op-ed scientific integrity consumed by anti-smoking zealotry.  The same year the corrupted Tollison wrote a letter to the editor stating

Do remember this was written by a man heading a corrupted network, earning him well over 1 million dollars. Shameless. 

Yet at the same time, the extreme views are exactly the reason the economists were recruited. As shown, Philip Morris was interested in Dwight R. Lee *because* he was an extremist, writing giving the EPA authority over indoor air "would be likegiving a machine gun to a child".

The industry never asked Lee to take such positions. Whatever a scientific viewpoint is, there will be always be a deluded naysayer. The industry's tactic, seen in all the headhunting documents, is always showing the same pattern; the industry deliberately searches for nutcases, then giving them lots of money and making sure they receive media attention. To the laymen, the illusion then arises these extremists ' viewpoints might mean there actually is a scientific discussion. This is the doubt the industry wanted to create, because many people think when two different opinions exist, both must have some merit; Quod non, one can be completely wrong.

Were the economists corrupt ? Were they lobbyists, or just a pragmatic free-marketeers: was libertarianism the motivation driving the economists ? Or were they really for sale ? The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library doesn't provide a clear answer to these questions. Ultimately, it depends on the definition of corruption: the first thing we think of hearing the word probably will be: people doing or telling things they wouldn't do if not being paid.

Following that definition, it is clear some economists were probably dishonest: they signed things they  knew were flawed (Poulson), or lied being independent citizens (Militello). But this necessarily mean they defended work they did not believe in at all.

There's also another form of corruption: people being paid to tell ... exactly the same thing they would be saying if they would not receive money. In the case of the economists, I think it's clear that if they would not have accepted money from the tobacco industry, they still would be objecting any form of taxation.

This form of corruption isn't so much about whàt they said, but what they did not say. The website has done a tremendous job looking at the activities of the social cost consultants, giving a chronological order of the documents regarding the individual members. In 2011  Dominick Armentano wrote an error loaded reply (at the bottom of the page) addressing one strawman after another.

I guess the most interesting part in Dominick Armentano's reply, is the mere fact Armentano thinks his actions are defendable.

His answer misses a couple of points. ScienceCorruption's reply summarizes the entire problem with the activities of the network:

And those five points imply that every member of the network who ever delivered any output for the industry was corrupt.

Some economists seem to never have produced anything for the industry. But they accepted to join a network knowing they would be working for the industry. And several economists in the network accepted they would testify if being asked so by the industry. The fact some were never asked to testify, doesn't alter the fact they accepted to deliver testimonials if they would be asked to. It might not have been illegal (I don't know the american legal system), but it is clear there are some moral problems with their activities.

Further Research

Even though this series of blogposts isn't exactly short, there's much more to add to the tale of social cost and the economists network.

I have not fully explored the fact so many economists belonged to just two universities (George Mason University and Clemson University). What exactly was the role of GMU and Clemson ? Were these university aware of their activities ? What's the connection between the think tanks and GMU, the connection with the libertarian foundations, etc.

Another open question is how the economists ended up in think tanks. Did they join voluntarily ? Were they asked ? Is it coincidence they all ended up in the same think tanks, while there are literally dozens of right wing / free market think tanks ? Were some think tanks obliged by the industry to take the economists aboard ?

The 1984 Excise plan indicates the industry did not just want economists, but also wanted to recruit lawyers. We know there were attempts to create the network, but was it ever fully established ?

What was the role of the people "not on PM's list" ? Why does this document carry this strange heading? Were there other fully developed networks ?

We know some economists dropped out the network, but don't always know why. It is clear some were sacked, but were there any network members whose conscience came to play ?

On top of that, I'm pretty sure i did not discover all documents in the LTDL: the documents in the LTDL have been scanned and automatically converted to text, but the conversion sometimes failed, with letters getting switched etc. p. ex. Tollison can be found in the database as Tollison, but also Tol!ison, Toiison, Tollis0n, etc... This makes it difficult to find the right search queries...

One thing is clear: lots of questions remain unanswered...

Sunday 16 January 2022

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 64 - Non-tobacco output

Overview of previous posts here


The tobacco industry isn't the only industry using think tanks to manipulate the audience. In 1999, the Independent Institute sponsored a full-page advertisement (Open Letter on Antitrust Protectionism) in the Washington Post and the New York Times, signed by 240 economists.

25 of the people signing were members of the Tobacco Institute's economists network.

The letter sounds familiar, it's just the same old call against regulations. The only real question is: were they following their political beliefs, or was the Independent Institue not anly gaining money from the Tobacco industry, but also from Microsoft ? And is it a coincidence in 1998 tobacco network economists William F. Shughart II and Richard B. McKenzie wrote the piece is Microsoft a monopolist? or where they paid to write it ?
Well, you probably already guessed it: According to the NYT in 1999 20% of the Independent Institute's funding came from ... Microsoft: 'Unbiased' Ads for Microsoft Came at a Price

Economists for sale ? Or was it pragmatism, and was the Independent Institute just working together with the industry to reach a libertarian objective ?

Alcohol output

By 1995 the tobacco industry was already working with a lot of think tanks and businesses, trying to attack the government on all sorts of environmental sciences

It may or may not be a coincidence, but in 1997 tobacco economist Richard Wagner wrote a chapter on the social cost of alcohol in a book edited by another network member, William F. Shughart II in the book The Taxation of Alcohol and the Control of Social Cost. In Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination.

But even earlier, in 1987, Robert D. Tollison and Robert B. Ekelund, Jr. wrote Economic effects of Geographic Restraints in the Malt Beverage Industry used by Tollison in a hearing before the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Monopolies, and Business Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundredth Congress, first session on S. 567 (August 4, 1987).

And more alcohol output in this one: Temporal regulation and intertemporal substitution: The effect of banning alcohol at college football games. by William J. Boyes and Roger L. Faith

It could be a coincidence the tobacco authors suddenly en messa took such interest in alcohol ?

Petroleum industry

After the  Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska (1989) there was serious outrage allover the world. So the industry could use some help, and two tobacco economists stepped in : Alaskas Other Oil Spill. January 1, 1990. Foundation for Economic Education (written by Dwight R. Lee and Stephen L. Jackstadt). 

No, the article is not about oil or protecting the environment. It's the same old story on taxes.

Saturday 15 January 2022

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 63 - National Center for Policy Analysis

Overview of previous posts here

The National Center for Policy Analysis was another think tank where the corrupted social cost economist could spread their word

The next battleground: Indoor air

Dwight R. Lee
 in 1992 wrote the NCPA report The next environmental battleground: Indoor Air, opposing any form of regulation of indoor-air quality (IAQ). The report is also one of the first examples of a social cost economist questioning EPA's objectivity and neutrality. 

On top, it is making outrageous claims like government regulations on IAQ would kill 1900 extra people a year [sic]. 

Lee proposed the Tobacco Institute to make a presentation of the report at the EPA's 23rd International Symposium on Environmental Analytical Chemistry. 

Tobacco Institute's Karen Fernicola Suhr wasn't sure what to think of the proposal as she Lee's claims were so ridiculous:

It wasn't the only weird thing about this report. The Tobacco Institute also was wondering why the NCPA cared about Indoor Air Quality at all

The Tobacco Institute in 1992 wasn't really sure why the think tank bothered to write on indoor quality. A 1993 letter sent by Tom Hockaday (of PR-firm APCO Worldwide) to Philip Morris hints the report actually was written on the command of APCO

S. Fred Singer, Dwight R. Lee

Nor Singer (a physicist), nor Lee (an economist) have any qualifications to judge indoor air-quality science.

Meanwhile, the program of the 23rd International Symposium on Environmental Analytical Chemistry shows Lee was one of the speakers, so despite the "cookiness", the Tobacco Institute probably paid him the $9.000 he asked for. Lee wrote an article after the presentation.

It's hard to decide  which my favorite sentence is in the article: "EPA is no better at central planning than the Soviets were" or "Each polluter is better informed than EPA authorities on how to reduce pollution at least cost and is certainly more motivated"

I do understand why Karen Fernicola Suhr staed the tobacco industry had to decide if it felt comfortable with his message. And Why she felt his message borders on kookiness.

Attacking all environmental sciences

But even beofre the 1992 report above,  the National Center for Policy Analysis was already attacking almost all environmental sciences, in the 1991 report Progressive environmentalism: a pro-human, pro-science, pro-free enterprise agenda for change. The head of the taskforce writing the report was Richard L. Stroup, another tobacco economist from the network.

The taskforce consisted of an interesting list of names, besides tobacco economists there are a lot of people listed who would get known as climate skeptics.

Network economists involved in the NCPA environmental task force were (besides Stroup) : Terry L. Anderson, Allen Dalton, Bruce Johnson and of course  Dwight R. Lee

Other tobacco consultants mentioned in this task force were Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Kent Jeffreys, S. Fred Singer and  James H. Miller. And a lot of people from other think tanks, like Joseph Bast (Heartland Institute), Fred L. Smith (Competitive Enterprise Institute), David J. Theroux (Independent Institute).

The reports attacks a wild array of environmental topics. The report might be an early example showing how libertarians started attacking all environmental sciences, not because they have much knowledge on the subject, but rather because it doesn't fit their worldview.

Saturday 8 January 2022

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 62 - Atlas Economic Research Foundation

Overview of previous posts here

The social cost economists were only one of the networks and tactics used by the industry. An example of other lobbying is found in the work of James T. Bennett and Thomas J. Di Lorenzo for the  Atlas Economic Research Foundation (nowadays the Atlas network)

James T. Bennett, author of CancerScam: The Diversion of Federal Cancer Funds to Politics (co-author: Thomas J. Di Lorenzo) wrote a letter in 1995 to R.J. Reynolds 

James T. Bennett

Again, we see a think tank operating as a front for a tobacco funded book. And while the authors are not part of the social cost economist, just like the economists the authors both are ... libertarians active in numerous think tanks

James T. Bennett is/was associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, the John Locke Institute and currently is on the advisory board of the global warming denying Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

Thomas J. Di Lorenzo from his side has ties with the Independent Institute, Capital Research Center, the Ludwig from Mises Institute, the Property and Freedom Society, the Heartland Institute, the National Center for Policy Analysis, and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow

Or in other words: the authors are active in the same kind of thinks as the social cost economists... And both have been working at George Mason University, just like the core-members of the economists network. Something seems rotten there.

The industry paid the Atlas Economic Association in 1995 for the book CancerScam, but a year before it also paid $5000 to the Independent Institute for work done by Thomas J. Di Lorenzo, as this letter by the its president Donald J.Theroux demonstrates

And this is how think tanks became one blur of economists/lobbyists, the same think tanks that became the ideological basis for a big part of the American GOP in the early 21st century.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 61 - Heartland Institute

Overview of previous posts here

Best known nowadays for their position on global warming, the Heartland Institute started as a think tank defending the tobacco industry. Former President Joseph L. Bast still minimizes the risks of ETS.

Heartland always had pro-tobacco viewpoints and even invited a tobacco employee (Roy E. Marden) to join its board. In 1999, Heartland president Joseph L. Bast wrote the following letter to Philip Morris:

Joseph L Bast Heartland Institute

At least 20 of the network economists are or have been involved with the Heartland Institute. and in 1999, the year Bast begged for money, 6 tobacco economists were members of the advisory board

A 1996Heartland report shows something seen in all libertarian think tanks: an attack on a whole bunch of "environmental sciences". It is very unlikely the think tankers actually knew something about the actual state of one scientific field,  let alone a whole series of scientific domains. Ideology, not science, is the source of this kind of output produced by think tanks

Heartland Institute

It's one the first examples how tobacco and global warming (and other environmental/ health sciences) are thrown under the bus in one big effort. This was part of the "APCO" plan.

Author Richard L. Stroup was a member of the economists extended network

Gary L. Huber

Gary L. Huber was a researcher working on the link between tobacco and lung cancer, research sponsored by the tobacco industry. In 1980, Huber (re)discovered the relation by producing emphysema in rabbits.

In the prelude to the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, he became a whistleblower (in 1997) claiming to be a naïve scientist duped by a broader plan of the tobacco industry. Huber claims in the interview the industry let him though his research on lung cancer, even though they had done the same research before, and already knew the outcome was going to be smoking causes cancer.

 Huber said in an interview

Gary L. Huber

Several sources state Huber was in tears when discovering his entire research was one big waste of time. Most sources feel sorry for the man.

The book Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth states Huber promptly lost his grants from the tobacco industry after publishing his results, the industry making clear they weren't too pleased with his work. Huber subsequently moved from Harvard to the University of Kentucky and continued doing research, strangely enough again funded by the tobacco industry. But something had changed: in Kentucky Huber would become accused of manipulating scientific results, sexual harassment and general incompetence. Within a year, he got fired

All this doesn't really explain how Gary L. Huber, then working in Texas, ended up in the 1996 Heartland Earth Day '96 document, writing "In this case, the EPA's risk assessment is built on the manipulation of data, ignores crucial chemical analysis and key epidemiological data, and violates time-honored statistical principles."

I'm not sure what to think about all this, and the supposed knife the industry put in his back

Saturday 18 December 2021

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 60 - Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

Overview of previous posts here

The previous blogpost mentioned in 1994 the Independent Institute authored the open letter against the Clinton Health Reform Plan. But the Independent Institute was not the only think tank aiming to work with the tobacco industry. 

The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution invited itself to the industry in this letter to Philip Morris. Was AdTI at this point no pro-tobacco ? Probably not, the letter illustrates it all started with a remarkably one-sided and bit silly opposition against the tax-increase in the health reform plan. Thos one-sided viewpoint ultimately would become disastrous for the think tank. 

Tim Lambert wrote a blogpost in 2004 (The Astroturf de Tocqueville Institute) showing the AdTI indeed started working with the tobacco industry in the 1990's.

The S. Fred Singer report

In 1994, late S. Fred Singer, best remembered as climate pseudo-skeptic, authored the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution report Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination. This report probably was ordered by the tobacco industry.

Early 1994, Cesar Conda, then president of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, had not decided yet who would author the paper (is not it lovely they already know what the report would conclude, without even knowing who would be the author?). Het wrote this remarkable letter

Cesar Conda Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

The letter summarizes the corruption of this think tank: fake report, fake endorsements, wide press circulation. And all that for just $20.000

The letter also shows the focus was no longer only to attack regulations on tobacco, other environmental subjects would be thrown under the bus too. And indeed, it is in the pool of different American extremist conservative industry funded think tanks that organized global warming denial would finds its roots.

The letter summarizes the corruption of this think tank: fake report, fake endorsements, wide press circulation. And all that for just $20.000

A while later, Conda wrote another amazing letter

Clearly: this report was as corrupted as a report can be.

The report contains the following passage:

Robert D. Tollison

No, the report does not mention Tollison's connections with the tobacco industry, nor the fact the industry indeed paid the AdTI the $20.000 for the report

No, the report does not mention Tollison's connections with the tobacco industry, nor the fact the industry indeed paid the AdTI the$20.000 for the report. All in all, it's not even that much money and from the industry's point of view, this must have been a bargain to corrupt a think tank for an amount of money lower than an add campaign in a newspaper

In the draft version S. Fred Singer was named the first author and Kent Jeffreys the second author. It is unclear why Singer is listed as the reviewer (and not author) in the final report and why suddely Jeffreys "authored" the report.

The industry wanted to use the report for lobbying, that much is certain

Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

The report had the desired result. Samuel Chilcote, president of the Tobacco Institute reported
S. Fred Singer

Who those "peer reviewers" were is a mystery, but probably the 1994 advisory board of the AdTI gives a clue: with Gary M. Anderson, Jeffrey R. Clark, Robert B. Ekelund, Dwight R. Lee, Mark Thornton, Robert D. Tollison, Richard K. Vedder and Richard E. Wagner, eight of the nineteen board members were members of the economists' network. Probably they were the not so critical reviewers of the report.

In 1995 the AdTI published another excise tax report, this time not by the economists though, but by John E. Berthoud, president of the National Tax Payers Union.

In 1998, the AdTI's draft report Tobacco Smuggling: A Worldwide Phenomenon was sent to the tobacco industry.

This is not the work of an independent think tank.

Sunday 29 August 2021

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 59 - The Independent Institute

Overview of previous posts here

The first part of theis blog series explored the activities of the economists network in the 1980's and early 1990's. The second part of the series illustrated the tobacco industry finally would not just attack science, but would try to change the political landscpae by exploiting people's personal beliefs

That's where extremist free-market think tanks come to play.

At least 21 of the network economists have/had connections with the Independent Institute. In 1994, both core members Tollison and Wagner were among the members of the advisory board (Tollison had been on the board since 1986, the year the think tank was founded)

Clinton reform plan (1994)

As a part of the 1993 Clinton health reform plan, there was a suggestion to increase the excise taxes on cigarettes from 24c per pack to 99c, the so called "monster-tax".

The industry answered with the "monster op-ed" round, by setting up PR-firm APCO, and some more activities less relevant for the this story.

There also was an 'open letter' from the Independent Institute. It is not clear who ordered the letter, but no less than 52 economists from the economists' network signed the Open Letter to President Clinton on Healthcare Reform. It won't come as a surprise the letter draws the 'taxes' card. And is quite hysterical.

It may or may not be a coincidence so many of the social cost economists are affiliated one way or another with the Independent Institute. And it may or may not be a coincidence the letter fits the tobacco industry's social cost program. 

One has the impression the Independent Institute acted as a front for a campaign launched by the tobacco industry.

Detaxing America (1995)

In the 1980's and early 1990's, the industry paid economist to appear at economic meetings. It seems later on the industry simply organized its own conferences with think tanks acting as a cover.

In 1995, the Independent Institute organized the conference Detaxing America to promote the forthcoming book written by William F. Shughart II

Following tobacco economists attended the conference:  William Shughart II, Bruce L. Benson, Dwight R. Lee, Robert Ekelund Jr.,  Gary M. Anderson,  Richard Vedder and Mark Thornton

7 of the 17 invited speakers were members of Tollison's illegal social cost network. With several of the 13 other speakers (p. ex. DiLorenzo and Tullock) also being paid by the tobacco industry, but in other lobby-programs.

No, "Independent Institute" doesn't seem the best possible name to describe that think tank.

Books by the Independent Institute

The Independent Institute published several books and reports written by tobacco lobbyists. But even when the tobacco economists weren't the first author of a publication, they still were around.

1994 : William Mitchell and Randy Simmons, Beyond Politics (foreword by Gordon Tullock)

David J. Theroux of the Independent Institute wrote a letter to Tobacco Institute

Quite a strange move for an “Independent” Institute, no ? 

1995: Donald J Boudreaux and Adam Pritchard : Civil Forefeiture As A Tax. The authors thank 6 people for "instructive discussion and comments", four of them being tobacco economists : Bruce Benson, Dwight Lee, William Shughart and Bruce Yandle.

1995: William F. Shughart: The economics of excise taxation

1996 : Richard Vedder and Lowell E. Gallaway : The Melting Pot.

1997: William F. Shughart (ed): Taxing choice: The predatory politics of fiscal discrimination

Including Shughart, at least 7 of the 18 authors have been paid by the Tobacco Institute. Probably not a surprise, as already in 1994 David J. Theroux of the Independent Institute contacted the Tobacco Institute about the book, draft title Sin Taxes

David J. Theroux

Robert Higgs

Dr. Robert Higgs was one of the people asked by the Tobacco Institute in 1996 to write op-eds against FDA-regulations[11] Shughart was one of the most active members in the network of social cost consultants.

And to promote the book:

: Dominick Armentano: Antitrust and monopoly

2000: Roger Meiners and Bruce Yandle : Regulation and the Reagan Era

The foreword of this book was written by Robert Crandall, another tobacco lobbyist (and then brother in law of S. Fred Singer).

The industry also used think tankers outside the social cost network to work for them. Another Independent Institute economist, Canadian Pierre Lemieux (also involved in the pro-tobacco group FORCES) wrote the book "Smoking and Liberty: Government as a Public Health Problem"and a whole lot of smaller texts, listed on his website on a page he titled Smoking, Liberty and Health Fascism. His extremist titles and views may be a reason the industry didn't use him more often.

This document suggests there also might have been a (small) Canadian network. I did not explore it any further. The John Luik in the document was twice fired from universities for being dishonest. His former Dean stated

John Luik

The Independent Institute is a fine example of tobacco interests and extremist free-market views finding and strenghtening each other, ultimately mingling into one big pseudoscientific mess benefiting the tobacco industry.