Tuesday, 30 March 2021

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 57 - The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition

Overview of previous posts here

The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (now called the Advancement of Sound Science Center

Early 1993, EPA released the report Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking:Lung Cancer and Other Disorders that was close to a final blow on the ETS issue.  EPA concluded that second hand smoking beyond any scientific doubt indeed was harmful, as had long been suspected.

The tobacco industry knew it was in trouble and launched a full scale counterattack against EPA, especially using the strategy of  manufacturing "scientific doubt". It seems from that point the ‘social cost’ strategy became less important as the EPA report demanded the industry's full attention.

But the industry still needed allies and seemed to have followed two main roads: searching for allies to cast doubt on any environmental subject (asbestos, pesticides, greenhouse gasses, etc.). But on the other hand, to really be able to create a broad coalition, the industry needed to translate the industrial message into something grassroots organizations would pick up. And here, the ‘freedom’ message proved to be key to finding free-market allies. The libertarian tobacco-economists were useful to spread this message. 

To understand how the industry concluded that the best defense was to attack everything EPA does, we have to look at the work of Philip Morris' PR-firm APCO-Associates, which advised the industry to set up

PR-firm APCO created the astroturf organization The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) in 1993 because

But unlike with lobbygroups like the Center for Indoor Air Research, the tobacco industry this time had a bigger plan, as seen in a memorandum probably written by Philip Morris. 

The same document already hinted at the shape of the industry’s ETS-strategy to come

As the industry realized it could not defeat EPA alone, the goals were to

and to

This is taking the lobbying to a new level, and this is where the cunning plan of Tim Hyde fits the bigger picture: the lobbying was no longer focusing on tobacco and its consequences, the lobbying was about creating a new political reality.

One part of the strategy still sounded familiar, as it was about creating scientific doubt

TASSC was no longer an astroturf organization attacking only tobacco issues, the industry wanted a full scale attack, and was thinking about issues like

In 1994 Philip Morris wrote

And Philip Morris director Matt Winokur stated

The plan to built a broad coalition of businesses attacking EPA was a success and APCO reported

To avoid detection, TASSC had to look like a grassroots organization, even though it is clear TASSC never was more than a lobby-tool as can be read in the proposed plan for the public launch of TASSC:

As with the previous economists networks, there would be media training

The training included teaching the spokespeople of PM to answer questions like

The roots of organized denial of global warming would get started in the same circles, and by the same people, as the circles the tobacco industry used. TASSC and the same think tanks working on tobacco, would be the place where fossil fuel companies found a tool, the people (libertarians) and a strategy to attack climate science. And this is why someone running a climate blog has taken a close look at the tobacco strategy.

TASSC was funded by Philip Morris but it also involved companies like Exxon and recruited people who were global warming deniers like S. Fred Singer and Patrick Michaels, in addition to tobacco consultants such as Thomas L. Wyrick and Richard L. Stroup (both in 2015 were members off the Heartland Institute, a think tank denying the health effects of tobacco and man-made global warming).

Using the 'junk science’ label to discredit scientific work was adopted by the tobacco economists, as in an op-ed by Clifford Dobitz from 1998 titled Junk science taints EPA's smoke claims The same Year Robert L. Sexton wrote Did EPA use junk science ? The use of this language is no coïncidence but the result of a group effort.

It was by mingling of 'freedom' with tobacco (and asbestos, greenhouse gasses, etc.), the industry ultimately was able to create a message that indeed found its way into libertarian groups. And through these groups, the doubt and freedom message would become an important political factor in American politics, because the think tank network is huge, extending to many other people, foundations, companies and universities. 

Thursday, 31 December 2020

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 56 - Philip Morris broadens the attack

Overview of previous posts here

In 1991, even before the EPA report stating second hand smoking kills, Philip Morris circulated a list of scientists the industry thought would be willing to attack EPA. 

It's no longer about tobacco alone The list is 45 members long and it shows how the industry recruited their 'contrarians': the industry carefully looked for any person, sane or not, contesting the current status of scientific knowledge.


and one of the more active members in the tobacco economists network with one of his well known unnuanced views:

Dwight R. Lee

Dwight Lee Says giving the EPA authority over indoor air "would be like giving a machine gun to a child" is not regarded by the industry as an utterly bonkers viewpoint, but as an actual possibility: the document showed PM was looking for any contrarians and/or extremists who might be useful to implement the tobacco industry's attack on EPA. Sane or not. 

(do notice the list also mentions well known early climate pseudoskeptics S. Fred Singer and Patrick Michaels). 

Sunday, 27 December 2020

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 55 - The final turn in astroturfing

 Overview of previous posts here

The tobacco industry had a long history of setting up astroturf organizations. But something would change in the way the industry astroturfed: the focus shifted from attacking the EPA on its tobacco viewpoints, to attacking everything the EPA did, hoping to create general mistrust against anything the EPA and "the government" concluded on any imaginable environmental problem. Let's first have a look at the 'old style' astroturfing.

Center for indoor air research

Founded in 1988, the Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR) was a fake organisation set up by the tobacco industry  as illustrated by the minutes of a meeting held by the Executives of the Tobacco Institute

CIAR was dismantled as part of the Tobacco master settlement agreement (1988).

The industry used CIAR as a tool to hide the involvement of the tobacco industry, so the industry would be able to create a bigger network. John P. Rupp of PR-firm Covington and Burling wrote

The industry palyed it clever and never tried to alter the research results of the grantees. Nevertheless, it was clear the research results had to benefit the tobacco industry: 

The important thing to remember is that at the time the industry was working on one single issue, in this case ETS. This was the problem for groups like CIAR, as this one-sided approach easily led to the conclusion CIAR was a tobacco funded initiative. It made it difficult for the tobacco industry to find allies.

Therefore, the industry searched for better ways to lobby. Next post will explore the total switch in mindset occuring in the early 1990's. 

Saturday, 14 November 2020

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 54 - Working with Think tanks

 Overview of previous posts here

Tobacco Employee Roy Marden was one of the tobacco employees responsible for the communication with think tanks. He wrote the following memo, titled Tobacco Strategy on the think tanks he was responsible for (the industry divided the think tanks between a couple of its employees)

Roy Marden

(...) (the document is 6p. long)

The tobacco industry sought the help of right-wing think tanks to fight excise taxes.

In 1995, the Tobacco Institute sent a memo, mentioning that the economists still were able to provide op-eds in no less than 30 states. The same memo illustrates how the industry worked with the different think tanks

A similar document was written in 1998, most likely by Roy Marden. Notice how long the list is. It no longer only mentions thinks tanks, but many journalists, and even an actor and a magician (???). It's not clear why the document mentions Dwight R. Lee and Walter Williams, but it is possible Marden was not aware of their membership in the social cost economists network. Do also notice he mentions he's on the board of the Heartland Institute. 

[ETC, the list is a couple of pages long]

While there always have been contacts between the industry and think tanks, and they worked together since at least the 1980's, it was only in the 1990's that the industry's involvement would become so pervasive that one could say the industry 'owned' some of these organizations.

In the long run, think tanks probably were much more powerful allies than a secret network of economists ever could have been.

S. Fred Singer wrote his infamous Alexis De Tocqueville Institution's tobacco-paper in 1994 (see further), with Robert D. Tollison helping him. Tobacco economists were working with the Heartland Institute since at least 1991. The Independent Institute was was joined by many members of the economists' network. In 1994, Tollison and Wagner became members of the Independent Institute's advisory board.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 53 - Tim Hyde's cunning plan

Overview of previous posts here

Tim Hyde of R.J. Reynolds wrote a very long key document on how to blend the tobacco message into a broader range of political arguments, like 'freedom of choice'. It is a few pages long, but interesting from A to Z so I'm copying the whole document. 

Notice how much he respects his allies. (FC = Field Coördinators)

Just like with the recruitment of the social cost economists, the idea was to direct the existing bias of people towards viewpoints beneficial for the industry

In hindsight, we can see how much of Hyde's plan has been executed on the right side of the political spectrum. By using free market think tanks, serving as an ideological basis for the Republican Party, huge parts of the right wing succumbed to the ideological influence of a message created by corporate lobbyists, thereby effectively changing society's view.

Tim Hyde's cunning plan is not the only document in the LTDL hinting the industry deliberately tried to mix tobacco and freedom in one big blurry message.

Whether the industry started working with the think tanks for the Machiavellian reasons Tim Hyde had in mind, or just for financial reasons is not certain. The think tanks opposed taxes anyway, and with financial aid from the tobacco (and other industries) they would start to write numerous free market reports, papers, etc.

In the 1980's the Tobacco Institute spent much money sending the economists to economics conferences. Even though the tobacco economists' sessions were only attended by an average of 20-25 people, the economists were paid for years to keep presenting their work at these meetings. Savarese explicitly wrote that the aim was to "plant a seed": they hoped other economists would start copying the message, without realizing it was a tobacco message. When googling for the economists, one indeed can see the "academic output" quite often were often cited in scientific papers by economists not paid by the industry. In other words: the plan worked.

By the 1990's the industry knew which think tanks were willing to work with them, a contrast with 1988 when the industry was still looking who to work with. In the 1980's there already were plenty of contacts, but it appears that then think tanks still were seen as an external factor the industry needed to lobby


In the 1990's the industry would have much closer contact with the think tanks, and the industry hired consultants whose only job was to gain a foot in the door at these think tanks.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 52 - A new path.

The list of activities of the tobacco economists in the previous chapters was already extensive, but there's one thing not mentioned yet: their activities in a variety of free market think tanks. To understand the reason why so many social cost economists ended up in think tanks, it is necessary to examine some history,

In 1987, the industry evaluated potential allies per US State. The document shows the industry was thinking of partnering with business allies to create a broad coalition of industries lobbying together to put more pressure on politicians. It seems politicians at the time were seen as "aliens", and the industry had difficulties getting in touch with them.

Gradually though the industry shifted viewpoints and their plans became more and more ambitious: at first the industry tried to place articles in the media to alter the public's opinion of tobacco, later it tried to control external allies and media.

Ultimately the industry took the game to a whole different level: no longer did they try to influence the politician's mind on tobacco alone, but instead they tried to alter the politician’s mindset all together, so they would conclude that tobaccco taxes were unnecessary. They had to reach people surrounding politicians, like think tank members, to create a worldview where all environmental sciences would be regarded as junk. Once again, seeding doubt, and stressing the right wing bias of freedom would be the path followed by the industry.

This aim was very ambitious: the industry tried to alter the thinking of broad parts of society!  

Again, feeding bias would be the tool. So before looking at the think tanks involved, it is necessary to have a look at the broader plan, but this idea to expand their lobbying has received a fair amount of attention in other papers, so this will only be a short summary.

We'll explore this in the next post, the second part of the report on the secret economists network, hereby focussing on the economists in the secret corruptes network in the 1980's/1990's. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

The corrupted tobacco economist network Part 51. Robert D. Tollison working for Philip Morris

Overview of previous posts here

Tollison working for Philip Morris

In 1988 Tollison wrote the book Clearing the Air for Philip Morris. How he was recruited has not been discovered.

On top of that, in 1994 Tollison also started testifying for Philip Morris (WRO = Washington Relations Office)
Robert D. Tollison

In 1997, Tollison agreed to write a rebuttal to a study on the economic effects of a smoking ban in Hungary

All this on top of his work for the Tobacco Institute, British American Tobacco, other industries, and of course his regular job.