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.