Thursday, May 12, 2005

American Legacy Foundation Tactics to Increase its Funding Exposed

During testimony at today's DOJ tobacco trial, the American Legacy Foundation's inappropriate tactics to increase its funding, reported earlier (post1 post2) here at The Rest of the Story, were publicly exposed. These tactics have included injecting itself as a party into the DOJ trial, using a front group (The Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth) to create the appearance of independent citizens' support for Legacy funding, and relying upon a legal brief from its front group that has little legal merit but is ostensibly just an attempt to use the DOJ case to try to extract funding for the Foundation.

According to a Dow Jones article, Philip Morris lawyer Dan Webb suggested to the Court that the American Legacy Foundation was "'angling' itself into the government's fraud case against cigarette makers in hopes of obtaining more funding." Webb explained that "ALF began a plan to find a way to leverage its ability to engage in tobacco litigation...and use that as a way to get more money" for the organization.

According to the article, "Legacy testified in written direct that the group, set up in March 1999, 'is facing what can only be called a financial crisis'" but denied that its testimony is motivated by that financial concern, "stating ALF 'has absolutely not been offered anything in return' for its testimony." However, Webb pointed out that "the Citizens Commission to Protect the Truth, which receives much of its funding from ALF, filed a brief asking District Court Judge Gladys Kessler, who is hearing the nonjury trial, to consider long-term, industry-funded youth prevention campaigns through ALF as a remedy, should she rule that tobacco companies fraudulently denied smoking's health risks in the past and are likely to act fraudulently in the future."

The Rest of the Story

Although I disagree with most of Webb's legal arguments in tobacco cases and have personally confronted him and his legal team many times in the courtroom, I think that he is right on the mark in his perception of the American Legacy Foundation's role in the DOJ case. While the Legacy Foundation has possibly succeeded in pulling the wool over the eyes of much of the public health community, its inappropriate, unethical, and shameless tactics were finally exposed publicly in the courtroom by an astute lawyer who could see a spade for a spade.

If my analysis which revealed the lack of a reasonable legal argument in the Citizens' Commission amicus brief was not enough to expose what is really going on here, the proof is in the words of the Commission itself, which, according to its web site, plans to "file amicus briefs in appropriate tobacco litigation. It will ask courts to order tobacco companies to provide funds for the truth® campaign as one of the remedies for tobacco company misconduct."

There is no doubt here about what is going on. The web site does not state that the Citizens' Commission has information that would be valuable and relevant to the Court in certain tobacco litigation and that it therefore will seek amicus status. No - the web site makes it clear that the filing of amicus briefs is merely a strategy to pursue funding for Legacy's truth® campaign.

This is not about the American Legacy Foundation acting in the interest of the public's health. This is not about the Foundation providing valuable and relevant legal arguments. It is clearly about Legacy using the DOJ case as a vehicle to try to increase funding for itself. The end here is not public health or justice; it is simply the securing of funding to continue the "truth" campaign. And the means here is not the appropriate practice of public health; it is the use of deceptive tactics for self-promotion.

The "truth" has finally come out.

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