Here are my suggestions for groups that should be added to, or deleted from, ANR's inventory of Big Tobacco front groups. In the comments below, I would welcome the suggestions of my readers on this critical issue. After all, I certainly don't claim to have sole authority to attack groups as being fronts for Big Tobacco. So weigh in on your own, and let's see if we can help ANR out with its inventory.
Note that although the inventory is technically entitled "Front Groups and Allies," the introduction to the inventory makes it clear that what is being listed are groups that are apparently being used by Big Tobacco to deliver their messages so that these companies can remain "behind the scenes." According to ANR: "It has been a common practice of Big Tobacco to use third parties or to create front groups 'to be out in front fighting' smokefree policies, while the industry remains behind the scenes, protecting its public image." The implication, regardless of the addition of the phrase "and allies," is that the groups listed are essentially Big Tobacco front groups.
Also note that each of these groups is listed under the primary heading "Tobacco's Dirty Tricks." So I naturally assume that the groups listed are playing dirty tricks under the direction of Big Tobacco. I would submit that if that is not the case, then the group should not be on the list.
1. The 46 states which signed the Master Settlement Agreement and the Attorneys General who were signatories to that contract.
In many ways, the Master Settlement Agreement has created a huge front group for Big Tobacco: namely, the states which signed the MSA. Those states, after all, are now heavily funded by Big Tobacco, these funds are viewed as essential to the infrastructure of these states and any loss of the funding is viewed as being a big blow to the state budgets. Therefore, the states are representing the financial interests of Big Tobacco. But most importantly, all of this is being done in a way that allows the companies themselves to remain behind the scenes. In fact, it is done in a way that the states actually make it appear that they are fighting Big Tobacco, and thus the role of the tobacco companies in the states' efforts to protect the companies remains disguised.
Twelve of those states went so far as to file an amicus brief in an Illinois class action lawsuit on behalf of Philip Morris, arguing that the company should not be forced to pay $12 billion in a punitive damage appeal bond because it would hurt the budgets of those 12 states.
I view this as very nice front group work by the Attorneys General, and I find it quite unfair to them that they are not properly acknowledged for their efforts on behalf of Big Tobacco by being officially listed on the ANR inventory of Big Tobacco front groups.
In describing the "byproducts" of the tobacco industry's funding of the Cato Institute, ANR lists as one byproduct the fact that "the Cato Institute co-filed a brief with the National Smokers Alliance in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit alleging that the Master Settlement Agreement violated U.S. antitrust law."
By inference, I can only assume that ANR is arguing publicly that challenging the Master Settlement Agreement, which is permanently protecting Big Tobacco from liability from lawsuits filed by the 46 states, is improper. Clearly, such a public statement is supportive of Big Tobacco's financial and other interests, which obviously would favor the protection of the Master Settlement Agreement contract.
ANR's failure to appear on the Big Tobacco front group and ally list can, I think, therefore only be attributable to one thing: blatant bias on the part of the ANR judges who make this decision.
3. Michael Siegel
ANR has argued that FORCES is a Big Tobacco front because Gian Turci, its CEO, once wrote a nice letter to the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council. However, the truth is that he received no money from the tobacco council, only a free lunch.
In contrast, I received $1,000 from an R.J. Reynolds law firm.
And now, lo and behold, I have publicly stated my opposition to some outdoor smoking bans, increases in cigarette taxes to balance state budgets, and policies that fire smokers in the workplace, and I have publicly claimed that the Intervenors in the DOJ tobacco lawsuit are asking Judge Kessler to violate the due process rights of the tobacco company defendants by changing the proposed remedies to include key benchmarks for which no evidence has been presented at trial.
Certainly, I meet ANR's meek criteria for inclusion on the front group list. After all, the funding is there and the opinions on the side of Big Tobacco are there.
And if Gian Turci and his group received recognition as a front group after Gian only received a free lunch, don't I deserve to be listed since I received a whole one thousand dollars?
1. FORCES International
When you preface your argument for the inclusion of this group on the list by stating: "For years FORCES has claimed to be a membership organization that did not receive tobacco funding. Internal tobacco industry documents are inconclusive on this point", I think you are exposing that you have a very weak case for the inclusion of FORCES on the list.
I mean - if the evidence on FORCES being funded by Big Tobacco is inconclusive, then isn't it also inconclusive that FORCES is a Big Tobacco front group?
That seems like weak evidence to support ANR's assertions, so I vote for deleting FORCES from the list.
2. Competitive Enterprise Institute
There is no question in my mind that the Competitive Enterprise Institute's lawsuit challenging the MSA is an attack on Big Tobacco, and it actually, in my mind, represents one of the greatest threats to the financial interests of Big Tobacco of our time (second only to the Engle case and the Price case). If the MSA is invalidated, as CEI desires, it will be a major blow to the financial interests of Philip Morris and the other major tobacco companies that make up "Big Tobacco."
Under these circumstances, my vote is for CEI to be removed from the list.
3. The Cato Institute
I think one rule for getting onto the ANR front group list should be that you are not allowed to call the tobacco companies white collar criminals. Thus, by my rules, the Cato Institute comes off the list.
The Rest of the Story
I clearly do not think that ANR's criteria for inclusion or exclusion from their inventory of Big Tobacco front groups and allies seem to be valid. I have offered my own suggestions for improving the validity of their inventory. Now it's your turn. I'm happy to entertain suggestions for additions and deletions from the list.
I'll keep a tally of the votes and report the final vote totals in a subsequent post.