Friday, March 14, 2008

Nominations for 2008 Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Awards

Welcome to the nominations and voting thread for The Rest of the Story's 2008 Anti-Smoking Hypocrisy Awards (see 2007 Awards here).

This year, we have nominations in two categories: individual and organization. This post will present the nominations for the individual award. A subsequent post will present the nominations for the organization award.


1. Former New York Attorney General and Governor Eliot Spitzer

Spitzer gained prominence in the anti-smoking movement through his successful efforts to get cigarette ads out of school magazine editions and to convince R.J. Reynolds to eliminate its marketing of candy-flavored cigarettes.

In his inauguration speech, Spitzer emphasized that his goal was to bring ethics back to Albany and that he was committed to rising to the moment and demonstrating his responsibility to the people of New York State:

"I pledge to toil each and every day so as not to disappoint the hard working people of this state."

"we must change the ethics of Albany"

"If ever there was a time that called out for introspection by those in government, it is now."

"those of us who work in the great building behind me must hear and heed the serious responsibility that public service demands and rise to this moment and show the public in words and in deeds that we understand that our responsibility is to the people of New York."

As Attorney General, Spitzer conducted several prostitution ring busts and spoke of his revulsion to prostitution.

The Rest of the Story

Federal investigators - using wiretap and other sources - have identified Spitzer as "Client 9," who met with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month and has been spending tens of thousands of dollars for multiple trysts with prostitutes over the past six months.

According to the federal affadavit, as reported by the New York Times, Client 9 was a return customer who had engaged the services of Kristen - a 5 foot 5, 105 pound young woman - in his Mayflower Hotel room in Washington on the night of February 13, the evening before Spitzer testified before Congress regarding the bond insurance crisis.

According to the New York Times, Client 9 was described in the affadavit "as a 'difficult' man who sometimes asked the prostitutes 'to do things you might not think were safe.'"

Spitzer resigned from office on March 12, but failed to explicitly disclose his involvement with the prostitution ring and insisted that his transgressions were a "private" matter.

2. Former Friendship Heights Mayor Alfred Muller

Former Mayor Muller, a physician, sought to protect children in Friendship Heights (Maryland) from even the sight of a smoker. Thus, in 2000 he promoted - successfully - the enactment of the nation's toughest smoking ban, which prohibited smoking anywhere on village property, including parks, sidewalks, and lawns. Dr. Muller admitted that he was not only trying to protect nonsmokers from minute amounts of secondhand smoke, but also to protect children by establishing a new social norm.

The Rest of the Story

In May 2001, Dr. Muller was found guilty of molesting a boy in the bathroom at the Washington National Cathedral. He was sentenced to three years probation and was registered in Maryland as a sex offender.

3. Governor Christine Gregoire

Former Attorney General and current governor of Washington, Gregoire champions herself as a national leader in tobacco control and campaigned successfully for governor on that platform. She was a 1999 winner of the Good Housekeeping Award for Women in Government due to her role in "bringing the tobacco industry to its knees." She also won the 2004 Julius B. Richmond Award for her efforts in fighting the tobacco industry. As Attorney General of Washington State, Gregoire played a key role in the negotiation of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement [MSA] between 46 states and the major tobacco companies. She is a former board chair of the American Legacy Foundation.

The Rest of the Story

In 2003, Gregoire along with other attorneys general intervened in an Illinois tobacco court case, submitting an amicus brief to a trial court judge urging him to reduce the $12 billion appeal bond he had ordered Philip Morris to pay, as specified by Illinois law, after the company was found guilty in a class-action lawsuit.

In intervening to protect the financial well-being of Philip Morris, Gregoire wrote: "Defendant Philip Morris has informed the States that the $12 billion appeal bond required in this Court’s March 21, 2003 Judgment may prevent it from making the $2.6 billion payment to the States that the MSA requires it to make on April 15, 2003. The States submit this brief to advise the Court that many State programs, including vital public health programs, depend on MSA payments for their support and to urge this Court, after a full assessment of Defendant’s financial condition, to exercise its discretion to set an appeal bond that does not interfere with the States’ vital interests. ... The States have a strong interest in preserving the value of the settlements they fought for and won, and the results in this lawsuit should not prejudice those settlements."

In other words, Gregoire was arguing that because the legal remedy awarded to plaintiffs in Illinois - under the judicial system and laws of Illinois and under the United States Constitution - affected financial payments to her state, the judge should alter the application of Illinois law to protect her state's financial interests, and that concern should override the pursuit of justice by these citizens under the laws of Illinois.

It is baffling how any serious or meaningful award in tobacco control could be given to a public official who went to bat for Philip Morris, intervening and interfering in the pursuit of justice by a class of citizens in another state, all in an effort to protect the financial welfare of the nation's leading tobacco company (whose products, based on market share, kill more than 200,000 Americans each year).

4. Senator Edward Kennedy

Senator Kennedy, who claims to be a Congressional leader in the fight against Big Tobacco, blasted the tobacco companies in January 2007, attacking them for trying to addict millions of new smokers in the United States. Referring to a Harvard study which claimed that the companies - including Philip Morris - were increasing their nicotine yields to addict smokers, Senator Kennedy stated:

“This study is an extraordinary public service by Harvard’s School of Public Health. It’s dramatic new proof that Big Tobacco is addicted to addicting millions of young smokers into lifetimes of illness and early death. Congress has been an accomplice in the travesty because of the success of the tobacco lobby in blocking real reform. Hopefully, the study will be a wake-up call to persuade Republicans and Democrats alike to enact long overdue legislation allowing the FDA to regulate cigarettes and deal with their enormous risks.”

The Rest of the Story

Behind the scenes, Senator Kennedy inserted language into the proposed FDA legislation that exempted clove from the list of banned flavorings in cigarettes. The original bill banned the use of clove as a primary flavoring in cigarettes. However, the bill that the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee first saw exempted clove from the ban that affects all other flavorings (other than menthol, which was already exempted). Senator Kennedy was responsible for producing the Chairman's mark that the Committee considered.

Probably not coincidentally, Senator Kennedy's secret revision came at a perfect time for Philip Morris, which according to a New York Times article, "recently introduced a clove-flavored version of its Marlboro brand in Indonesia. The company spent $5 billion in 2005 to buy a controlling stake in Sampoerna of Indonesia, a large maker of clove cigarettes."

Senator Kennedy's secret favor for Philip Morris was quickly discovered and eliminated from the bill, as the Committee voted to place the clove ban back in the bill before sending it out favorably.

Readers can vote for their favorites on the comment thread.

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