Wednesday, March 16, 2005

American Legacy Foundation to Present Christine O. Gregoire Award for Use of Tobacco Industry Documents

The American Legacy Foundation will be presenting an award in the name of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire at the 2005 National Tobacco Control Conference in Chicago. The award, entitled the Christine O. Gregoire Youth/Young Adult Award for Outstanding Use of Tobacco Industry Documents, "recognizes a person 24 years of age or younger who has made a contribution to the health of the public in the recent past through use of tobacco documents."

Gregoire, the former Attorney General of Washington, 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 (then Attorney General of Washington), 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 named after 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).

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