Friday, June 24, 2005

Adweek Article Suggests that Legacy-Funded Commission Exists Primarily to Seek Funding for Legacy

An Adweek article published online yesterday describes the American Legacy Foundation's efforts to obtain a huge chunk of any money that Judge Gladys Kessler may award the government in the DOJ tobacco lawsuit. According to the article: "The American Legacy Foundation, which runs the 'Truth' antismoking campaign, wants the cash and, with the help of its friends, has been angling to get it."

The article describes the mission of the Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth as "to ensure that the 'Truth' campaign continues" and describes the Commission's efforts to obtain funding for the campaign, including filing amicus briefs in several tobacco cases that could involve billions of dollars for successful plaintiffs, including the DOJ case and an Illinois case. "Getting judges to award damage claims from tobacco cases to Legacy has become a key strategy for the commission. Califano's commission has become the conduit for making such requests."

The Rest of the Story

Adweek clearly has the impression that the Citizens' Commission's primary goal is to advocate for funding for Legacy. This would be all well and good, except for one small problem: "Principal funding for The Commission comes from the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) through a $1.5 million pass-through grant from the American Legacy Foundation."

This means that Legacy is essentially funding an organization whose primary activity is to advocate for funding for Legacy under the guise of being some sort of independent commission on behalf of citizens.

The Citizens' Commission has already testified to that effect in court, telling a judge that it is not affiliated with Legacy: "The Commission is not affiliated with Legacy. It is an independent organization developed to serve the public health in connection with tobacco use and prevention."

The Citizens' Commission has gone to great lengths not to disclose its relationship with Legacy. It wasn't until its latest amicus brief that it even mentioned its financial relationship with Legacy. But even in that brief, it failed to acknowledge that it is affiliated with the very foundation that funds it, that provides major grant support to the Center run by its director, and whose Treasurer is also the president of the association from which the money originates in the first place.

In other words, the Citizens' Commission is essentially a front group, funded by Legacy and advocating for funding for Legacy, but failing to be forthright about the nature of its financial relationships with Legacy, all while implying publicly that it is some sort of "independent" commission representing the interests of the "citizens."

Since we in tobacco control have long attacked the tobacco industry for its use of front groups and have spent much time discussing the lack of ethics inherent in the industry's use of front groups, is it not equally unethical for us to be using this same industry tactic?

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