Thursday, September 08, 2005

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Other Interveners Disclose Conflict of Interest in Post-Trial Brief; Sharp Contrast with Citizens' Commission

While I have been critical of the public health interveners post-trial brief in terms of its legal arguments in support of monetary remedies in the DOJ case, there is one aspect of the brief that I think deserves commendation.

The intervening anti-smoking groups were careful to disclose to Judge Kessler their conflict of interest in the case. Specifically, the groups disclosed the fact that many of them have received funding from the American Legacy Foundation. This is an important conflict to disclose, because the brief supports the funding of Legacy to the tune of billions of dollars.

As the brief states: "The Government initially proposed that the American Legacy Foundation administer the countermarketing remedy...and the Public Health Intervenors fully support that proposal for the reasons set forth herein. In that regard, the Court should be apprised of the fact that five of the six Public Health Intervenors have received funds from the American Legacy Foundation over the past several years through various grants, contributions, and contracts. In addition, while the sixth, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, has not received any such funds or other support from the American Legacy Foundation, an affiliated nonprofit, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, has."

I have criticized the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in the past for what I believe to be dishonesty or insincerity in some of its statements. But here, I think the Campaign deserves praise for being honest and forthright in disclosing this conflict of interest. It could have tried to hide behind a technicality - the difference between the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund and the Campaign itself, but it chose not to. That was the correct decision - it was the right thing to do. The Campaign deserves commendation for this action.

The Rest of the Story

In sharp contrast to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the other public health interveners, another group which intervened in the case (filing an amicus brief) failed to disclose what is arguably even a larger conflict of interest.

The Citizens' Commission to Protect the Truth, in filing an amicus brief almost exclusively to argue in support of the Court granting of billions of dollars to the American Legacy Foundation, failed to disclose not only the fact that it has received funding from Legacy, but that in fact, its principal source of funding comes from the American Legacy Foundation.

This is a conflict that dwarfs the one that the public health interveners have in fact disclosed.

The rest of the story reveals just how inappropriate the Citizens' Commission's failure to disclose its conflict of interest is. The fact that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which has not exactly been the bastion of honesty and forthrightness, has revealed an even smaller conflict should give readers an idea of exactly why I view the Citizens' Commission's failure to disclose its conflict of interest to be so wrongful.

If Judge Kessler became aware of the truth here, I don't think she would be too pleased with the Citizens' Commission's failure to disclose its blatant conflict of interest in this case.

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