Robert S. McAdam
Learn more about corporations VOTING to rewrite our laws.
Robert S. McAdam is Senior Vice President of Government and Community Affairs at Darden Restaurants. He was vice president of corporate affairs at Wal-Mart Stores from 2000 to 2006. Prior to joining Wal-Mart, McAdam was a senior vice president at the PR firm Fleishman-Hillard where he worked with "grassroots organizations" in Europe, Australia and Central America.
He was Vice President of Special Projects at the Tobacco Institute from 1990 to 1997. And before that, he was Vice President of Conservative Governance at Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation.
Smoked Out: A Clandestine History
A copy of McAdam’s resume notes that he was 32 when he joined the Institute in 1990 after leaving The Free Congress Foundation where he was Vice President of Conservative Governance. In their internal appraisal of McAdam, Institute executives praised his experience in conservative politics, including his ties to Paul Weyrich, who had recruited McAdam twice for positions with The Free Congress Foundation.
Soon after joining the Tobacco Institute in 1990, a representative from the Ruder Finn PR firm sent McAdam a letter congratulating him on his new job and offering the firm’s services for $200 an hour.
- First, of course, congratulations on your new position with the Tobacco Institute. It certainly sounds like you will have your hands full with all the issues facing the tobacco industry in the Congress as well as in the state houses and legislatures.
A separate company with a strong history of winning campaigns for Republican politicians also sent McAdam a proposal, seeking to work for him. The firm’s CEO wrote:
- We are not an ad agency or a corporate PR firm. Our agency has a single specialization: winning political campaigns. We know how to create positive images of our client and negative images of our opponent.
Within months, McAdam released a 139-page background report on the Tobacco Institute’s expected activities across the United States. Campaigns were projected for Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Ohio. For instance, the expected budget for Colorado was $2,083,795.
McAdam also sent a memorandum to the Treasurer of the Committee for Sensible Government, an apparent tobacco front group operating in Alaska. McAdam wrote:
- I know that all the bills for our committee are paid, but I wanted to be sure that the committee itself had been terminated. As Treasurer, you need to be sure that whatever forms are necessary to terminate the committee are filed with the appropriate elections office in Juneau before the end of the year.
Attached to the memo are three pages of bills for services such as voter ID contacts and phone calls to voters.
In a deposition, McAdam explained the nature of his job at the Tobacco Institute. He stated:
- I am responsible for acting as a liaison between the companies that support the Institute and various political campaigns that exist out there in the countryside to work on issues that the companies are interested in.
McAdam was introduced to Tobacco Institute executives at a meeting in Manhattan in 1991 where he briefed attendees. According to the document:
- Mr. Malgren introduced Robert McAdam, who had joined The Institute staff after many years experience with ballot measures and is The Insitute official primarily responsible for dealing with state and local initiative matters. Mr. McAdam, in a presentation that included examples of advertisements that had run in Montana, analyzed the Montana initiative campaign that had resulted in a clear rejection of the proposed tax increase. He also reported on a possible initiative measure in Sacramento, California, and a February 26 ballot measure in Greensboro, North Carolina that would replace the current smoking restriction ordinance with a voluntary program.
In his prepared remarks, McAdam wrote:
- While it was far from perfect, I believe out industry’s efforts to defeat the Montana initiative have put our opponents on notice for the future. We can effectively organize our resources and we can defeat them, regardless of their accusations about our motives and intentions, and in spite of public opinion….
In July 1991, McAdam released $10,000 to a group in Colorado that was “to be drawn on the account of the ‘Tobacco Consumers, Distributors, and Producers Opposed to Unfair Tobacco Sales Tax’ political committee of Helena, Montana.”
An executive with the PR agency Hill & Knowlton sent McAdam a memo in February 1992 to update him about activities in Arizona regarding a bill to tax tobacco and liquor being introduced by Senator Pearce. “We suggested that media pressure be applied Sen. Pearce – start a fire in his back yard [sic].”
The executive added:
- Our strategy is to keep the tobacco and liquor industries out of the argument in order to keep this effort low key for the time being. The anti-tax message must focus on the middle class. Publicly, we would refer to it as a tax that hits the middle class disproportionately instead of a “regressive” tax because most people in the middle class think “regressive” means it only affects the lower class.
That same month, McAdam released an update on state initiatives and referenda that the Institute was tracking and attempting to derail. The memo discussed a Massachusetts tax initiative, labeling and advertising changes in Ohio, a tax in Oklahoma, a Colorado tax, a tax and advertising ban in Oregon, a tax increase in Arizona, and a smoking ban in California.
In August 1992, McAdam sent a memo regarding the “Nebraska Initiative.” He wrote:
- Just as we are aggressively pursuing our arguments to invalid [sic] signatures with the Secretary of State, it is believed that the proponents are arguing to reinstate invalid signatures.
Later that year, McAdam was sent a memo outlining a plan to defeat a tax on tobacco in Oregon. The strategy included influencing labor groups and senior citizens. The projected total cost was $173,200.
As the nation discussed President Clinton’s healthcare reform bill in 1993, executives at the Tobacco Institute became concerned about attempts to fund the program with a tobacco tax. At a meeting, McAdam talked about the developing and testing television commercials to deal with these proposed taxes. Later that June, the Institute met again to discuss President Clinton’s healthcare reform bill. McAdam reported on activities of various farm groups to oppose cigarette taxes to fund healthcare.
In 1994, McAdam sent a letter to the Director of Government Affairs and Brown and Williamson, outlining initiatives in Colorado and Arizona. The approved expenditures in Arizona were $405,000 and $194,000 in Colorado.
“Should Brown & Williamson wish to participate in this fashion,” McAdam wrote, “They can make their contribution directly to the campaign committee listed on the allocation sheet or they can contribute to the Institute, which in turn will provide funds to the campaign.” That same year, McAdam dissolved an apparent front group in California called “Californians for Statewide Tobacco Ordinances and Policies.” 
McAdam appears to be an early proponent of using PACs in political campaigns. In 1995, he was sent a letter from the law firm Hance, Scarborough, Woodward & Weisbart on the laws regarding PAC contributions in Texas.
In 1997, McAdam sent a memo to the Tobacco Institute “Ballot Issues Committee” about potential companies they could hire to do opinion surveys for the “electoral challenges” they faced. McAdam wrote:
- One our challenges the industry faces in the wake of our loss in Oregon is determining whether current approaches to survey research provide us with the necessary information to make educated decisions about winnability as well as tactical deployment.
Around March 1997, McAdam left the Tobacco Institute and received a kind letter from Arthur J. Stevens, Vice President and General Counsel at Lorillard. Mr. Stevens wrote:
- As we discussed during out telephone conversation on March 7, I’m sorry to see you leave the Industry, but I am pleased at the prospect for your further personal success. Your efforts on our behalf have always been marked by high competence, complete dedication, objectivity, and honesty. We were all well-served by your tenure in tobacco.
- Good luck and God Speed!
Ties to the Tobacco Industry Big Shots and Anti-Union Activities
McAdam, Rick Berman and Wal-Mart's top Washington D.C. lobbyist Lee Culpepper knew each other, the Associated Press reported, in "various capacities during their time as lobbyists for the restaurant and tobacco industries in the 1990s."
In a media release, the United Food and Commercial Workers' WakeUpWalMart noted that "McAdam worked with Phillip Morris at the Tobacco Institute during the same period of time that Phillip Morris contributed $900,000 to Berman's pro-tobacco campaign." While McAdam was at the Tobacco Institute, he coordinated efforts to thwart local smoking restrictions across the U.S. In Sacramento, California, McAdam assisted the tobacco industry in an effort to reverse a smoking ban that had already passed.
McAdam told the Associated Press that Wal-Mart "have not contributed to the Center for Union Facts" nor funded them via any other group. "It is not a recent relationship. We've talked back and forth, he's told us stuff he's heard about union activity and we share stuff we've heard about union activity. It's a conversation," McAdam said. "The bottom line is, I know Rick Berman and I've talked with him. But that is the extent of my relationship with that organization."
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
The earliest mention of McAdam and ALEC is a Tobacco Institute memorandum which states that McAdam and five other Tobacco Institute officials attended ALEC’s 1992 national meeting..The Tobacco Institute was working with ALEC to stop attempts to increase taxes on tobacco products.
Since joining Darden in 2005, McAdam has been linked twice to ALEC. In a 2008 event for PR professionals at Rollins College, McAdam gave the keynote luncheon talk. In the biography, McAdam is listed as a board member of several organizations including the American Legislative Exchange Council.
An archived version of ALEC’s website lists McAdam as a member of their Private Enterprise Board.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Other SourceWatch Resources
- WakeUpWalMart.com, "New Evidence Shows Wal-Mart Working Closely With Right Wing Attack Group, Says WakeUpWalMart.com", Media Release, May 26, 2006.
- Marcus Kabel, "Wal-Mart denies funding anti-union ads", Businessweek, May 26, 2006. (this is an Associated Press story).
- Darden Restaurants, Robert S. McAdam, corporate biography, accessed April 2013.
- William F. Rhatican, Senior Vice President/Creative Director, Ruder Finn, First, of course, congratulations on your new position with the Tobacco Institute, letter to Robert S. McAdam, June 1, 1990.
- Arthur J. Stevens, Lorillard Tobacco Company, As we discussed during our telephone conversation on March 7, I'm sorry to see you leave the Industry, letter to Robert S. McAdam, March 10, 1997.
- Tobacco Institute, Robert S. McAdam: Professional Appraisal, approx. 1990, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013.
- Tobacco Institute, organizational chart, January 1, 1994, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Robert S. McAdam, accessed in Tobacco Library April 201
- Tobacco Institute, Executives appraise McAdam, accessed in Tobacco Library (TI118905), April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Rudder Finn letter to McAdam, accessed in Tobacco Library(TI1675-1952), April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Letter from Mike Murphy Media, Inc. to Robert McAdam, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Background report on the Tobacco Institute activities in United States, accessed in Tobacco Library (TI41451131 – TI41451268), April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Letter from Bob McAdam to Tom Satre, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Twentieth Judicial Circuit Court (St. Clair County, Illinois), Deposition of Robert S. McAdam, Transcript of Proceedings, Case Number 91-L-734, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee, February 7, 1991, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Remarks of Bob McAdam before the Tobacco Institute Executive Committee, February 7, 1991, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Letter to the Colorado Executive Committee, July 12, 1991, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Letter to Robert McAdam Re: First Meeting Report FYI, February 21, 1992, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Memorandum From: Robert S. McAdam To: TI Coordinating Committee Re: Initiative and Referenda Update, February 24, 1992, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Memorandum From: Robert S. McAdam Re: Nebraska Initiative, August 3, 1992, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Letter to Robert McAdam Re: Oregon Excise Tax Initiative, May 4, 1992, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Minutes of the Management Committee, April 28, 1993, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Minutes of the Management Committee, June 30, 1993, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Letter from Robert McAdam to Brown and Williamson, approx. 1994, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Certificate of Election to Wind Up and Dissolve, approx. 1994, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Letter to Robert McAdam Re: Research Concerning Texas State and Municipal Election Laws, April 12, 1995, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Letter from Bob McAdam to TI Ballot Issues Committee, March 26, 1997, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Marcus Kabel, Wal-Mart denies critics claim it backs anti-union group (sub. req'd), Associated Press, May 26, 2006.
- United Food and Commercial Workers, New Evidence Shows Wal-Mart Working Closely With Right Wing Attack Group, press release, May 26, 2006, archived by the WayBack Machine December 22, 2010.
- Robert McAdam, Update on California Short and Mid-Range Plan, memo to Tobacco Institute State Activities Policy Committee, February 21, 1991.
- Robert McAdam, Sacramento Smoking Ordinance Referendum, memo to Tobacco Institute Ballot Issues Committee, November 19, 1990.
- Tobacco Institute, Tobacco Institute Annual Meeting Registrations, June 23,1992, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Memorandum To: Bob McAdam From: Walter Woodson, March 23,1993, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- Tobacco Institute, Memorandum Re: ALEC'S Annual Meeting, May 16,1995, accessed in Tobacco Library April 2013
- MasterPR, 2008 Professional Development Workshop, agenda, October 22, 2008, on file with CMD
- American Legislative Exchange Council, "Private Enterprise Board", accessed via web.archive.org, April 2013
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