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Henry N Butler

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Henry N Butler, an management/economics professor at the Texas A&M University's School of Business, College Station TX (and also with George Mason U), was recruited to help the tobacco industry survive and prosper by Robert Tollison an economist at George Mason University and James Savarese, a lobbyist with Ogilvy and Mather in the early 1990s (later with his own lobbying company).

Overall, this pair recruited (in total) between 120 and 130 professors of economics (usually Libertarian - Public Choice zealots at State Universities). Some stayed for the duration while others washing temporarily through this lobbying scam. Most of the recruits were members of Tollison's Public Choice Society which had the public-choice libertarian economics guru James Buchanan at its head.

Anna Tollison (wife) also appears to have handled the Society and some network operations, while Savarese had Leslie Dawson (wife of Sam Dawson from United Steel Worker's Assoc/union) and Kelleigh Varnum (aka Kelleigh Varnum-Roffman) as his key assistants.

The recruited professors would be instructed on occasions to write a 1200-1400 word opinion article (known as 'op-eds') for their local newspaper. The subject to be discussed or the claim to be challenged, and any important statistical information and possibly a broad outline, would be sent to them along with the names of (usually two) selected newspapers. They would also be given the name of two local Federal or State politicians to lobby by sending a copy of their article, along with a personal note.

They were paid on the basis of work performed -- at rates which varied between $600 and $3,000 for each article. This was good money for a second-rate State university professor of economics at the time. See longer explanations: Economists' network and the full-blown Cash for Comments Economists Network.



The Cash-for-Comments Economists' Network was run by Savarese through a partnership with Professor Robert D Tollison who used the staff and facilities of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University to prove cut-out and organisation services. They developed and maintained a network of Economics Professors with at least one on tap in virtually every US state. As one Professor transferred or dropped out (there was a regular turn-over) a new one would be recruited in that State. In all, about 130 university professors were involved in the period 1985-1995, and costs ran to $3 million/year at a time when professor's salaries were in the $30-40,000 pa range. An active network member at a State university could almost double his normal salary.

  The main focus of the group was to write commissioned op-ed articles on a subject determined by the Tobacco Institute. The draft article would then pass back through the network to TI staff, who were essentially public relations experts. Here they were 'improved' and refined; then sent to the Institute's outside lawyers for vetting. Modified articles then returned to the professor, who would then send them to a designated State newspaper as if they were his 'independent expert opinion'. The professors received a base amount for writing and bonuses for successfully planting the article on the newspaper. Some, but not all, received a small (eg.$1000) annual retainer.[2]]

  Published papers would also be copied by the professor and sent to his local Federal Representative and Senator (for a further bonus). Sometimes there were special commissions, but generally the work was writing op-eds and LTE's where they were paid just on results (varied from about $700 to $3000 over the years). Network members could also be called upon to provide witness services and promote the cigarette companies' political/economic line at local ordinance or State legislative hearings. An active professor of economics at a State University could almost double his salary with these activities and with some further appearances, for instance, speaking on the importance of cigarettes in economic terms at major economic conferences, etc.
      Cash for Comments Economists Network   &   Robert Tollison   &   James Savarese   &   Network Document Index


Documents & Timeline

  • See his C/V It was sent to the Tobacco Institute May 1987.

1954 Feb 16 born in Roanoke, Virginia

1977 BA in Economics, University of Richmond, Virginia

1979-82 John M. Olin Fellow in Law and Economics , University of Miami School of Law.

1979-82 Law and Economics studies (Olin Foundation grant) University of Miami Law School.

1979 MA in economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg

1982 JD from the University of Miami School of Law, Coral Gables, Florida. Also claims a PhD in Economics this year from Virginia Polytechnic. His Dissertation lists Robert D Tollison (Chairman)

1982 July- (1984 Nov on) Assistant professor, Department of Management, College of Business Administration, Texas A&M University. [See CV sent to the TI in Nov 1984] [3]

1985 June/1986 March-July The Cash for Comments Economists Network was commissioned by the Tobacco Institute to write economic opinion pieces opposing excise taxes on cigarettes in mid-year-1985. This propaganda requirment resurfaced as a major project for the economist in the peak of the Tobacco Industry's PR campaign against the Packwood tax plan (although the threat was obviously still a possibility until the end of 1986r).

The Tobacco institute (much later) put together a package of commissioned economics reports (see front section of document), followed by about thirty op-eds and composite pieces which were generated by the Tollison/Savarese Cash for Comments Economists Network in this 1985-86 time frame. It illustrates the propaganda value of this network -- and shows what it can accomplish in a very short time for just a few thousand dollars in academic bribes.

These op-eds attacking the Packwood tax plan were all published in local newspaper across the USA. (Copies needed to be sent in for payment to be made.) A few are from July 1985 and the rest appeared in local newspapers during March-July 1986. These spontaneous independent expressions of expert opinion all miraculously come from Professors of Economics attached to the Center for Study of Public Choice ...

Joseph M Jadlow, Oklahoma State Uni. (He had two op-eds in different papers.);   William C Mitchell Uni of Oregon, Eugene;   Lee G Anderson, Uni of Delaware;   John S Howe Uni of Kansas, Lawrence;   D. Allen Dalton, Boise State University;   Thomas F Pogue, Uni of Iowa, Iowa City (He had two.);   Scott Atkinson, Uni of Wyoming. (He had two in different papers.);   S. Charles Maurice, Texas A&M Uni;   Todd Sandler, Uni of Wyoming;   Michael A Crew, Rutgers Uni, Newark;   Robert B Ekelund Jr., Auburn Uni (He had two.) ;   Ann Harper-Fender, Gettysburg College;   Lee Alston, Williams College;   Paul L Menchik, Michigan State Uni;   Henry N Butler, Texas A&M Uni;   Burton A Abrams, Uni of Delaware;   Ryan C Amacher, Clemson Uni (He had two.);   Dominick T Armentano, Uni of Hartford;   Fred McChesney, Emory Uni;   and a think-tanker David Wilhelm (Citizens for Tax Justice);

Also short extract pieces and letters-to-the-editor from A James Heins, Uni of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana;   William J Hunter, Marquette Uni, Milwaukee;   Dennis E Logue, Dartmouth College;   William F Shughart, George Mason Uni;   Harold Hochman, Baruch College, City Uni of New York;

Also uncredited overviews in the Newport Daily News, the Times-Review in Texas, Herald PA, etc. which expresses the encapsulated wisdom of most of the above with the addition of Thomas Borcherding (Claremont Graduate School, Calif);   K. Celeste Gaspari, Uni of Vermont, Birmingham;   David N Laband, Uni of Maryland;   Dean Tipps (Service Employees Intl. Union);   Allen M Parkman, Uni of New Mexico, Alburquerque, NM;   Richard K Vedder, Ohio Uni, Athens;   Roger L Faith, Arizona State Uni, Tempe;   Lee Alston, Williams College Mass;   and William J Hunter, Marquette Uni, Wisc.; (Some sections were published in multiple papers). [4]
This was a massive amount of propaganda coverage for a payment of less than $1000 each to these Professors at that time.

1986 Jul 21 Sam Chilcote the CEO of the Tobacco Institute writes to the members of his Executive Committee detailing the TI's successes in generating objections to the proposed GSA {Government Services Administration] anti-smoking bans.

They have persuaded the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) to help having the rules amended, and have turned out their friends and associated companies to generate letters of objection.

Included among the comments received by GSA thus far are thousands generated as a result of contact with TAN [Tobacco Action Network] activists, other tobacco family organizations, key coalitions, organized labor and economists.

The State Activities Division's alert of key contacts in the field, as well as TAN activists, has generated at least 3,100 letters of opposition. These are letters for which copies have been sent to division headquarters; there are no doubt many others.

Among member companies, all have asked their employees to write letters of opposition. In addition, RJ Reynolds reports its phone bank efforts to reach Washington, DC residents, may have resulted in up to 3,700 opposition letters. Reynolds also sought letters from respondents to an earlier mailing on the federal excise tax issue. Philip Morris initiated a program designed to generate up to 10,000 mailgrams to GSA by the comment deadline.

Letters of objection (all remarkably similar in content) from numerous academic economists were also attached. They all seemed to focus on one extraordinary aspect: the cost of implementating the ban -- rather than the rights of non-smokers to breathe clean air.

The economist's letters all attacked the GSA's calculation ... "that the costs of NO-SMOKING signs in government buildings would cost less than $100 million annually." Apparently Robert Tollison had circulated a much higher estimate of costs (which some of the letter-writers mentioned) ... and all of the economists' letters completely ignored any cost savings, such as lower cleaning and painting costs in government buildings; reduced sick days; higher productivity, etc. which you would normally figure to be of significance to an economist.

These letters, were all written within a few days of each other by university professors (sometimes with multiple signatures) spread across the country, and they came from: