K. Celeste Gaspari

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

Professor Celeste Gaspari was a Professor of economics at the University of Vermont. She was also a tobacco industry lobbyist as a member of the Cash for Comments Economist Network, run through the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University by its Director, Robert Tollison. Tollison worked with professional lobbyist James Savarese and the two eventually went into partnership, with Tollison's wife Anna doing the network administration functions.

Documents & Timeline

  • Her CV as sent to the Tobacco Institute is on Page 37

1987 Feb 24 Dennis Dyer who works at a state level for the Tobacco Institute has sent out a direct form-letter which was a request for the economists in the Cash for Comments Economists Network to work for the Tobacco Institute itself.

(We can only assume he was attempting to by-pass Savarese/Tollison perhaps!.)

He has written directly to Professor Gaspari at the University of Vermont (among many others). This is the form-letter he sent out:

Some time ago you were contacted by Jim Savarese with regard to the economic impact of the tobacco industry on [STATE], I assume you continue in your interest in the economics of tobacco.

In anticipation of possible tax and smoking restriction legislation in [STATE] in 1987, I would like to discuss some of your opinions on the economic arguments in each of these areas. For your consideration, I have enclosed the following materials:

  • New York Smoking Prohibition Economic Impact Study.
  • New York Summary of Cigarette Tax Trends and Impacts.
  • New York Study of Cigarette Tax Sunset Provisions on Sales and Bootlegging,
These are typical of the type of materials sometimes prepared for Tobacco Institute use. I would appreciate your written candid comments on the substance of, presentation of, and ability to defend the materials. [2]

Celeste Gaspari was not amused by this letter. She replied saying that she was not happy with the slack way they paid their retainers. See Gaspari's reply below.

If there are any lingering doubts that these economist knew exactly what they were doing, it should be dispelled by a Tobacco Institute memo of June 3 1987. [3]. This shows that they knew that this work was unethical - that it needed to be done surreptitiously - and that they were working for the Tobacco Institute ... but in a way that was deniable since no formal contracts existed.

Apparently Prof. McMahon has " … reviewed and agreed to "author" an economic impact study on the effects of a smoking bill …"
The writer puts "author" in quotes
... leaving no doubt that the professor was being paid to put his name to a tobacco industry paper.

The same file has an letter from Professor K. Celeste Gaspari, an economist from the University of Vermont. She tells us that:
  • She had been contacted in Sep 1985 by the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason Uni (Tollison's think-tank)
  • She was offered an annual retainer of $1000 + paid work for the Tobacco Institute.
  • In 1986 she had been paid the retainer and had written a paper for them.
  • It was now March '87 and her retainer hadn't arrived. She'd complained but still hadn't received the retainer.
  • She has now been asked to do more work, but is on strike until her $1000 annual retainer is paid.

I am very disappointed with the Tobacco Institute's policies on making good on verbal agreements.
It is true I never had a written agreement with the Institute -- we only spoke over the phone. I did, however naively, trust that a verbal agreement with a prestigious institute was as good as a formal contract. I was evidently mistaken.
I am not interested in working with your group at this time if this is the way you do business.

Sincerely K. Celeste Gaspari