The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) is a now-defunct, industry-funded PR front group run by the APCO Worldwide public relations firm. It worked to hang the label of "junk science" on environmentalists. Created in 1993, TASSC began as a front for Philip Morris, which was attempting to discredit ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) research as a long-term cause of increased cancer and heart problem rates in the community -- especially among office workers and children living with smoking parents.[1] It advanced industry-friendly positions on a wide range of topics, including global warming, smoking, phthalates, and pesticides. Later still, they extended the role of TASSC to Europe using Dr. George Carlo. [2]

A "Sound Science" Award for Gina Kolata's Reporting on Silicon Breast Implants

In 1995 TASSC awarded New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata its "Sound Science in Journalism Award." Announcing the award TASSC Chairman Garrey Carruthers praised Kolata "who responsibly detailed in a series of stories how science has been distorted and manipulated to fuel litigation concerning silicone breast implants." [1]

Explaining their award to Gina Kolata TASSC wrote that she "wrote several articles on how science has been distorted and manipulated to advance implant-related litigation. Why it was chosen: Everyone seemed to be afraid to talk about it -- the FDA has treated the issue like a hot potato and respected scientific researchers and medical professionals were criticized and harassed when they spoke out . It would have been an easy issue to avoid, but Kolata courageously took it on. Her articles were well-balanced and presented the strong scientific case -- and why it had been distorted in the first place -- for silicone breast implants." [2]

Junk Science

Steven J. Milloy, began his career with TASSC.

"Public health professionals need to be aware that the "sound science" movement is not an indigenous effort from within the profession to improve the quality of scientific discourse, but reflects sophisticated public relations campaigns controlled by industry executives and lawyers whose aim is to manipulate the standards of scientific proof to serve the corporate interests of their clients. " [3]

The Philip Morris effort also spawned the "junk science" home page. junkscience.com writer/editor/publisher Steven Milloy worked for TASSC, ultimately as its executive director before the sham operation was allowed to fade out of existence:

"...by 1995, a TASSC Web site was being planned with PM to distribute scientific papers and polls to support PM's position. 44 TASSC and its Web site are now defunct, but its executive director Steve Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute (a libertarian think tank in Washington, DC, that has received funds from the tobacco industry), now produces a "junk science" Web site. Milloy's Web site continues TASSC's original work in criticizing and "debunking" the science behind public health and environmental issues, including secondhand smoke."

Milloy's association with tobacco continues, as acknowledged [4] on his website. [5]

The Whitecoat Project

One of the forerunners of TASSC at Philip Morris was a 1988 "Proposal for the Whitecoat Project," named after the white laboratory coats that scientists sometimes wear. The project had four goals: "Resist and roll back smoking restrictions. Restore smoker confidence. Reverse scientific and popular misconception that ETS is harmful. Restore social acceptability of smoking."

To achieve these goals, the plan was to first "generate a body of scientific and technical knowledge" through research "undertaken by whitecoats, contract laboratories and commercial organizations"; then "disseminate and exploit such knowledge through specific communication programs." Covington & Burling, PM's law firm, would function as the executive arm of the Whitecoat Project, acting as a "legal buffer ... the interface with the operating units (whitecoats, laboratories, etc.)."

The effort to create a scientific defense for secondhand smoke was only one component in the tobacco industry's multi-million-dollar PR campaign. To defeat cigarette excise taxes, a Philip Morris strategy document outlined plans for "Co-op efforts with third party tax organizations"--libertarian anti-taxation think tanks, such as Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Citizens for Tax Justice and the Tax Foundation. Other third party allies included the National Journalism Center, the Heartland Institute, the Claremont Institute, and National Empowerment Television, a conservative TV network.

In one memo to Philip Morris CEO Michael A. Miles, vice president Craig L. Fuller noted that he was "working with many third party allies to develop position papers, op-eds and letters to the editor detailing how tobacco is already one of the most heavily regulated products in the marketplace, and derailing arguments against proposed bans on tobacco advertising." [6]

In April 1996, Milloy proclaimed himself a public health expert and began turning out a stream of anti-environmental, anti-public health commentary through his "Junk Science" homepage (www.junkscience.com). The site claims to debunk bad science used by lawsuit-happy trial lawyers, the 'food police,' environmental Chicken Littles, powerdrunk regulators, and unethical-to-dishonest scientists to fuel specious lawsuits, wacky social and political agendas, and the quest for personal fame and fortune. Although Milloy's Junk Science Home Page does not disclose its specific funding source, the website, Citizens for the Integrity of Science [in 1999], and the debunked TASSC share the same address at 1155 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300 in Washington, DC. [7]

The phone number for junkscience.com is registered to The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (a well exposed corporate front group and a former project of the EOP Group) at 1155 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 300 in Washington, DC. This is the same phone number and address Milloy has used for the Citizens for the Integrity of Science, Junkscience.com, NoMoresScares.com, and of course, the defunct The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. The fax number used on numerous press releases over the years is "an interoffice fax" at 1155 Connecticut Ave NW,. according to a simple internet search.

Citizens for the Integrity of Science

The internet site, CFIS.org (Citizens for the Integrity of Science), is registered to Steve Milloy's home address in posh Potomac, MD, with Steve Milloy listed as the administrative contact. So who is actually paying for junkscience.com? We don't know, and Milloy has repeatedly refused to disclose his patrons.

CFIS does appear to have some sort of board, though we know of only two members, including Milloy. In a May 11,1999 Freedom of Information Act filed by Citizens for the Integrity of Science posted on the Junkscience web page, Steve Milloy listed himself and Michael Gough of the Competitive Enterprise Institute as "Directors" of Citizens for the Integrity of Science, with TASSC's old 1155 Connecticut address and contact info, which is also Milloy's current business address. [8]

Milloy, an 'Adjunk' Scholar at Cato Institute[9] encountered Rupert Murdoch during Murdock's term as Cato Director -- thus leading to Milloy's Junk Science columns on Fox News website and newspapers. For many years, including Murdoch's term, a Philip Morris V.P. sat on Cato's board, which probably sufficiently explains Milloy's appearance on Cato's payroll.

Funders

TASSC's funders include:

  • 3M
  • Amoco
  • Chevron
  • Dow Chemical
  • Exxon
  • General Motors
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Lorillard Tobacco
  • Louisiana Chemical Association
  • National Pest Control Association,
  • Occidental Petroleum,
  • Philip Morris
  • Procter & Gamble,
  • Santa Fe Pacific Gold
  • W.R. Grace. [10]

Founding member scientists

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Margery Kraus, APCO Associates Untitled Letter. 6 pp. September 23, 1993. Bates No.2024233677/3682
  2. Margery Kraus, Tom Hockaday, APCO Associates European Sound Science Program May 31, 1994. Bates No. 2025493120

Resources

External links

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