Citizens for a Sound Economy/CSE huffs and puffs with Big Tobacco

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

In 1994, Citizens for a Sound Economy was listed in a Philip Morris document titled "Tobacco Strategy," which outlined the company's plans for "co-op efforts with third party tax organizations" aimed at defeating the Clinton administration's plan for increased cigarette excise taxes.

The section describing CSE's role stated,

We are funding a major (400K) grassroots initiative in the districts of House Energy & Commerce members to educate and mobilize consumers, through town hall meetings, radio and print ads, direct mail, patch-through calls to the Capitol switchboard, editorial board visits, polling data, meetings with Members and staff and the release of studies and other educational piecess. The goal of this effort is to show the Clinton plan as a government-run health care system replete with higher taxes and government spending, masive job losses, less choice, rationing of care and extensive bureaucracies. CSE is taking aim at the heart of the plan - employer mandates, new entitlements, price controls, mandatory health alliances, heavy load of new taxes and global budgets - and, with the program well underway, is by all accounts getting rave reviews in the respective districts. [1]

Later that year, CSE was listed in another Philip Morris memorandum, which described the role it had played, together with the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Washington Legal Foundation, in helping undermine the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) effort to regulate tobacco. The three organizations, it said, were working "to define the FDA as an agency out of control and one failing to live up to its congressional mandate regarding regulation of drugs and medical devices." Beginning in December 1994, the memorandum stated, "these groups conducted an aggressive media campaign toward these goals, incorporating the issuance of policy papers, conducting symposia, filing petitions with FDA and taking other steps to keep the public and media focus on the agency." [2]

A January 26, 1995 Philip Morris memorandum by attorney David P. Nicoli, marked "privileged and confidential," detailed the company's behind-the-scenes role in a coordinated rollout of media attacks on the FDA by PM's "non-tobacco" allies. The Competitive Enterprise Institute began the attack on January 11, "running inside the Beltway anti-FDA radio and TV ads." The following day, CSE held a press conference with a sympathetic congressman and began running its own inside the Beltway ads. Simultaneously, the Washington Legal Foundation ran a full-page ad in the New York Times and a three-quarter-page ad in the Wall Street Journal. [3]

The FDA's first public response to these attacks occurred on January 17. This was followed, Nicoli noted, by an industry "counter attack that both AP and Reuters pick up. Further volleys fly between the two, as trade press, general media amplify the fight." Other voices began chiming in - the drug industry, the Washington Post, Business Week. Nicoli added that further attacks were already in the works, organized by Jim Tozzi, one of PM's top lobbyists, in coordination with the Progress and Freedom Foundation and the blue-chip PR firm of Powell Tate. "Progress and Freedom Foundation, through Tozzi, set to release FDA piece on 2/1/95 with Powell Tate publicizing," Nicoli reported. [4]

CSE has continued in subsequent years to advocate policies that benefit the tobacco industry, which receiving large financial contributions from the industry. An internal Philip Morris document from approximately 2000 tallied its "mobilization budget request for business and 3rd party allies" at a staggering $8.65 million dollars. CSE's slice of the action was pencilled in at an astonishing $2 million. [5] Another Philip Morris document, again from approximately 2000, included CSE as one of the 13 "core allies" that PM could really rely on. [6]

In January 2002, CSE wrote to President George W. Bush with what it considered "helpful suggestions on how the Department of Justice can better focus its resources" in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. At the heart of its concern were anti-trust and RICO legal actions that had been initiated by the Clinton administration. While welcoming the Bush administration's settlement with Microsoft, CSE urged Bush "to do the same with the RICO case against the tobacco industry."

"I ask you to drop the federal government's case against the tobacco industry and to direct the Justice Department's attention to the many more pressing needs now facing our country," CSE wrote. [7]

Other Sourcewatch Resources

References

  1. Philip Morris, "Tobacco Strategy", Bates Number: 2022887066, March 1994.
  2. Philip Morris, "Notes For Jim (Steve Parrish Presentation)", Bates Number: 2047720208, December 1994.
  3. D. Nicoli, "Memo", Bates Number: 2047993022, January 26, 1995.
  4. D. Nicoli, "Memo", Bates Number: 2047993022, January 26, 1995.
  5. "Budget Review", Bates Number: 2079041604, 2000.
  6. Philip Morris, "Core Allies", Bates Number: 2077285640, February 2000.
  7. Citizens for a Sound Economy, "Letter", Bates Number: 2085235064, January 31, 2002.
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