American European Community Association

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

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

The American European Community Association (AECA) and its close relative the New York Society for International Affairs (NYSIA) (also called just the New York Society) were pseudo-trade promotion societies devised by David Morse and Andrew Whist at Philip Morris to provide the company with a platform to influence governments on both sides of the Atlantic.

The AECA differed from the NYSIA in one crucial way however: the Whist/Morse AECA was formally an American branch of an existing European organization established in 1980 by Sir David Nicholson, the then Chairman of Rothmans. However the NYSIA and another similar lobbying organisation called Libertad (also run by Whist and Morse) were unaffiliated with any other group and creatures of Philip Morris's corporate imagination.

Operations

The Annual Budget papers of Philip Morris set aside about $200,000 for each organization in its International, Corporate Affairs division. These payments were made in the form of "grants" rather than lobbying line-items.[citation needed]

In fact, these organizations were more imaginary than real, although they could provide a list of 'members' and 'officials' if forced to defend their status. But in fact, the NYSIA and Whist's American branch of the ACEA only existed on paper to launder payments to those able to exercise political power. It was a way to create networks in countries where the tobacco company was expanding its business, or extending its influence to block anti-smoking moves. Libertad was a little more complex because it actively enlisted prominent media people (newspaper columnists and TV personalities) to promote the idea that regulation of smoking was evidence of blue-nose wowserism and an oppressive "Nanny State".

It is not clear how closely the American branch of the AECA and the European AECA were associated, but Whist and Morse made all the decisions and Philip Morris provided all of the funds. However in one internal memo Whist reports that on a trip to London:

On Sunday afternoon, I met with Lord Nathan, a lawyer who is the head of the UK AECA Trust to inform him that Alain Morvan had resigned as Director-General of AECA International, to become Managing-Director of the New York Stock Exchange in Europe. I wanted Lord Nathan to agree to Alain's successor, James Elles, Conservative MEP, who heads our chapter in the European Parliament (we now have 38 active members).


  Later that afternoon, I met with Martin Peach, who came across from Brussels to put final touches on Lord Cockfield's visit this week. Peach is Cockfield's personal aide. In the evening, I met with James Elles, to give him his marching orders.


  On Monday morning, I met with Sir David Nicholson and Alain Morvan to wind up Alain's affairs before going on to Lausanne for a meeting with all the participants in our ETS program in Europe and elsewhere. There is an urgent need to increase the flow of scientific refutations and increase our cadre of scientists (our memo to R.W. Murray of May 24 refers)

[1]

Through the AECA and NYSIA, some sort of apparently-legitimate business-trade association was provided as cover to the politicians and power-brokers. They needed the existence of a registered organization with a bank account, so that they could pretend innocence in the event that their junkets or generous "speaker's fees" were ever exposed. The organization also gave the media an organizational name when writing their news stories; no one ever seems to have inquired as to the management, or the source of funds.

Philip Morris, in a rather odd way, later established a Spanish branch of the American branch of the ACEA back in Europe at Madrid. [2]

Exposed

Both of the American AECA and NYSIA organizations ran for nearly twenty years: between 1980 when they were established, through 1989 when they were central to the ploys used in the Boca Raton Action Plan on to at least 1996. They brought hundreds of top politicians from around the world to America for luncheon speaking engagements (which required a full week in New York and extensive tours of the city nightlife), and they were also used as fronts for taking top politicians (like Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson) on luxury junkets to Africa and Australia. [3]

Philip Morris found this an excellent way to create associations with politicians. [4]

In 1996 the Vice President of Philip Morris's Corporate Affairs division, Andrew Whist, was forced to admit in court (and later confirmed to the Wall Street Journal), that the total office assets of the AECA and NYSIA -- both seemingly global societies -- were nothing more than "a chair in my apartment".[citation needed] It was also admitted that the funding came almost entirely from Philip Morris, and that the real U.S. membership totaled just one -- Whist, himself -- or two, if you counted the senior executive detailed on various occasions to play the role of President. [5]

When acting overseas, various lobbyists working for Philip Morris would also assume virtually any organizational title, so credentials were tailor-made to suit the occasion. Tobacco lobbyist Paul Dietrich (ex partner of David Morse), for instance, invited BAT's corporate lobbyist Sharon Boyse to a dinner held under the auspices of the AECA.

In Europe, Sir David Nicholson, (Margaret Thatcher's favorite company doctor), the ex-chairman of Rothman's International, established (and fronted) the European branch which included an AECA Trust, and often used the name American European Community Association International which suggested that the European and American branches were more closely associated in some way than the documents reveal. [6]

After Whist retired from Philip Morris in 1999, the NYSIA was quietly closed down along with a number of similar operations he had run like Libertad. The company also ceased funding the The American-Scandanavia Foundation, the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce, US-Hungarian Chamber of Commerce, and similar bilateral friendship organizations it had funded and then used as political lobbying channels. However the company's links to the American version of the AECA was preserved with Henry Michel taking over and Philip Morris attempting to enlist ten corporate sponsors at $5,000 each. [7]

Modern Clone

  • A cloned version of the American European Community Association (AECA) with a number of sub-branches still existed in Europe in 2005 [8], but it is difficult to know how many real links exist between this organization and Philip Morris. The cigarette company is listed (with its logo) as one of five benefactors [9].

Sir Martin Sorrel, the Group Chief Executive of the super-media conglomerate, the WPP Group, was on "European Advisory Patron's Board", and his group's Chairman at that time was Hamish Maxwell, the legendary Chairman and CEO of Philip Morris. But there are no direct links.


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