Michael A. Crew

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

Michael Crew, was an economics professor at the Graduate School of Management, Rutger's University in Newark. He is listed by the Tobacco Institute as one of their "Resources" in New Jersey, alongside dozens of other lobbyists and public relations consultants. [2] His value to the industry would have been enhanced by the fact that he was a founding editor of the academic journal Applied Economics, which meant that he could plant articles likely to influence its readers. There are 113 documents with his name in the tobacco archives, so he was a reasonably proficient hack-journalist.

Crew was recruited to help the tobacco industry survive 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.[3]]

  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

1972 PhD University of Bradford

1977 Joined Rutger Business School, Rutger University.

1984 -88 Board of Directors of Energy Initiatives, Inc.

1984 Dec /E A draft article, as sent to the Tobacco Institute by Michael Crew: "Indirect Taxation should be included in reforms" The Reagan Administration has just won its second term, and Crew is offering them advice: His ideas may not have gone down too well with the Tobacco Institute:

"..such taxes (excise taxes) will be increasingly relied on as an alternative to income tax increases."

"Since a relatively small number of commodities are subject to excise taxes, the effect of these levies is to discourage consumption of the taxed products and to discriminate against their consumers and producers."

"Excise taxes offer great opportunities for government to discriminate against products and, hence, the consumers and producers of those product." [4]

If this had been published, it would have been seized upon by the anti-smoking activists as evidence that higher excise taxes were the best way to clean up office air.

1985 Jan 31 Hurst Marshall has circulated this Tobacco Institute list of economists from the cash-for-comments network. His list has been organise by State, and includes the names of Congressmen they wish to influence.

Attached for your information are the names of economists who have been identified by PR to assist TI on the federal cigarette excise tax issue. These people are also available to testify at the state level. If you feel that this type of witness can be of assistance to you on state cigarette tax issues, please contact Fred Panzer for details and arrangements. Please notify your lobbyists as to the availability of these people. At the same time, you may wish to ask them for their ideas or suggestions for other economists within their states.

This economist will be detailed to make the contact with Congressmen [by sending him/them the published op-ed]:

NEW JERSEY (Rep. Guarini, Sen. Bradley)
  •   Professor Michael Crew
      Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey [5]

Another list gives his Speciality Areas as:

Industrial studies, public policy,
public utility economics,
regulation and bureacracy;
business & labor; environment. [6]

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). [7]
This was a massive amount of propaganda coverage for a payment of less than $1000 each to these Professors at that time.

1986 Apr 15 Jim Savarese is reporting to Fred Panzer at the TI about the [anti] Packwood Tax Plan project.

We have contacted the following people and have asked them to request to testify before the Senate Finance Committee on April 21, 1986. As of today, no one has been asked to testify, but here is the current status.

We will check back with these people daily to see if they have heard anything and I'll let you know as soon as we are successful. [8]