Public Affairs Counsel

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

Public Affairs Counsel (PAC) is an Oregon campaign management firm that also conducts public opinion polling and engages in legislative lobbying. The firm has done extensive campaign management in Oregon on behalf of the Tobacco Institute, and later on behalf of individual tobacco companies, to defeat clean indoor air measures and increases in the statewide cigarette tax.

The president of PAC is Mark W. Nelson, who was a former Executive Assistant to Oregon's State Treasurer and Attorney General. Nelson has served as a campaign and public opinion consultant since 1980.

In 2007, PAC operated a tobacco industry front group called Oregonians Against the Blank Check, formed to fight Measure 50, a ballot initiative to increase Oregon's cigarette tax. The post office box number that Oregonians Against the Blank Check gave on its web site contact page was the same as the P.O. Box belonging to Public Affairs Counsel. [1] [2]

Nelson and PAC worked with the Tobacco Institute in 1987-1988 to help defeat a clean indoor air measure in Oregon [3], and have continued to work for them.

PAC has long been active in Oregon helping the tobacco industry defeat cigarette taxes. In 1996, PAC and Nelson headed a front group called "Fairness Matters to Oregonians," funded by the Tobacco Institute's Oregon Executive Committee (a small, state-level branch of the Tobacco Institute formed to defeat public health initiatives in that state), using money derived from Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco and Lorillard Tobacco Co.. In a proposal from Fairness Matters to Oregonians, Nelson wrote, "PAC has successfully managed and defeated every anti-tobacco initiative put forward in Oregon since 1988."

The general strategy used by PAC to defeat tobacco control initiatives is to confuse the question and distract voters from the health issues. This is reflected in the following quotes from a 1996 PAC campaign proposal:

Make our hat whiter, make their hat blacker. Through involvement in two health care initiatives, blur tobacco's relationship to the health care community.


Create an environment where there are some doctors on our side...and some doctors against us--make voters a little uneasy about who the good guys really are. [4] [5]


Mark W. Nelson
Public Affairs Counsel
P.O. Box 12945
Salem, Oregon 97309



  1. Oregonians Against the Blank Check, "Contact Us", accessed November 14, 2007.
  2. Public Utility Commission, "eDockets", accessed November 14, 2007.
  3. Public Affairs Counsel and Pihas Schmidt Westerdahl Co, "Campaign In Opposition to proposed revisions to Oregon's Clean Air Act", Bates Number TIOR0021066, October 1987.
  4. Public Affairs Counsel, "PROPOSAL Proposed Campaign Plan: defeat of Ballot Measure to Increase Oregon's Tobacco Excise Tex (Revised)", Bates Number 2062523122, January 24,1996.
  5. Fairness Matters to Oregonians, "Proposed Advertising Strategy to Defeat Measure 70", Bates Number TIOR0020292, June 13, 1996.