Thomas J. Borelli

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


Learn more from the Center for Media and Democracy's research on climate change.

Thomas J. Borelli was a Philip Morris Corporate Scientific Affairs Manager circa 1990. He also worked for Philip Morris Corporate Services in Brussels.

Dr. Tom Borelli Ph.D. had a doctorate in biochemistry from the New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. He is one of the best-known of the science corrupters who worked for the tobacco industry, mainly because of his roles with what became the 'Science Issues' division of Philip Morris which was, for many years, at the center of industry attempts to delay any legislation on passive smoking (ETS). One of his more notorious projects was to run a scam using the part-finished research of Luis Varela, a Yale PhD student who died unexpectedly in February 1990. This became known as the Varela Study project.

Before working for Philip Morris, Borelli was a technical specialist for the Products Safety and External Technical Affairs Division of General Foods World Wide [Note: General Foods was bought by Philip Morris.]. He also worked as a science consultant for the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives. (DOCS 000033)

He became the manager of Philip Morris Corporate Scientific Affairs Department in January 1989. In this position he became one of the chief architects of most of the company's (and therefore the industry's) main operations which aimed to confuse not only smoking and health research, but also to discredit science in general -- in both general terms (ridiculing epidemiology, etc) and specific scientists and their findings. The tobacco archives have thousands of documents taken from Philip Morris files, which show how destructive these malicious projects were to anti-smoking activism and legislation -- and how, by widening out their attacks on science in general, they were able to form coalitions with other industries with poisoning and polluting problems (coal, nuclear energy, chemicals, freon, formaldehyde). The climate denial movement is a direct result of these coalitions.

The signing of the Master Settlement Agreement between the States Attorneys General (followed by the Clinton Presidency) and the American tobacco companies led to the slow release of 14 million file documents. This subsequently exposed the corporate-driven Machaevellian activities of tobacco industry scientist as lobbyists and designers of scams to distort scientific fundings. Borelli transferred to work for Philip Morris Corporate Services, Inc. in Brussels (probably to get him out of reach of American lawyers). (PMI's Introduction to Privilege Log and Glossary of Names, Estate of Burl Butler v. PMI, et al, April 19, 1996)

Junk-science, funds-management business

Later Borelli joined forces with the industry's notorious junk-science promoter, Steve Milloy (of TASSC and Fox News) and they went into the funds management business. Milloy was one of the key science lobbyists in America who was vocal (and developed celebrity status) in dismissing the dangers of passive smoking and he ridiculed the idea of climate change. Borelli had run him as an undercover tobacco industry supporter during his many years with Philip Morris.

In November 2010, the records show that Tom Borelli was a managing partner with Action Fund Management, an investment advisory firm, and a portfolio manager for the Free Enterprise Action Fund.[1] He was also still listed as a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C.[2]

As of 2012 Borelli was working at the right-wing think tank FreedomWorks as a Senior Fellow and an "expert" on the coal industry.[3]

Quick overview of his positions

1978 Nov 6 -1988 Dec 31 "Product Safety & External Technical Affairs" General Foods Worldwide (aka Technical Specialist, Kraft Foods North America)
1988 June 1 Senior VP Scientific Issues at PM Corporate
1989 Jan 1 - 1990 Oct 31 Manager, Scientific Issues, Philip Morris USA
1990 Jan 1 - 1992 Oct 14 Director, Scientific Issues, Philip Morris USA
1992 Oct 15 - 1996 Oct 30 Director, Science & Environmental Policy, Philip Morris Management Corporation
1996 Nov 1 - 2001 Feb 1 Director, Science &. Policy Issues, Philip Morris Management Corporation
2001 Feb 2 - Aug ??? Director, Legislative Policy & Issues, Philip Morris Management Corporation

Articles by Thomas Borelli

The Anti-Capitalism Virus, National Policy Analysis, Feb. 2006 (a publication of the National Center for Public Policy Research)

Documents & Timelines

1983 Listed as a researcher into Double-stranded RNA in study with JM Wu of NY Medical College (also twice in 1985). This is during his work at Kraft. Published in Biochemisty International. [2]

1988 Feb 22 - 24 The Toxicology Forum has an early mention of Tom Borelli, who later became the notorious science confuser at Philip Morris USA. He is listed as "Product Safety & External Technical Affairs, General Foods Worldwide" (General Foods was then in the process of being acquired by Philip Morris) [3]

1989 Jan 1 Began working with Philip Morris as Manager of Scientific Affairs. [Note: This is not a research or R&D position (they are separate entities) -- Borelli was hired to manage of scientific counter-measures ... later termed "Scientific Issues Management".]

1989 Nov 27 A brief internal email from Tom Borelli (then Manager of Corporate Scientific Affairs for Philip Morris) to his superior Jack Nelson (Mgr, Public Affairs Research and Analysis) relates Philip Morris's early efforts to influence a scientific meeting discussing secondhand smoke held by the Toxicology Forum. [Note: ETS=environmental tobacco smoke]. Borelli had been hired to help the company plan ways to influence this type of scientific group.

This email shows that the company already had a reputation for science distortion and manipulation. Borelli describes the anger expressed by a National Cancer Institute (NCI) attendee in having Borelli/PM's attendance at the ETS session of the Toxicology Forum. His contact at the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) would have been Alex Malaspina who also worked for Coca Cola -- and who served the tobacco industry faithfully for many years.

My contact at the ILSI told me that the person from the NCI was not pleased with the Toxicology Forum. Unfortunately, the NCI representative did not stop there but went on to say that if the tox forum allows Phillip Morris to become a member, the NCI will remove itself from the advisory committee. It was also mentioned that if I want a career in the science/health issues, I should consider who I work for.
Thus if everything remains the same the tox(icology) forum is a one shot deal and I get blacklisted. I think it is time to move with the PM Co., Inc strategy for sponsorship of outside groups (remember the proposal I wrote).

Borelli discusses how PM could continue to try and influence this group, and proposes funneling sponsorship money through a PM subsidiary as a way to make it financially essential for the group to continue working with PM:

Of course that would raise the stakes of forcing these groups to accept PM and I guess they could choose to keep us out. But then they go broke. The only other option is to funnel money through KGF [Kraft General Foods, a PM subsidiary] but then we lose control of the issues.
It turns out that as a result of the KGF merger (with Philip Morris), ILSI will be losing the GF (General Foods) share. ILSI was thinking that we should make KGF International a member, so their funds remain the same.[4]

He also wanted them to make a donation to the New York Medical College, Department of Biochemistry. He had a pending appointment here as an "adjunct professor" -- and the cash grant would help make it real.

1990 Jan 9 This is a Tom Borelli planning list for activities to be developed during 1990. The first page is missing, the rest are out of order, and some extra material has been inserted, but it gives a good overview of the thinking of Philip Morris executives on the corruption of science and the manipulation of scientific organisations.[5] {MUST READ} Also the later revision - cut back to 4 pages. [6] See Borelli's original handnote draft for these documents [7]

1991 Dec 3 Robert A Pages writes to Steve Parrish and Tom Borelli about the Gori Confounders Proposal. Clausen Ely a lawyer at Covington & Burling has copied them in on the Gio B Gori proposal for a $1.3 million study into possible 'confounders' in anti-smoking epidemiological studies. They are hoping to find points to attack.

In comparison with what was discussed with Borelli and me at our meeting with Gori/Proctor on Oct 15th, the only new things here are: l) the cost estimate ranges,- and 2) the acknowledgement of the active participation by Peter N Lee. Neither of these is surprising, although $1.3m makes you pay attention.

The bottom line still is: the study, if done right, is worth doing.

The " if done right" according to this proposal depends upon our confidence in the team of Gori/Lee/Proctor and Gori's connection with 'EQUIFAX' -- the company that would actually conduct the survey. I have no reason to doubt their ability to oversee the work.

I'm not totally comfortable with signing up for a study which could cost "as little" as $700K or as much as $I.3m -- to be determined along the way -- but 1 can't think of a good alternative.

One thing that might make me a little happier is if they already had their questionnaire in hand, but the point Borelli raised on Oct I5th also remains to be addressed: Is there a way that this study could be done to yield a more 'credible' publication?

Presumably, we're looking at Gori and Lee (?}. Farming out the cotinine analyses to Neal Benowitz is a nice touch, but it won't make him a coauthor.

O.K. Where does all this leave us? WE SHOULD GET ON WITH IT!
It'll probably take months to get all the interested companies 'on board' anyway. Let's do it while we still have the money and before we think of more stupid things to spend it on. [8]

[Note: Peter N Lee was a well-known and well-used British statistician who could produce any result the companies desired. Gio B Gori was a corrupt scientist who had previously been dismissed by the National Cancer Institute after running an early tobacco study with funding from the industry. (known as the Tobacco Working Group.)]
It is difficult to find a more damning expose of the way in which the tobacco industry conducted supposedly scientific research -- or more openly condemnatory of the so-called scientists Gori/Proctor/Lee who were being given the funds to conduct this purely propaganda exercise. Gori and Lee were over-used by this time, and their links to the tobacco industry were becoming obvious.]

1996 Mar 14 Matt Swetonic is memoing Tom Borelli at Philip Morris (with a CC to Jim Wieghart).
Subject: Tobacco Industry Funded Research in Medical Journals.

He is recommending Rick Weiss who has written for the Washington Post as a "reporter who we may be able to interest in doing a major piece on medical journals that refuse to publish research funded by the tobacco industry." He also suggests Marcia Angell as a possibility.

"In a Frontline show in late February on breast implants, Marcia Angell of the New England Journal of Medicine dismissed as nonsense the notion that industry funding taints medical research. She pointed out that half of all medical research is funded by industry, and to disregared it "would decimate the science in this country." We know from an editorial she wrote a few years ago that she is also skeptical of the research linking ETS to disease."


Anti-regulatory and Climate activism

2005 Together with Steven J. Milloy, Borelli founded the Free Enterprise Action Fund, a mutual fund which aimed to promote an anti-regulatory agenda. in 2005. Milloy left the organization and, on July 20, 2009, the Free Enterprise Action Fund merged with the Congressional Effect Fund. Borelli then became a portfolio manager for the Congressional Effect Fund. [4]

Borelli has been an activist at shareholder meetings opposing company involvement in climate change legislation. His targets have included General Electric, PG&E, Dow Chemical, Caterpillar, John Deere, and Duke Energy.


  1. Biography: Dr. Thomas J. Borelli, Property Rights Foundation of America, accessed November 29, 2010
  2. Kate Sheppard, "Thank You for Global Warming," Mother Jones, November 22, 2010
  3. Kevin Grandia, "FreedomWorks' Pro-Coal Lobbyist Tom Borelli is Former Professional Pro-Tobacco Scientist," Desmogblog, Dec 6, 2012.
  4. [1] "The Free Enterprise Action Fund Merged with the Congressional Effect Fund on July 20, 2009,"

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