Tobacco

Money Laundering at the American Legacy Foundation

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The American Legacy Foundation, an organization "dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit," requires that public health schools where its grant recipients work avoid the taint of tobacco industry money. This is rather odd, says Michael Siegel, because the American Legacy Foundation itself is almost entirely funded by tobacco industry money, as a result of the 1998 agreement that settled state lawsuits against the leading cigarette manufacturers. Not only that, but the foundation is campaigning, through a front group known as the Citizens' Commission to Protect Truth (seriously), for more tobacco money, to pay for its "truth®" anti-smoking ad campaign. As Siegel notes, the commission says it "is seeking to persuade or force the tobacco companies to accede to court-supervised funding of the Public Education Fund through the Master Settlement Agreement." So at the same time that the American Legacy Foundation is declining to fund researchers at institutions that receive tobacco money, it is asking the tobacco companies for money:

Essentially, what Legacy is saying is that what Legacy is doing is so valuable that taking tobacco company money is justifiable, but no matter what anybody else is doing, taking tobacco money is completely unacceptable. When the corrupt, filthy, criminal tobacco money hits anyone else's hands, it stays corrupt, filthy, and criminal, but when it hits Legacy's hands, it is immediately purified.

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  1. Let me make sure I have this right.

    The tobacco industry runs an anti-tobacco foundation which funds anti-tobacco advertising with tobacco money, but this anti-tobacco foundation (which is funded by tobacco money) will not fund institutions which receive tobacco money.

    Right? O_o

    Now my head hurts, I’m so confused.

  2. If I am understanding this post correctly, the situation is that court-supervised tobacco money is being used to fund the ALF and its activities, and that the ALF does not want court-unsupervised tobacco money to fund things it is involved in.

    The distinction seems to be whether the money is passed through a court and its supervision. This distinction makes sense in that the court can determine whether any funny business is going on when it supervises the cash flows, but nobody determines whether any funny business is going on. Not that hard to understand.

    Some people believe that unsupervised tobacco money will not taint your work as a writer. I think it does. This here blog post is Exhibit A.

  3. –but nobody determines whether any funny business is going on when the cash flows remain untransparent and unsupervised.–

  4. The whole concept of an industry being forced to advocate against its own product is ludicrous.

    You can clarify and rationalize it all you want, Dave, but you can’t polish a turd.

    (Full disclosure: I don’t smoke and Phillip Morris didn’t pay me to write this)

  5. Wouldn’t a grant-writing institution insisting on exclusivity as part of a grant be a kind of free-market right-of-association that would normally be supported by libertarians in a less politically charged issue?

  6. The whole concept of an industry being forced to advocate against its own product is ludicrous.

    That’s why they make the ineffective asinine “anti-tobacco” advertisements. It’s not really about curbing smoking, but keeping the idea in the minds of the people, attracting everyone from the experimental teens to nihlistic adults.

    If the “anti-tobacco” legislation really were about curbing smoking, money from “Big Tobacco” would go to make smoking cessation aids free to anyone who wants to quit.

  7. I think of picking up, and then quitting, smoking as one of the great national rites of passage. I mean, whatever your race, class or creed, it remains that smoking is awesome and makes you look 100% cooler, but eventually it wrecks your body. How many Americans have had to reconcile these conflicting facts, and done so with that peculiar drug-user’s naivet? that they’re the first one to have to do so? And no matter how much well-meaning anti-smoking propaganda is out there, a lot of people will have to find out the hard way before it matters to them. Why not then embrace it? The way I see, it serves a useful function in this here cultural dialogue – to hell with the carping of a lot of insurance men.

  8. …to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit,”

    Huh, I thought that the world was already that way.

    Are there roving gangs of killer lesbians forcing teens to smoke and forbidding anyone from quitting smoking, lest they get their ass kicked?

    Does O’Really know about this?

  9. I think Dave basically got it right here.

    If a writer got grant money from the insurance industry, he probably would not write anything that was too critical of the insurance industry. However, if he got money from an insurance company because he filed a legitimate claim, that money probably would not taint his viewpoint.

  10. The whole concept of an industry being forced to advocate against its own product is ludicrous.

    You can clarify and rationalize it all you want, Dave, but you can’t polish a turd.

    Well, let’s clarify where I stand on some of the larger issues here.

    1. I think people who started smoking before they put government warnings on the cigarette packs should basically have claims in product liability against the tobacco companies to get back all their compensatory damages related to smoking.

    2. I think people who started smoking after the government warning went on the cigarettes should be considered s.o.l. as far as tort claims go.

    3. I think settling these tobacco suits by class action was a big mistake, and the courts should not have allowed that to happen. Rather, I think individuals should have kept their individual claims in tort. More specifically, I think the damages in each individual case are large enough and the causation issues generally clear enough that class action techniques (which are messy and imperfect) should not have been resorted to.

    4. I don’t think it was smokers that wanted these class action settlements. Rather, I think government and the tobacco companies colluded, either tacitly or openly to make them happen. Maybe insurance companies, too. I thank goodness that my law firm did not order to work on these cases. nevertheless, courts should have been more hip to what was going on in these class action settlements and put the kibosh on it. The courts should have made sure that indivisuals kept their prerogatives to sue in tort, regardless of whaether the tobacco companies wanted that outcome or not.

    5. All that said, given that we live in the world where these settlements are the law of the land, what is going on with the ALF makes perfect sense in that (admittedly lousy) context.

    6. Mr. Sullum should know better than to try to make good p.r. out of this situation. Some of his readers may be that naive, but he should aim to persuade a higher intellectual strata of his readership.

  11. –I thank goodness that my law firm did not order me to work on these cases.–

    just can’t get the words out right today!

  12. Groups like this make me want to take up smoking so that I can go to their offices and blow smoke in their faces.

  13. Groups like this make me want to take up smoking so that I can go to their offices and blow smoke in their faces.

    Don’t worry, there’s plenty of us already taking up that burden on your behalf. Upon reading this post, I promptly lit up, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  14. I don’t think it was smokers that wanted these class action settlements.

    Ha ha… of course not. It was lawyers, politicians, lawyers, Philip Morris, and a few more lawyers who wanted this.

    The average smoker got jack shit out of it, except 2x to 3x higher prices.

  15. Dave – I see where you’re coming from now… you agree that the whole shebang is ridiculous but argue that, within that framework of ridiculous, the funny money business makes sense.

    Got it. I just stopped when I reached the “this is ridiculous” point in my mind.

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