National Center for Intitiative Review
(NCIR) A Colorado-base think-tank set up by corporations being threatened by citizen-inspired referenda. It operated nationally and was established to counter the effectiveness of these propositions as the use of referenda evolved into other States. The NCIR was formed because the large corporations realised that they needed to maintain perpetual vigilance, instead of only reacting in a piece-meal fashion, when threats surfaced.
Don't confuse this with any genuine citizens-referendum or initiative organization.
This is an obvious astroturf; a pseudo-policy tank. It is not a grassroots organization proposing genuine reforms and improvements of the initiative system. It was designed to limit and perhaps effective obliteration those initiatives which might detrimentally effect corporate profits.
The board of the National Center for Initiative Review (NCIR) based in Denver Colorado almost entirely comprised lobbyists and PR executives who were actively promoting special interests. It had been set up by RJ Reynolds on behalf of the tobacco industry as a follow-on to their successes in California in defeating Proposition 5 using a vaguely similar ersatz citizen's organization called Californians for Common Sense .
Jack Kelly, an ex-Director of the Californian Candy and Tobacco Distributors Association, headed both the Californians for Common Sense, and the National Center for Initiative Review in their establishment phases. By the time the latter was created, Kelly had become the Vice President of the Tobacco Institute in charge of running State Activity programs.
The Californian initiative citizens-referendum system had begun in earnest a few years earlier with Harold Jarvis's Prop 13 which limited the ability of the State to raise taxes. The crazy enthusiasm for hamstringing government had quickly spread to other US States. By the 1980s the initiative process was being widely used against public smoking and the anti-smoking successes were causing a number of other polluting and poisoning industries to become seriously concerned at possible attacks on the way they conducted their businesses also.
Initiatives of this kind are a technique for over-riding the elected legislature (or forcing it to act against its inclinations), and it was open for exploitation by either side of politics — and by both genuine grass-roots groups and by corporations hiding behind astroturfs.
So the citizen-initiative approach was certainly not without its problems when the NCIR was established, but nothing the NCIR proposed or promoted was in any way intended to solve these problems. Anyone involved in the operations of the organization must have known that this was a joint effort between the tobacco industry and pro-business (Sagebrush and Wise-Use) members of the Californian and Colorado Republican Party.
But in 1981, Anne Wexler, then a Democratic campaign manager and political lobbyist in Washington (and supposedly later an anti-tobacco associate of the Clintons) joined the NCIR board. This signifies that control of the organization had been opened allow it to service a coalition of industries and conservative groups wishing to fight a much wider range of 'liberal' citizens initiatives placed on the ballot.
The organization was run by another well-known Denver (later Washington) corporate lobbyist, Walter Klein. His company Walt Klein & Associates also worked extensively for the tobacco industry and his wife Cheryl was a member of the initial NCIR Board.
Ted Halaby, a prominent lawyer and member of the Republican party executive seems to have been hired to oversee the formation of the NCIR while Dobbs & Neilsen, who established the legal aspects, were the Tobacco Institute's main lawyer-lobby firm in California.
The NCIP was set up initially to defeat anti-smoking initiatives (mainly in California). However in public it claimed to be "Providing information and assistance to those working to improve the initiative process."
Their November 1981 conference brochure spells our the real reason: "If you have become increasingly concerned about the dramatic expansion of ballot initiative activity of the last decade, then join us in Denver on November 6th — because we have become concerned, too."
The tobacco industry continued to provide some funds, but it stepped back from control of the organization after 1981 and left the NCIR to operate politically against Democrat initiatives. (while maintaining the ability to exert invisible control over the organization via Walt Klein and possibly Anne Wexler)
Wexler couldn't be an innocent party here in this tobacco scam; she would have personally known most of the Board members and could hardly have failed to have a good idea of their client-lists. Other members of the board were lobbyists, political pollsters, and political apparatchiks — and most of them worked, in one way or the other, for the tobacco industry.
Stu Spencer (Chairman of NCIR), for instance, was Ronald Reagan's long-term gubernatorial campaign director who had been dismissed by Nancy Reagan just before Reagan gained the presidency (in 1980). He established himself as a lobbyist and worked for Reagan as a consultant, and also for the Tobacco Institute. Ted Halaby was a Colorado Republican leader who became Chairman of the party a few years later.
Martin Haley ran a Washington-based global political lobbyshop, Martin Ryan Haley & Associates (Founded 1950) which had offices in New York, Washington, Saint Paul, Rome, Brussels, and Santo Domingo. They worked regularly for the Tobacco Institute and were involved in all sorts of nefarious activities.
Haley and Klein had set up the NCIR for the Tobacco Institute (with RJ Reynolds assistance) to fight against anti-smoking ballot initiatives, but later they opened it to contributions from other groups fighting against ballot initiatives. This was common practise in the the cigarette industry: they would fund the foundation, then back out leaving the institution to operate under the funding and control of a wider coalition of companies/industries with similar problems. The tobacco industry knew its name was poison, so it preferred to operate under cover.
They managed to enlist early support from the packaging industry which was fighting bottle and trash-recycling initiatives, and then the American Medical Association (AMA) came in. They were actively fighting against popular health-care and insurance initiatives. (Dr Felch represented them) Later the NCIR enlisted the Dentists.
RJR reported that it had cost the company $150,000 by the end of 1981 (the first year of operations) to get the NCIR up and running, and Klein constantly reported back to the Tobacco Institute. Later the NCIR became independent of the Tobacco Institute, and began treating the cigarette manufacturers as just another funding source, and another client when problems arose.
1981: The 1981 Mission Statement for RJR's Public Affairs and Legal Department says:
Public Affairs and Legal will preserve the Company's ability to profitably market tobacco products by mobilizing support for industry and Company positions on public policy issues and by defending the Company against regulation, legislation and litigation which adversely affect our ability to achieve business and financial objectives.
Among the program's lists of Key Issues and the strategies it will use to deal with them is:
Develop coalitions and alliances and participate in the resolution of policy issues that are broader than tobacco alone.
("To broaden RJRT and Tobacco Institute's public affairs base for combating anti-smoking legislation by participating with coalitions and alliances involved in issues that transcend tobacco.")
• Identify the most effective coalition/alliance opportunities
• Develop and implement a program for participation
• Continue development of currently identified coalition opportunities such as California Manufacturers Association, Cal-Tax, National Center for Initiative Review and Committee on Industrial Liability.
The Operating Costs for these programs were from $3 to $5 million a year.
The clear intention was to keep the tobacco industry even further in the background than they had in 1978 and 1980 when countering the other anti-smoking Californian initiatives (Prop 5 and Proposition 10) by enlisting the support of other industry associations.
1981 Feb 19: This memo from CJD (Cathy Dobbs) to VGN (Vigo "Chip" Nielsen,) of the San Francisco law firm Dobbs & Nielsen is a Tobacco Institute document. They are setting up the NCIR just a few weeks after losing the "Californians for Common Sense" battle over Proposition 10 in California. Those mentioned in this anti-initiative-initiative are:
• Ted Halaby is a Colorado tort-lawyer who became Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.
• Walt Klein who ran the Denver-based lobby firm of the same name, later became a primary lobbyist for the tobacco-industry in Washington DC..
• Jack Kelly, originally the executive director of the Californian Association of Tobacco & Candy Distributors, became the Vice President of State Issues at the Tobacco Institute. He also ran the anti-initiative called the Californians for Common Sense (against Proposition 10) in 1978.
• Stu Spencer was Ronald Reagan's key campaign strategist during his years of Governor. Later he was Reagan's strategist in 1980 for the Republican primary, who was fired by Nancy Reagan before the November elections. In 1981, with Reagan now President, he was running the political consulting firm Spencer-Roberts & Associates, Inc. based in Irving, California
1981 March 6: An internal memo from Dobbs & Nielsen reports on the activities of
Walt Klein, Stu Spencer and someone named Don Pierce. They have obtained financial commitments from Standard Oil of Indiana, the American Medical Association, and the National Glass Packaging Institute"
"Klein hired Ken Trujillo, a graduate student in Washington, DC, to assist with research. Trujillo formerly interned in Senator Pomenici's office and apparently has access to many Washington offices, including the Congressional Research Service. He has been hired on a month-to-month basis. Plans for putting together a Board of Directors are moving along well."
Finally, he is sending a copy of the John Rupp letter re. by-laws to Ted Halaby. "I had already drafted a letter to Halaby, but perhaps it would be better to call him with the comments."
1981 July 7: Walt Klein (President) writes to Jack Kelley, VP State Affairs at the Tobacco Institute, that Anne Wexler has agreed to join the board of the National Center for Initiative Review. "Things are moving right along"
1981 Feb 25: Stuart Spencer, writing to Jack Kelly at the Tobacco Institute, says the NCIR has now been incorporated in Denver (and sends him a copy) with a full-time office being run by Walt Klein. He is recruiting the rest of the Board,
1981 March: Cathy Dobbs a partner at the Californian law firm Dobbs & Nielsen is sending useful information to Walt Klein. They are the key Tobacco Institute legal contractors in setting up the NCIR and their memo ccs go to Stu Spencer and Ted Halaby (both Republican Party officials and lobbyists) with a blind cc to Jack Kelly at the Tobacco Institute.
1981 March 18: The Lorillard corporate lawyer JR Jim Cherry reports to his executives on the Tobacco Action Network (TAN) Executive Briefing. The tobacco industry is trying to widen the coalition supporting the NCIR anti-initiative operation to remove the 'tobacco taint':
Jack Kelly gave a few words on the Denver, Colorado office established for the "study and guidance" of the initiative process. It is called the National Center for Initiative Review and I gather that, in addition to having in hand subscriptions of $10,000,00 each from the Glass Packaging Institute and the American Medical Association, the Center is having extensive discussions with academicians who may wish to ally themselves with the Center and its purposes.
Presently, 23 states and the District of Columbia provide for the initiative [permit initiatives at election times], and over 100 Bills have been filed in State Legislatures to provide for the initiative process or to revise existing initiative statutes.
The program in California to maintain alliances established during the Proposition 10 Campaign and to cultivate new allies in the State is now called the California Outreach Program.
1981 July: Memo from Walt Klein at the NCIR to Jack Kelly at the Tobacco Institute. He reports that the [supposedly anti-tobacco Democrat public relations lobbyist] Anne Wexler has joined the board.
Stu may have already told you but I wanted you to know that Anne Wexler has agreed to serve on the Board of Directors.
That will add a good dimension to the Board — in addition to the fact that she's quite excited about the project.
The 'Stu' mentioned, is ex Ronald Reagan aide, now turned PR/lobbyist Stuart Spencer.
1981 Jul 23: Cathy Dobbs of Dobbs & Neilsen — letter written to Californian Roundtable. She is also ccing Jackson Schultz ?? over National Center for Initiative reform. Good outline of claims.
1981 Oct: The NCIR began to publish Initiative Quarterly
1981 Dec: (c) RJRT Public Affairs review of their plans (p 4 ...actually 137) for the four quarters of the year 1981 says that the company's aim was to: "Lead tobacco industry efforts to form and staff the organization" and "Participate in the solicitation of other companies and industries as members in the organization."
The aim of the NCIR is to "Minimize the passage of anti-tobacco legislation through public initiatives and referendums."
The costs were $150,000, and these efforts were successful: they have "Launched a broad-based industry effort (National Center for Initiative Review) to minimize businesses' exposure to adverse initiatives."
1981 September 30: NCIR extends invite to "Friends" to attend a conference in Denver. The come-on makes the motives clear:"If you have become increasingly concerned about the dramatic expansion of ballot initiative activity of the last decade, then join us in Denver on November 6th—because we have become concerned, too."
A later (1984) note makes it quite clear that the purpose of the NCIR is to oppose all initiative/referndum processes.
1981 Nov: Conference in Denver: Speakers include
WALT KLEIN, Englewood, Colorado. President, Walt Klein & Associates, political/governmental affairs consulting firm; President, National Center for Initiative Review. Former Administrative Assistant to Senator William Armstrong (R-Colorado); Former field coordinator, Republican National Committee.
Also Anne Wexler, Stu Spencer, and many other spoke
The attendees list were members of the Reagan-for-President and Sagebrush Revolution groups (Oil and western ranch groups who were actively supporting Reagan)
1982: Jack Kelly of the Tobacco Institute is invited by Walt Klein to a lunch to discuss the program:
"Your early support in 1981 was crucial in getting the Center launched. As we approach our second year of operation we want to give you
this opportunity to help shape the 1982 program."
1982 Feb: The NCIR now sees itself as independent, rather than a subsidiary of the Tobacco Institute, but Walt Klein is treating them still as key sponsors.
Please remember to let us have your input on the states indicated as possible targets for NCIR action in 1982. If you can provide additional contacts or information about political climate, etc., this would be very helpful.
We appreciated the check from the Tobacco Institute for its 1982.  The check from the American Dental Association is expected momentarily.
I would like to reiterate Stu Spencer's remarks that we would appreciate assistance in identifying three other organizations who might be willing to become financial supporters of the Center. contribution.
1982 July: The NCIR is now acting as a clearing house, clearly advising a range of industries on possible threats in various states. This is a list of their ongoing activities
1982: This is a long report on their current activities. They have reached the stage of now publishing a quarterly newsletter which will be sent to anyone who contributes $250 a year or more to the organization.
1983 Feb 22: The Tobacco Institute has renewed its contributions for another year,
The Board is now run by:
• Chip Andrews Jr, president of the Glass Packaging Institute, (they were fighting litter laws)
• Jason Boe, president of the Oregon State Senate.
• Dr William C Flech, the American Medical Association representative (they were opposed to liability law changes)
• Martin Haley, political consultant (TI $160 - $200,000 pa)
• Walt Klein, Colorado lobbyist with a new Washington lobby firm
• John Knox, academic lawyer and advisor to the Californian Department of State
• Stu Spencer, Republican campaign manager and corporate lobbyist (TI $40k pa)
• Anne Wexler, Democratic campaign manager and corporate lobbyist
• Robert Wham, ex Assistant US Attorney for Colorado, corporate lawyer-lobbyist (Shoemaker, Wham & Krisor)
• Walt Klein and "Research Director" Sue Thomas (Walter Klein staffer) are the key administrators
1983 Nov 23: Walter Klein's staffer (Sue Thomas) at the NCIR is keeping the Tobacco Institute up-to-date on a new Anti-smoking Educational initiative proposal in California.
1984 Jan 13: The tobacco Institute is still paying the NCIR sponsorship of $10,000 per annum (Signed off by Roger Mozingo, VP of the Tobacco Institute)
1985: The Tobacco Institute had cut back its NCIR contribution to $5,000
1986 Feb 6: The tobacco industry is facing anti-smoking initiative referenda in Colorado and New Jersey. The Tobacco Institute's State Activities policy committee plans to ask the NCIR for help.
1986 Sept 26: Tobacco Institute State Activities division budget for 1987 now shows that the proposed allocation was $5,000 in the following year.
1987–20: 09 For some unknown reason, all documents referring to the NCIR dated later than September 26 1986 have disappeared from the archives.
2000 Dec: A Xmas email in the Philip Morris files is addressed to JPrather@ncir.org and another is to ZXMDavis@ncir.org from the Congress Hispanic Caucus Institute.