Wendell E Sweetser
[Jr. Prof ]
— A minor cash-for-comments economist from Marshall University. —
Tobacco lobbyist James Savarese and Professor Robert Tollison of George Mason University collaborated in the 1980s to provide the tobacco industry, through the Tobacco Institute, with networks of academics in various disciplines who would be willing to write and sprout propaganda material ... always provided the payments for these services were not directly tracealble back to the Institute or to any of the cigarette companies.
The idea was simply that these academic 'sleepers' would be available on a cash-for-services basis when needed to counter attempts to increase excise taxes or to ban public smoking ... or just to appear as 'independent experts' at Congressional hearings and promote the industry causes.
Economist were by far the most useful of the acolyte academics because the distinction between economics and politics was never clear: so support of the cigarette companies could always be portrayed as support for free-market economics including the rights of individuals to make public choices ... small government ... or even the first Amendment to the Constitution.
The economist working for Savarese, always claim to be 'independent' 'professionals' and ' academics', and they exploited the fact that they came from some credible university. They never revealed the source of their funding in their op-eds or letters-to-the-editor.
If ever put under cross-examination, they must be able to claim (with weasel-word imprecision) that they had "never received a penny from the tobacco industry". Therefore all payments were laundered, either through v Ogilvy & Mather, the principle lobbyists James Savarese & Associates, or through Bob Tollison's Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University.
The aim was to have, in each State, at least
willing to jump into action and write op-ed articles for their local newspaper or to appear at local ordinance or legislative hearings. Copies were always sent to any local Congressman who sat on some important (to the tobacco industry) committee.
- one academic economist,
- one academic lawyer, and
- one academic from a business management, business law, marketing or advertising discipline
The academics were always expected to wave their own and their university's credentials vigorously, and loudly proclaim their "independence' from any crass-commercial motives. And those who could boast of being 'non-smokers' were especially prized — since without this addiction, their non-dependent-on-tobacco status was thought to be proved beyond any doubt!
Unfortunately, it worked.
Wendeall Sweetser was another of the Randian group of Public Choice economists who were associated with Robert Tollison through the Public Choice Society and his so-called Center for the Study of Public Choice.
Some key documents
• Professor of Economics, Marshall University, Huntington WV
He was also an associate of Dr R Morris Coats, Assistant Professor at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux who seems to have recruited him when Coats worked at Marshall University.
• Sweetser's CV as sent to the Tobacco Institute. circa 1984
1948 May 25: Born
1974 Sep: - June 1976 Research Assistant at Virginia Tech
1976 Nov: - June 1977 Teaching Assistant and Instructor in Economics at Virginia Polytechnic University, presumably under James Buchanan.
1977 Aug: Sweetser is an Instructor of Economics at Marshall University until he is made Professor in May 1980.
1980 May: Assistant Professor of Economics at Marshall University
1981: James Savarese & Associates, working through Ogilvy & Mather, began establishing the cash-for-comments network for the Tobacco Institute. Robert Tollison of George Mason University and the Center for the Study of Popular Choice acted as consultant and advisor.
1983: Sweetser was associated both with Morris Coats and the Center for the Study of Public Choice (Referee was T Nicolaus Tideman).
1983 Mar 31: Morris Coats and Wendell E Sweetser Jr begin collaborating. They are both disciples of James Buchanan at Virginia Polytecnic (Nobel Prize winner for his Public Choice concept).
|Public Choice theory|
|Public Choice theory is more politics than economics — which even their practitioners sometimes admit. Not all public choice economists believe in the totally unfettered free-market, but the extreme position is practiced and preached by a group of Randian economists who liked to dabble in far-right wing politics. These are the people who gave the world the 2010 Global Financial meltdown.
They also saw nothing wrong in deceiving their public benefactors (the tax-payers) and their universities, by secretly working for the tobacco industry. See the brief explanation in Wikipedia
1984: Wendell Sweetser and Morris Coats [both later cash-for-comments economists] have made a study of the state excise taxation and monopoly sales of liquor for the West Virginia Tax Study Commission.
[The tobacco industry found this study noteworthy and Coats joined the economists network shortly after.
Wendell Sweetser was tempted joined a few years later (1986) when both he and Coats worked at Marshall University in Huntington, but while Coats turned it into a life-long supplementary vocation, Sweetser dropped out after only a brief period.]
R Morris Coats joins Wendell E Sweetser at
Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.
1986 Jan: The Tobacco Institute's Public Relations Resource Catalogue for their Regional Directors, lists documents, booklets, article, posters and people who can help them fight local public smoking ordinances and threats to raise the excise taxes on cigarettes.
It provides a long list of economists who are willing to speak at hearings, or write letters to the editor, or op-eds for the newspapers to counter the public smoking or excise tax threat.
It lists him as a contact in:
He is available on two weeks notice as a witness for hire.
- Professor Wendell E Sweetser
Department of Economics, Marshall University, Huntington, WV
Public Smoking/Witness: Local economists are available on two-weeks notice to provide economic testimony on the public smoking issue. Those economists who have testified or prepared op-ed pieces on the economic effects of public smoking are marked accordingly. The others may be briefed on the potential cost to government of implementing smoking restrictions.
Tax witness: [He will] "explain why excise taxes are regressive and unfair to consumers and unsuitable and unreliable as a means to increase the federal revenue."
Those economists who have testified or prepared op-ed pieces on the economic effects of public smoking are marked accordingly. The others may be briefed on the potential cost to government of implementing smoking restrictions.
1986 May: A bundle of information predominantly on Sick Building Syndrome and Indoor Air Quality is being circulated by the Tobacco Institute to its Regional Directors. However, Section 1 is headed
List of sources. Local and national experts you can call for quotes or background information. Sweetser's name and address are included under the heading:
"Tobacco & Taxation (listed by state, alphabetically)".
1986 July: /E The Tobacco Institute has drafted of a short article and press release "A Cigarette Tax Increase Would Be Harmful to West Virginia." It has all been written in the third-person, quoting Wendell Sweetser as saying that West Virginia retailers would "feel the sting of a $38 million decline in retail sales".
According to economist Wendell Sweetser of Marshall University (Huntington; WV) , a 10-cent cigarette tax increase in West Virginia would be a commercial boon to bordering states. The West Virginia economist estimates that the tax increase would trigger an annual $38 million loss in sales of cigarettes and sundry products in the Mountianeer state.
The beneficiaries would be the states on West Virginia's border. A 10 cent tax increase would raise West Virginia's cigarette tax above that of any bordering state. Savings would range from 90 cents a carton in Ohio and Pennsylvania to $2.40 on the Kentucky and Virginia borders.
The Marshall University economist estimates that cigarette sales in West Virginia will fall by approximately 9%. According to Sweetser,"with over 48% of West Virginia's population in border counties, most of the West Virginia sales reduction will simply end up in the cash registers of retailers in bordering states."
At the time this was written, he had not seen the draft statement. [See below]
1986 Aug 7: Bill Orzechowski, the resident economic lobbyist at the Tobacco Institute writes to Regional Director Dick Morgan saying:
I have included a copy of the tax analysis for West Virginia. I also have added a one pager that focuses on Marshall University economist Wendell Sweetser's estimate of the economic damage. I have to check with Wendell before we release his comments. He has agreed to the general idea and he has worked on the sales loss estimates but he has not seen the actual product. This should be taken care of by 8/7.
Your comments are most welcome.
[Sweetser's associate Morris Coats borrowed the whole guts of this article and used it in Louisiana at a Ways and Means Hearing in 1990. There was no plagerism involved... both were written by the Tobacco Institute.]
1986 Dec 11: James Savarese sends Fred Panzer at the Tobacco Institute a summary of the activities of his network of economists. The Tobacco Institute also now wants to know the details of those who have been recruited:
Dear Fred, There are now 62 names on the list (Some states have 4 or 5) not counting himself and Bob Tollison. The details given for each, consist of State, Regional Division [of the TI], Name, Address and Telephone number.
I have attached a list of all the economists we have used along with the projects they have worked on in behalf of the Tobacco Institute.
Let me know if you have any questions.
[Added to this in later lists is the 'Projects' they have completed and the names of Congressmen they have contacted.]
Virtually all of these cash-for-comment academics have been generating op-ed articles for newspapers, or have, in some unspecified way, opposed the Packwood Excise Tax Plan — or perhaps helped fake up one of the 'Chase' [Econometrics studies] done in various states. A few participants have attended Congressional or government inquiries ['Treasury I') or local ordinance hearings as 'independent witnesses' while secretly acting for the tobacco industry.
Two of the 64 members ( Ann Harper-Fender and Gary Anderson) were on Ronald Reagan's Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations — which sought to bring pressure on the FDA, EPA and OSHA and stop them being pro-active with smoking bans.
Other participants have been promoting the industry line at various academic conferences and fora [mainly as keynote speakers at economic society meetings] , and a few of the core-team were involved in brianstorming sessions with members of the tobacco industry looking for new angles for their PR, and for possible research project which might generate some economic propaganda for the industry.
Many of them have joined in with the industry's orchestrated letter-writing campaigns opposing workplace smoking bans.
- GSA = General (Government) Services Administration.
- 'Ways & Means' = Congressional committee on finances
- ALEC = American Legislative Exchange Council (a formalised way for big business to directly influence Congressional and State politicians)
- Chase Econometrics = A company that did economic impact studies for the tobacco industry in various locations to 'prove' that smoking bans would destroy local economies.
The references for this network member were:
West Virginia [ Region VI ]
Professor Wendell E. Sweetser
Department of Economics, Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia 25701, 304-696-6498
- original excise tax op-ed
Sweetser has, temporarily, replaced Morris Coat as the economist serving West Virginia.
1987 /E: A summary document of the work that had been done for the Tobacco Institute by members of the economists cash-for-comment network lists him as having only done one project: "original excise tax op-ed" while other had five or six projects under their belt.
This seems to indicate that he was a reluctant recruit, who had decided not to become involved. There are no further dated documents implicating him directly in the Savarese/Tollison network after December 1986.
1989: Annual Report of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University carries the news that
Roger Congleton (with Wendall Sweetser of Marshall University) explored the extent to which the logic of the veil of ignorance can be applied to ordinary day-to-day decision making.
Congleton also worked with Coats. Shughart, Hunter, and others in the cash-for-comments network.
They demonstrate that ignorance of the particular distribution of benefits associated with alternative policies can facilitate political decision making while improving the normative properties of the decisions reached. Evidence from the U.S. Congress suggests that excessive distributional information has slowed down the federal budgetary process.
[This document is interesting mainly because of the list of names associated with the Center for Study of Public Choice and the list of cash-for-comments economists coincides to such a remarkable degree. Also note that none of these economists lists any tobacco-funded research documents on their biogs.]
1990 July 30: His long-term associate Professor Morris Coats is giving Testimony for the Tobacco Institute before the Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee opposing the "Proposed Tax Increase on Cigarettes". Coats uses Sweetser's name to support his and the Tobacco Institute's position.
Bill Orzechowski, the resident economic lobbyist at the Tobacco Institute, has sent the transcript to Sweetser 'for information'. Presumably this is because Coats had used Sweetser's earlier excise tax statement for West Virginia as his own arguments opposing the same taxes in Louisiana.
Since they were friends and associates, Orzechowski may have felt the need to clear the Coats statement with Sweetser before using it.