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There are many reasons why individuals become embroiled in corporate corruption activities - from political zealotry to over-enthusiastic activism; from gullibility to greed.
Please read the OVERVIEW carefully, and make up your own mind.
(misspelled Vermuellen and Vermeulen)
— A short-term cash-for-comment economist from Maine. He did not stay in the network long. —
Professor Bruce Vermeulen was only a member of the Tollison/Savarese cash-for-comments network for a very short time.
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 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 tobacco industry lawyers ( usually Covington & Burling),) the principle organisers 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.
For more background information on how Savarese, Tollison and the Tobacco Institute operated these networks, see:
The name appears to be spelled in various ways both in the tobacco archives and in Google searches. Jim Savarese settled on "Bruce Vermeullen" which is not a common way of spelling the name. In his letters, Bruce himself spells it with a single L.
Bruce also appears to be a favorite first name with the Vermuellen, Vermeulen, Vermeullen, and Vermuelen families.
Some key documents
• Professor in Economics, Colby College, Waterville, Maine Note the variations in the spelling of his name. Savarese & Associates almost always spelled it with a double-L.
1986: President Ronald Reagan asked Senator Bob Packwood, chairman of the US Senate Finance Committee, to design a proposal for comprehensive tax reform
which would reduce the highest individual income tax rate down to 35% from its current 50% level, but retain adequate incentives for business investment, and avoid inclusion of any new taxes.
In an attempt to do this without reducing the total amount of tax revenue that is currently collected, the Packwood plan proposes to offset reduced revenues from income taxes by what the Wall Street Journal has referred to as a "backdoor increase in excise taxes."
The Packwood plan proposes to eliminate the income tax deductibility of excise taxes and import tariffs paid by businesses [and it] would increase federal excise tax receipts by an estimated $75 billion over five years. Approximately $13 billion of this would be a result of a direct increase in excise taxes on motor fuel, wine, distilled spirits, and tobacco.
[This triggered a substantial increase in the activities of the cash-for-comments economists already employed by the tobacco industry and led to the creation of a very substantial network of academic economists in every state who could be called upon to help fight tax increases on cigarettes — and later public smoking bans.]
1986 Mar 20: Tobacco Institute document: Background Update Of the Estimated Effect of the Packwood Tax Plan On the Price Increase Necessary For Cigarettes
If the deductibility of the excise taxes is eliminated, then most, if not all, of this tax increase will be passed on to tobacco consumers as price increases to cover the additional corporate taxes they will be required to pay, plus the indexed excise tax requirement.
On the basis of 1985 sales, and the level of federal excise taxes paid on cigarettes, the level of taxable sales would be: $4.5 billion / $0.16 = 28.125 billion packs — the remainder are either sent overseas as exports or to armed services, or to government institutions.
If the Packwood plan is adopted, and if the effective tax rate on tobacco corporations is 35 percent as in 1983, the increase in corporate income taxes would be about $1.83 billion.
It must be assumed that this tax increase will be passed on to consumers in order to maintain net income. This will cause a decline in demand on the base level of 28.125 billion packs.
1986 April: Professors Joseph M Jadlow (Oklahoma) and Charles Maurice (Texas A&M) have prepared draft articles attacking the Packwood Tax Plan. James Saverese has sent them, together with clippings of articles already published, along to Fred Panzer at the Tobacco Institute for correction and clearance. (See page 10)
It lists many dozens of articles which the cash-for-comment economist on the network have now written, including one:
Prof. Bruce Vermuellen Submitted to Paper:
4/3/86 —Portland Press Herald
Letters sent to Senators: Cohen and Mitchell on 4/3/86
1986 Apr 1: An Open Letter to Senator Robert Packwood (by Wm Mitchell) has been sent to the network economists to help them write their articles. This is a checklist of those in the 1) Writing Stage 2) Submitted to Newspapers 3) Letters Written to Senators.
Prof Bruce Vermuellen has written both the article and the letters to Senators, and has attached a copy of the article sent back to the Tobacco Institute.
1986 Apr 3: Assistant Professor Bruce Vermeulen, then at the Economics Department at the Colby College, has been asked for a rewritten and shorter version of his article "Tax Reform of Slight of Hand? Tax Payers' Alert" which he had sent to the Portland Press Herald... using the Colby College letterhead to add some authenticity.
Following our telephone discussion yesterday, I have rewritten my comments on the Packwood proposal to shorten it and to emphasize the detrimental effects for Maine. It is still somewhat longer than you requested, and can be cut if you wish.
He also sent copies of the article to two Senators from Maine, as specified by his cash-for-comment contract with the Tobacco Institute:
Sen. George J Mitchell of Maine 'shared his concerns' and thanked him.
As did Senator William S Cohen
Vermeulen also writes to Anna Tollison (wife of Robert) who was doing the administration and payment work for the network via James Savarese & Associates. He explains here that he had to shorten his article for the Portland Press Herald.
1986 Apr 11: The Tobacco Institute has quite detailed plans for State-by-State actions to generate opposition to the Packwood Tax Plan.
1986 Apr 15: Jim Savarese is reporting to Fred Panzer at the TI about the [anti] Packwood Tax Plan project. He includes numerous letters sent to Senators, copies of published op-eds, and a revised op-ed for Maine and one for Minnesota, He lists the successes of the network economists, including:
MAINE, Prof Bruce Vermeullen
[Submitted to] Portland Press Herald 4/3/86
[Letters sent to Senators] Cohen & Mitchell 4/3/86
1986 Dec 11: James Savarese sends Fred Panzer at the Tobacco Institute a summary of the activities of his network of economists. This is effectively the beginning of the main cash-for-comments economists network.
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. Added to this is a list of the 'Projects' they have completed (in later lists, also the names of Congressmen they have contacted.)
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.
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]. 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 acting termporarily as advisors to 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 = 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:
Maine [ Region I ]
Professor Bruce Vermeullen
Department of Economics, Colby College, Waterville, Maine 04901, 207-872-3567
This Packwood opinion column and a letter to his two State Senators appears to have been the only cash-for-comment project that Bruce Vermeullen undertood for the Tobacco Institute.