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APCO & Associates

This was the grassroots lobbying organisation owned by Arnold & Porter, the boardroom legal advisers to Philip Morris. APCO was converted from what was originally a real-estate company and placed directly under the tobacco company's control to perform surreptitious services in product liabilty projects ('tort reform') and 'junk-science' promotion (TASSC). It specialized in the promotion of grassroots lobbying, but in the late 1990s, it's operations began to be exposed. It it was then partly sold-off to Grey Advertising (GCI), and later still incorporated into the WPP global service conglomerate of advertising, PR, lobbying, and polling organisations.


Arnold & Porter created APCO (A&P Company) in 1984 initially to handle some of their real-estate deals, but when the real-estate business faded it became little more than a shell company. It was then dragged out of hibernation in 1989 when Philip Morris decided that it wanted some front-organisation to run faux-grassroots lobbying organisations (astroturfs) to attack science.

A coalition of poisoning & polluting industries had joined forces to fight against potential damages claims in product liability suits — especially punative damages — which could be in the multi-million dollar region for companies who had not taken care of their customers's health. They also wanted to limit the ability of plaintiffs to file class action suits since individual damage claims could always be won by litigation exhaustion (the corporation with the most money to pay lawyers always wins).

This corporate-lobbying movement became known as the "tort reform" program, and it was led by the National Manufacturer's Association which ran the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) . There was also a more political group known as the Product Liability Coordination Committee (PLCC) which was backed by the Business RoundTable. The PLCC later became known as the TPLA (The Product Liability Alliance) and it was run by a Cromwell & Moring lawyer, Victor Schwartz, who worked closely with ATRA.

Also involved in product liability/tort-reform lobbying was the Manhattan Institute , founded by ex-CIA director William Casey, which, in 1986, had created the Project on Civil Justice Reform targeted specifically at journalists. It was funded initially by insurance companies, but the tobacco and other industries gave generously also.

Margery Kraus, a freelance lobbyist/PR who was involved with the CloseUp Foundation and did some work for RJ Reynolds was hired in to front APCO, and the new organisation successfully promoted itself as a genuine Washington public relations company. [Later she was award a Business Woman of the Year medal for 'founding' the company!] Initially, however, APCO was entirely under the control of Philip Morris and run by key US science-corruption executives, Ellen Merlo, Tom Borelli and Steve Parrish.

In 1992, ATRA's tort-reform efforts were suffering from internal disputes between the various corporations and trade-umbrella organisations. So Neal Cohen, a sports-writer, was hired in to take control of the tort-reform project for Phillip Morris, and not long after he took virtual control of ATRA itself. He revitalised the organisation (if a real organisation ever actually existed) by setting up numerous state-based astroturfs (run by local PR companies), which became known by the generic term CALAs ( Citizens Against Legal Abuse ).

These CALAs then lobbied their state governments to reduce product liability (especially punative) penalties, restrict the ability of consumers to utilise class-actions, and, in some States, to exclude tobacco-caused injuries from the State tort laws.

In the 1990s, a number of poisoning & polluting industries were also running 'sound science' projects (some through the Manhattan Institute) to have the courts and regulators limit the range of 'expert advice' available to them in matters of science. As part of this push APCO helped S Fred Singer and Gerhard Stohrer establish the infamous Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) as a service organisation to a wider coalition of companies fighting legislation on climate change. [See Heidelberg Appeal]

Then in 1993 APCO hired Tom Hockaday to establish for Philip Morris, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) as its contribution to the P&P's junk-science project. This pseudo-organisation had an advisory board of tobacco lobbyists and science-for-sale entrepreneurs, but it managed to get thousands of gullible scientists to sign up as "members" by promoting its motherhood mantra of "We need 'junk-science' to be rejected, and only 'sound science' accepted in policy-making decisions and regulation." No one disputed this; but only a fool would accept corporate lobbyists and shills as the right people to determine whic science was junk and which was not..

The immedate aim was to have what purported to be a "grasroots society of scientists" to label the scientific findings and analytical techniques used by the EPA and OSHA (and also plaintiffs in product-liability lawsuits) as "junk" while promoting their own anti-regulatory science. This was largely pseudo-scientific research paid-for by the big corporations, and they wanted it labelled as "sound". The corporations had the advantage here; they had hundreds of well-known scientists on their payroll and corporate-approved research reports would automatically be published in their (often secretly-funded) 'peer-reviewed' journals,

This junk-science/sound-science push led eventually to the www.junkscience.com web pages run by (APCO staffer) Steve Milloy, and the www.overlawyered.com web pages run by Walter Olson (Manhattan Institute fellow) ... and many other offshoots run by Milloy and other lobbyists. These web sites also fed into thousands of secondary sites (mostly unconnected) which delighted in publishing urban-myths about ridiculous damages being paid out in American courts over frivolous (or just plain ridiculous) claims of personal damage. These urban myths became a global phemomena and became a staple for speech-making politicians in other countries. [See the Stella Awards on Google]

TASSC was so successful that PR company Burson-Marsteller proposed to Philip Morris that they should establish a European operation of the same kind (generally called 'Euro-TASSC') which would build on the success of the junk-science project and also on the climate-denial Heidelberg Appeal . However the operators of APCO saw this type of operation as their exclusive domain, and a turf war broke out between these two companies which was only settled when Phillip Morris shared the work out and they were forced to cooperate.

In the washout, both failed, and the Euro-TASSC job was passed over to the London-based Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA — run by tobacco lobbyist Lord Harris of High Cross). The IEA (which is linked to the Atlas Group of global think-tanks) then made available one their staffers, Roger Bate, to create and run the European Science & Environment Forum (ESEF) for the tobacco industry. Bate and his associates churned out a few pro-smoking/anti-WHO articles, but they don't seem to have done much else.

APCO also provided services to Philip Morris through Bonner Cohen, a part-time employee (shared between APCO and the EOP Group ) who ran the "EPA Watch" newsletter for Philip Morris (nominally controlled by Tom DeWeese at the American Policy Center ). This fortnightly rag had the job of constantly attacking the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clinton Administration.

Some of the EPA Watch material was written by Steve Milloy, and he and Cohen eventually went into partnership to "privatise' the TASSC operation, removing it from tobacco industry control (it had been passed temporarily to RJ Reynolds). After re-registering the organisation, they set about attracting funding from a wider sphere of poisoning & polluting industries. Later Tom Borelli from Philip Morris joined them.

Philip Morris relinquished full control of APCO in the mid 1990s, and Arnold & Porter sold off a considerable part of their share (but clearly not all) to Grey Advertising, then known as the GCI Group. Later Grey Advertising established the Grey Global Group as the parent company of all of Grey's communications properties (which include GCI Group and APCO). This conglomerate was then swallowed up by global communications giant, WPP , at a time when ex-Phillip Morris Chairman/CEO, Hamish Maxwell was briefly the Chairman of this international super conglomerate.

When Maxwell retired from WPP, APCO performed what they claimed was a "management buy-out" of the company. This separated it from the WPP group and established it once again as an 'independent PR company' with affiliates around the world ... still nominally run by Margery Kraus. It now has many ex-politicians and ex-corporate executive-lobbyists providing services, and is known as APCO Worldwide.

NOTE Don't confuse:

  • In the 1950s there was a company with the APCO name which made cigarette vending machines, but it appears to have later become Continental APCO.
  • Also there is an APCO Petroleum
  • Another APCO made air valves for turbines.
  • The Total/APCO chain of stores was 700+ in number (Missouri)

[Some of these hot-links should work}
Arnold & Porter
Burson Marsteller
Institute of Economic Affairs
WPP Group
Hamish Maxwell
Martin Sorrell
Margery Kraus