— A minor cash-for-comments network economist from Ball State University in Indiana. —
Professor Cecil Johnson was one of the early university professors recruited into a clandestine network of academic economists who secretly worked for the tobacco industry through the Tobacco Institute. However he only worked for a short time and appears to have handed over the role to his associate, Professor Cecil Bohanon.
The network was set up in November 1982 by James Savarese (working through his own company and Ogilvy & Mather PR) with later expansion nationwide through Professor Robert Tollison of George Mason University.
Tollison and Savarese acted as contractors and cut-outs, using the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University ( GMU), which supplied the adminstration staff. They recruited ultra-libertarian and Randian economics professors at the major state universities through the Public Choice Society and various regional economics societies.
The problem is not that these scientists were ultra-libertarians, and that many of them were Tea-Party disciples of Ayn Rand, Frederick Hayek and/or Ludwig von Mises. Nor was it necessarily made worse by the fact that the industry they helped prosper made a product that caused the premature death of about four million people globally each year.
The problem is that these academics
- exploited their trusted position as a teacher at a university to promote dubious corporate view points contrary to the public good.
- hid their corporate links from the university administration and staff, and from the public which ultimately paid their salary.
- exploited the public trust in universities and their reputation for independent research, for their own financial benefit.
- allowed the tobacco industry to preview, edit and alter the reports they wrote specifically as industry propaganda.
- wrote op-ed articles which were planted on their local newspaper — misleading both the editors and the readers,
- maintained a claim of being 'independent academic/scientists' when writing to politicians or giving evidence at hearings, etc. after being coached by tobacco lawyers.
- generally acting secretly as tobacco industry lobbyists.
Over a hundred professors of economics at major American universities were successfully recruited by Tollison and Savarese, and many of them remained in service to the tobacco industry for many years. Others only served for a short time, and then dropped out voluntarily ... or were found to be unreliable or unsatisfactory.
They were not paid retainers or salaries, but were erratically commissioned to perform specified functions (usually for $1000 to $3000 per project) when the tobacco industry came under attack. Some earned much more — often in the $20-40,000 range — for producing 'independent research' which was customised to produce the desired results.
Payments were never made directly from the tobacco industry to the economists. Commissions were all carefully laundered through Savarese's company or Tollison's GMU operations — and so the economist (wrongly) assumed this would provide deniability if ever challenged over selling out their academic credibility to the merchants of death.
Don't confuse with Cecil C Johnson, a biomedical researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder. There was also a Robert Cecil Johnson with Lorillard in 1935. Another Cecil Johnson was a union organiser who had dust-caused lung disease.
There is also a Cecile Johnson who sued RJ Reynolds when her husband developed lung-cancer [Indexed numerous times as Cecil L Johnson]
Also note Oregon Rep Cecil Johnson, (1979) who was against smoking bans in government agency meeting rooms. He was a "most adamant opponent to HB2529 stating that all public bodies currently had the authority to request no smoking in meeting rooms." Also there's a Cecil Johnson who was executed by lethal injection.
Some key documents
• Professor of Economics at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana. The Tobacco Institute had Cecil Bohanon at Ball State Uni also working for them at the same time — and Bohanon was a core member who continued for many years. It is not clear why they maintained two Professors from the same university on their list in these early days and there is no evidence of them working on projects together.
He is included here mainly for completeness
1985 Jan 31: Hurst Marshall has distributed this Tobacco Institute list of economists from the cash-for-comments network. It has been organise by State, and includes the names of Congressmen they wish to influence.
Attached for your information are the names of economists who have been identified by PR to assist TI on the federal cigarette excise tax issue. This economist will be detailed to make the contact with Congressmen [by sending him/them the published op-ed]:
These people are also available to testify at the state level.
If you feel that this type of witness can be of assistance to you on state cigarette tax issues, please contact Fred Panzer for details and arrangements.
Please notify your lobbyists as to the availability of these people. At the same time, you may wish to ask them for their ideas or suggestions for other economists within their states.
INDIANA (Rep. Jacobs)
• Professor Cecil Johnson,
Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana
1985 Feb 7: Judy Wiedemeier of the Tobacco Institute is writing to the regional lobbyists.
Attached for your information, are the names of economists who have been identified by our Public Relation department to assist T.I. on the federal cigarette excise tax issue. These people are also available to testify at the state level.
The attached list includes the contact details of this economist and also the Congressmen that are their targets.
If you feel this type of witness can be of assistance to you, please contact me for details and arrangements. If you have any ideas or suggestions for other economists within your state, please let me know, as we are always expanding our resources.
Professor Cecil Johnson Ball State
University Muncie, Indiana
1985 Feb 21: The Tobacco Institute has advised Regional Director of the availability of economists and other resources in each state who can be called upon to write op-eds or appear as witnesses in local hearings.
Taxes Witnesses: Cecil Johnson, Ball State University
Public Smoking Witnesses: Al Vogel (productivity), Bob Klotz (enforcement), Lew Solmon (economics), Steve Schlossberg (labor implications)
Contacts are in place in Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis
and Lafayette, Contact Bill Toohey for assistance.
1986 Oct 3: The Regional Directors of the Tobacco Institute have been reviewing all economics network witnesses in their territories, and culling those who are not actively participating. This is their consolidated list together with notes on the areas of academic specialisation.
Attached is a list of economists with their specialty areas and office phone numbers. They have been identified in several states by J. Savarese as available and hopefully capable to testify in our behalf or aid in our defense against proposed state or local legislation, from an economic aspect. Cecil Johnson is recorded here as the representative for Indiana — with his target, Reb Jacobs.
After this year, Johnson appears to have handed over the role of local Indiana tobacco lobbyist to Professor Cecil E Bohanon also at Ball State University