About This Site
In November 1998, after many years of legal disputes, the representatives of the larger companies in the tobacco industry signed the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with 46 State Attorneys-General facilitated by the Clinton Administration. Under the MSA the major cigarette companies paid many hundreds of billions of dollars to compensate the states for Medicaid costs as a result of tobacco-induced health problems.Of course, it didn't really cost them anything, because the billions they paid in compensation was recovered from their customers in the form of higher prices.
As part of this agreement, six million documents (some hundreds of pages in length) were released for public scruitiny, and these have since been mounted on-line at the Galen and Legacy Tobacco Document Library at the University of San Francisco.
When you look through these archives (which extend into the present century) you realise that, despite the agreement, these companies and industries continued to carry on in the same way after the MSA as before — the difference being mainly that today they are much more guarded about what the commit to paper, or archivable e-mails.
This means that the tobacco archives and the material already available from chemical cases probably represents the peak of corporate transparency.
Never again will the public or student journalists have such an opportunity to delve into company files and understand how large corporations of this kind operate to confuse the science, corrupt the political process, and confound the public. That is why this is a unique and valuable resource; the one chance we have to see the whole picture and understand the integration of the various corruption processes.
The tobacco industry was orginally the main focus of this web site, but there was also plenty of evidence of science distortion and misinformation produced by the chemical and cellphone companies and the pharmaceutical industries. Later, when the threat of global warming moved onto the public agenda, the oil, gas, electricity and coal industries also began to dabble in the black arts of pseudo science. And while these industries have their own special-interest organizations and operations dedicated to carrying on the fight, they also appreciate the value of cross-industry coalitions. Joining forces not only allows more weight to bear, but it also serves to camoflage the source of funding, and preserve the appearance of public-interest activism and independence among many of their operatives.
What any systematic research into the tobacco documents will show, however, is that many of the same scientists and academics who were the hirelings of the tobacco industry, also made part of their income servicing these other corporate groups. Science-for-sale is a well-developed industry in its own right; it is a sub-section of public relations and lobbying, and its scientific or academic specialist are available for a price, willing to perform any required service, from organizing academics to write 'independent' letters-to-the editor, to designing research protocols guaranteed to fail (produce nothing, in a way that can be promoted), or designing and producing research which will deliver a pre-determing outcome.
Also within this science-for-sale orbit are the myriad of foundations, societies, and think-tanks; the partisan political policy institutes; and the media- and legal-institutes which will take up the corporate case as a crusade in return for an annual "public-interest" grant. These organizations have a range of techniques available to them, and, in the USA, they are generally afforded a tax-free status by the IRS, provided they claim in their articles of association that they are 'non-partisan'. [Few of them are, or even attempt to maintain that pretense,]
These might be astroturfs (pretend grassroots organianizations), foundations (money laundering channels), or pseudo academic opearations (some housed within universities) which can provide "adjunct scholars" able to churn out free-market, small-government reports objecting to the activities or methods of any government agency attempting to impose regulations or bans.
Most commonly they will attack the precautionary principle (essentially a "better-safe-than-sorry" guide) used by any intelligent regulatory agency when the consequences of non-action might be catastrophic. If they are legally-aligned, they might simply file amicus curae ['friend of the court'] briefs with the courts in order to add weight and expertise on the side of the defendents in product liability suits. The methods used against public interest activism varies, but all are willing to hire scientists, academics, lobbyists, public relations practitions, and lawyers.
The common factors of these corporate operations include:
- these are corporations with long-term poisoning or polluting problems.
- health or environmental activism threatens their profits
- they are wealthy with the ready availability of substantial cash reserves.
- they have a core-group of unscrupulous executives (not necessarily all)
- they see national politics and corporate well-being as a coherent set of values
Less common factors noticeable in the research include:
- A Republican orientation — Among those involved in systematic corruption, only about 25% are liberal in their proclaimed political orientations.
- Religiousity — The intensity of their religious fervor seems to provide a bulwark against conscience.
- Jingoism — They tend to cloak themselves in the flag.
There are now on-line archives holding tobacco industry and chemical industry documents which have been exposed to public scruitiny during court cases. The internet also has electronic copies of many original documents not held in these archives, some of which we intend to mount at this site.