Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lorillard, Document Identification Number 00621313

Dec. 1969 memo describing a meeting between Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Robert Finch; William Kloepfer, Jr., head of PR for the Tobacco Institute and one-time press secretary for Richard Nixon; and Jack Mills, VP of Federal Relations for the Tobacco Institute.

This one is just astounding. It illustrates how Big Tobacco not only has the ear of government regulators but has them wrapped around their proverbial finger.
The memo tells of a meeting between the head of HEW, which at the time was the leading government organization for protecting Americans’ health, and two of the chief officers for the tobacco industry’s lobbying group. The kowtowing that Finch does is stomach-churning. He’s ostensibly charged with policing the likes of Kloepfer, Mills and their Tobacco Institute, but is instead having a cozy smoke with them.

The memo is tricky to follow without knowing the context: The Senate had recently passed a measure, sponsored by Utah Sen. Frank Moss, banning cigarette advertising from television and requiring health warnings on all cigarette advertising (in an act known as the FCLAA).

As the meeting opens, Kloepfer and Mills are upset over an apparent congratulatory letter that Sec. Finch sent to Sen. Moss on his FCLAA victory. Instead of Finch properly asking them what the hell business of it was theirs, he tries to placate them by saying he never knew it had been sent. The tobacco boys then explain they know who sent the letter – Daniel Horn, the head of the Public Health Service’s Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health and the man whose research first proved a link between smoking and lung cancer – and they imply Horn is a threat to Finch because “he is a zealot and zealots can often embarrass those above them … who have broader considerations.”

Now comes the really slimy part: Kloepfer suggests any further material like this should be given to the Tobacco Institute before it’s released so they can “offer advice on the wrong premises that might be involved,” which would act as “protection” for Sec. Finch. (This sounds suspiciously like the protection you get from the schoolyard bully for a buck a day).

Instead of being insulted or even enraged, Finch just sits there and takes it. In fact, he himself starts dumping on HEW, saying how bad department employees are with spreading rumors and not informing him about developments. Then, Finch appears to imply the Tobacco Institute won’t have to worry about “zealots” like Daniel Horn because Finch would “shake up” departments as necessary.

Finch then asks about joint research that HEW and Big Tobacco are supposed to conduct together, and the tobacco boys say their side can’t sign the agreement because it includes a statement about direct causation between cigarettes and diseases. The tobacco boys suggest Finch should have that statement removed. Now, if Finch had any shred of integrity, he would’ve told them to screw. Instead, he signals he’ll consider doing so by telling them to forward along to him two drafts of the agreement, one with the causation statement and one without.

In the final travesty, Finch asks the tobacco boys what they think of Carl Baker, the head of the National Cancer Institute, and sits there taking notes while they rip into Baker.

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