Sunday, May 5, 2013

Is Garry Carruthers Telling Us the Truth about His Tobacco Company PR Work?

   This post continues the discussion of Garrey Carruthers's work on behalf of Philip Morris during 1993-1998, and focuses on Dr. Carruthers's possibly misleading or incorrect statements about that work.

  [Sorry this post is so long and detailed!  I've been working my way through a massive set of documents and other information, in too short a time.]

   Certain facts are clear: on behalf of Philip Morris and funded by Philip Morris, a PR firm called APCO (related to the large Washington law firm Arnold & Porter) formed a front group called The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) to mount a masked attack on scientific findings that environmental tobacco smoke (second-hand smoke) could harm people.  Those findings were sparking calls for state, city, and national regulations on smoking, which would hurt corporate profits.

   Garrey Carruthers was the TASSC's founder, face, and first chairman. 

   The idea was to attack the science on second-hand smoke as "unsound" and driven by governmental desires to regulate.

   Obviously it wouldn't work very well if reporters and the public were aware that Phlip Morris was paying the bill.  In Philip Morris's own words, the idea was to "hide the PM fingerprints."  As one Philip Morris exec, Victor Han, said in his sworn deposition, "  Thus an internal memo notes regarding calls to certain members of the media, "We thought it best to remove any possible link to PM, thus Boltz is not making the calls."  TASSC - and quite likely Carruthers -- apparently did so.

   Therefore the connection between Philip Morris and the group was masked.  At the direction of the company and APCO, TASSC and Carruthers approached scientists, without mentioning Philip Morris, and sought donations from other companies that were trying to fight other regulations. 
Carruthers's Recent Statements
First of all, Carruthers doesn't include TASSC at all on his public bio on-line.  Secondly, on his resume he buries it in the list of his "public service" work, even though it was a paid position.  Whether or not he sought to mislead NMSU only he can say.

Secondly, he denies that he was aware that Philip Morris was behind TASSC.  Given that Philip Morris and APCO documents mention him as chairman even before TASSC's public launching, this seems unlikely.
As one expert on the tobacco companies told me, "I find it hard to believe that Carruthers did not know what TASSC was and who was funding it.  On the other hand, if his statement is true, that is even worse.  What kind of a person goes to work for an allegedly non-profit organization, promoting 'sound science' in public policy, and doesn't ask who the sponsors and funders are?"

Third, he told the Albuquerque Journal that he was "four-square against second-hand smoke." 
That statement's truth is undermined by his participation in efforts to discredit the scientific findings regarding environmental tobacco smoke.  Although TASSC fought other environmental or safety findings, it definitely characterized the "environmental tobacco smoke" findings as unsound.

According to the Albuquerque Journal:
"In an interview this week, Carruthers, 73, downplayed his role as the public head of TASSC and distanced himself from Philip Morris' agenda.  Carruthers said that he is and was unaware of the tobacco company's role in creating TASSC, that pushing back against smoking restrictions was not something he did, and that he did not 'lobby' for Philip Morris.  'I'm four-square against second-hand smoke,' Carruther said."

With regard to the second-hand smoke issue, it’s instructive to review the script for a November 18, 1994 Reuters TV report of a press conference held by Carruthers and his group.

It ends:
Dr. Garrey Carruthers
We have created a great problem in this country by allowing poor science to be that science that is being used in public policy. The pressure that is coming for example from regulators who decide that I want this regulation to be in place but can’t justify it. So they summon up a scientist to develop a body of science to support their preconceived objective.
Dissolve to shots of scientists at work and then to poster of principles at press conference

If you’re "four-square against" second-hand smoke, you don’t hold a press conference in which your organization claims the scientific evidence that second-hand smoke hurts people is faked by the feds.

 - http://legacy.

An October 26, 1993 letter from APCO to Matt Winokur, Director of European Regulatory Affairs for Philip Morris, Inc., arranges for Carruthers “to assist in Philip Morris’ international efforts to promote the use of sound science” through a news briefing in Washington. “Our Chairman, Garrey Carruthers” would brief the reporters.
The APCO plan for the public launching of TASSC (Prepared October 15, 1993, written with guidance from a meeting with Philip Morris PR executives) lists under "Goals and Objectives" to “lay the groundwork and provide an environment for a successful grassroots mobilization effort to assist Philip Morris with its issues nationally and in target states.” The strategy is to “build upon coalition work done to date . . . and establish credibility . . . through media attention and position TASSC to assist Philip Morris in its target state and national efforts.” This will involved “a targeted national media campaign” and “media kits” that include examples of unsound science, “bad science anecdotes”, and “Garry Carruthers biography and letter of invitation to join TASSC’s cause.”

A February 22, 1994 inter-office Memo within Philip Morris USA discusses TASSC’s 1994 budget. APCO had requested $632,500. The memo notes, "First, $70,000 must be attributed to Carruthers for his fees and projected expenses."   Another letter recites that APCO (and thus TASSC) will "perform services for Philip Morris in connection with issues relating to promoting sound science and public policy, including but not limited to, enfironmental tobacco smoke, indoor air, and related issues."

Carruthers also publicized a "poll" (done for TASSC by a Republican polling firm from Texas) that claimed  "62% of scientists believe public confidence in scientific research has decreased in the last 10 years and 83 per cent agree that policy makers use science to achieve their policy goals in controversial issues such as asbestos, dioxin, environmental tobacco smoke, or water quality."  The press release included his own view. 
"The poll shows an even deeper concern than I imagined over the conduct and use of government scientific research," said Dr. Garrey Carruthers, TASSC chairman.
Although environmental tobacco smoke was, by design, just one scientific target of the poll and TASSC, there's no indication that Carruthers -- who now claims to be "four-square against second-hand smoke" suggested to his tobacco company employers that the survey should focus on other "unsound" scientific findings.

In short, Carruthers was for five years an integral part of a media campaign designed to trash government science generally and ultimately to help Philip Morris with its fight against smoking bans. Is it credible that Carruthers would not have been aware whom he was working for?
Further, he says he still is unaware of the connection.  Yet there's an abundant on-line library on the subject, it was discussed in depositions in a case brought by the Depart of Justice against Philip Morris, and (as Rene Romo's Albuquerque Journal article notes), "TASSC's role in Philip Morris' then-secret campaign to push back against smoking regulation has been cited in chapters in several books, such as "Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco to Global Warming," by Erik Conway and Naomi Oreskes."
That article also quoted one of the authors on the subject of Carruthers as NMSU President:
"TASSC was an organization whose goal was not to advance science, but to challenge and impede it.  The idea that a former chairman of TASSC could be put forward to head a university system, which should be dedicated to information, not disinformation, is truly frightening."

Let's Take Carruthers's Story As True
Dr. Carruthers founded TASSC.  He doesn't and can't claim it was his idea.  APCO reached out to him, suggested the group, and offered him fairly healthy financial compensation.  Dr. Carruthers went along with the idea, worked fairly hard on the project for five years, but never inquired who was funding it or why.  Just, a law-firm-founded lobbying/PR firm, on behalf of unidentified clients.
That is, he is spectacularly uncurious.  Does that recommend him as president of a university?

A Hint of Our Future?

Does it seem farfetched that Carruthers might permit or arrange for corporations to get their wish lists translated into "scientific findings" by NMSU researchers?

Well, consider this:

As noted above, he worked five years with APCO Associates, the PR and lobbying firm founded by the big Washington, D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter. APCO arranged for him to be the Chairman of TASSC. One of his pals at APCO, Tom Hockaday, wrote a 1993 memo listing people who could be approached to lend their names to ghost-written op-ed pieces on the subject of tobacco smoke and the environment. More recently, APCO, acting on behalf of the Kazakhstan government, paid "experts" at Johns Hopkins University to author three reports about the country. The reports were published, but without revealing the connection with Kazakhstan. The Johns Hopkins spokesman said the Institute’s "relationship was only with the lobbying firm and not directly with the government."
(See )

In short, secretly arranging for clients to fund university "studies" saying what those clients want said is something Dr. Carruthers' former associates have been caught doing.

We can hope that Dr. Carruthers won't do likewise if elevated to the NMSU Presidency.

For Further Reading
This post is already way too long.  Mostly I've quoted original sources, rather than secondary.  However, anyone who wants to delve deeper could either search the UCSF Tobacco Library or read relevant articles, including these two:

"Constructing 'Sound Science' and 'Good Epidemiology': Tobacco, Lawyers and Public Relations Firms, by ME Elisa K. Ong and Ph.D. Stanton A. Glantz. quotes a lawyer from the tobacco industry’s Washington, D.C. law firm, Covington & Burlington, as writing “No one would tke seriously a meeting even partially sponsored by PM.” Thus letters to scientists went out over the signature of Dr. Carruthers.  As the article notes, the “prominent scientists and policymakers” drawn in by these letters “would be provided PM’s secondhand smoke agenda suggestions through APCO but made to feel the agenda was their own.”

The same story is told in "How Big Tobacco Helped Create 'the Junkman'" ,  by Sheldon Rampton and John. Stauber, which calls TASSC “an organization that was covertly created by Philip Morris for the express purpose of generating scientific controversy regarding the link between secondhand smoke and cancer.”
This article recites a stop on Carruthers’s “barnstorming tour” in which:
“In Denver, Carruthers told a local radio thation that the public has been ‘shafted by shoddy science, and it has cost consumers and government a good deal of money.’  When asked who was financing TASSC, Carruthers sidestepped the question.  ‘We don’t want to be caught being a crusader for a single industry,’ he said.  ‘We’re not out here defending the chemical industry; we’re not out here defending the automobile industry, or the petroleum industry, or the tobacco industry; we’re here just to ensure that sound science is used.”

No comments:

Post a Comment