Albion Monitor /News

Gov. Wilson Sabotaged Anti-Tobacco Effort, Groups Charge

by Jeff Elliott

Suggests personal deals between Wilson and tobacco companies
Three advocacy groups purchased a full-page ad in the western edition of the March 13 New York Times, charging California Governor Pete Wilson with "delays and stonewalling" of anti-smoking advertising, suggesting that Wilson personally made secret agreements to protect tobacco giant Phillip Morris from criticism.

The groups say that Wilson has delayed implementation of a new taxpayer-funded anti-smoking campaign and has also pulled hard-hitting ads from television and billboards. According to the groups, Wilson's "undermining [of] these programs is as cynical as it is calculated."

Wilson's press secretary, called the allegations in the memo "bullshit"
Signed by the American Cancer Society, The American Heart Association, and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, the New York Times ad is headlined, "Is this memo the reason Governor Pete Wilson refuses to take on the tobacco industry?" Below it is reproduced a memo, allegedly an inter-office correspondence from Philip Morris:

1341 G STREET, N.W., SUITE 900, WASHINGTON, D.C., 20005

DATE: 4/24/90
TO: Buffy


SUBJECT: Pete Wilson

Wilson is only sending about 16K of the 100K he collected. This 16K includes checks he received from either a tobacco company or anyone working directly for a tobacco company, i.e., Hamish Maxwell, Mrs. Ehud, Bill Murray.

Apparently, he has also done this with other "controversial" industries such as lumber, chemical, and others. The decision to do this was Wilson's alone, and in the response to a wave of negative campaigning in California that not only attacks the candidates, but those who give to them as well.

You will be pleased to know that Pete called Hamish to explain that he was doing this to protect Hamish as well as himself. You will also be pleased to know that Pete is still "pro-tobacco".

The ad identifies "Buffy" as Kathleen Linehan, who works overseas for the tobacco company, and "Jim" as James Dyer, then a Philip Morris lobbyist. According to the ad, the two worked in the same office in 1990.

According to Dr. Stanton Glantz, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and famed anti-tobacco gadfly, this memo was part of a group of papers obtained from a Phillip Morris lobbying firm last summer. Glantz says that no one at the firm has denied that the memo is authentic.

As reported in the San Francisco Examiner at the time, Sean Walsh, Wilson's press secretary, called the allegations in the memo "bullshit." According to the Examiner, "Walsh did not question the authenticity of the document, but described it as 'an ass-covering memo' written by a tobacco lobbyist embarrassed because Wilson was refusing tobacco contributions. "

Athough Wilson claimed that the state was in fiscal crisis, $10,000 was available to cover up billboards
Glantz is the most outspoken critic of Wilson's relationship with the tobacco companies, and claims that the GOP has persecuted him for his stance. In a Monitor interview today, Glantz also said that the California House Appropriations Committee tried to terminate funding he received from the National Cancer Institute.

Noting that supposed author of the Phillip Morris memo, James Dyer, is now staff director for that same Committee, Glantz says, "We can't prove that Phillip Morris was behind it, but it was a serious effort to trash my grant."

Even state officials have complained of Wilson Adminstration efforts to defeat anti-smoking efforts. In December, Berkeley-based Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights obtained state documents where health officials said that they were being pressured to falsify scientific data.

At issue were educational programs funded by Prop 99, a 25 cents/pack tax on cigarettes passed in 1988. In 1992, Wilson stopped the ads and diverted about $30 million from the program into the general state budget. That year, tobacco companies also loudly complained that the TV commercials unfairly portrayed their products as addictive and threatened a lawsuit.

Athough Wilson claimed that the monies were needed to solve the state's fiscal crisis, yesterday's New York Times ad noted that $10,000 was available to cover up billboards reading, "Are you choking on tobacco industry lies?"

Researchers asked to falsify data
Those 1992 documents concerned a $3 million study funded by the Department of Health Services found the programs were effective and responsible for a sharp decline in smoking. Before that report was released, researchers said they were asked to change their conclusions so Wilson's Health Secretary could claim the programs didn't work.

As the Examiner reported, Dr. Michael Johnson, chief analyst in the department's tobacco control section wrote to his supervisor, "I will not ever falsify information or communicate results I cannot stand by. I hope that something can be done very soon to stop this falsification of results."

The director of the anti-smoking media campaign also wrote in a memo, "I want you to know that this is some of the most unprofessional behavior I have experienced in my state service tenure."

Quoting another memo from the media director, the state documents report that Betsy Hite, press aide to the Health Secretary, insisted that their position would be that Prop 99 programs had no effect.

The memo described a phone conversation: "[Hite] said, "You have to back me up on this.' I explained that the facts contradicted this and that we could not say there was no effect from the tobacco tax and the media campaign. . . . During this attempt to explain this information, Betsy began screaming and slammed the telephone down."

A spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services told the Chronicle on March 13 that new ads would appear next week, but refused to show the ads to the health groups critical of the administration.

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Albion Monitor March 14, 1997 (

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