Political Animal


October 11, 2012 2:47 PM Merchants of Death

By Ed Kilgore

Like my friend and sometimes colleague Harold Pollack of the University of Chicago, I’ve tended to get a lot angrier at Mitt Romney for policy positions that will undoubtedly hurt millions of American than for the past practices of Bain Capital that hurt thousands. So I note with interest Harold’s latest piece at Ten Miles Square, where one piece of information about Bain got his attention in a big way:

The story comes from the Crooks and Liars website citing a story by Jason Cherkis and Zach Carter at Huffingtonpost, via UCSF’s essential library of Legacy Tobacco Documents. The story concerns Bain’s role helping Philip Morris in the U.S., and helping British American Tobacco hawk cigarettes in post-Soviet Russia. Mitt Romney was the CEO who oversaw this business….
Bain provided a variety of strategic services and advice for Philip Morris, including this nugget from Huffingtonpost:
“In one document labeled ‘Corporate Affairs,’ Bain argues that the cigarette maker needs a ‘coordinated, long-term approach to legal/regulatory/public opinion opportunities and challenges to maximize shareholder wealth.’
“Bain’s advocacy amounted to an early example of corporate ‘astroturf’ tactics that are now commonplace…. In the same ‘Corporate Affairs’ document, under ‘mobilizations,’ Bain consultants encourage the company ‘to conduct federal and local grassroots programs in support of the company’s legislative and regulatory efforts.’ For one such mission, Bain called on the company ‘to initiate and execute programs to support smokers’ rights, combat regulatory moves and improve corporate image.’”

And as Harold notes, smoking is a big part of the ongoing public health nightmare in post-Soviet Russia.

He concludes:

Bain is hardly the only firm to court tobacco money. It still deserves scorn for being an enthusiastic partner in the sale of addictive products that damage and shorten millions of lives. To my mind, helping tobacco companies sell cigarettes and evade regulatory constraints is no better than orchestrating a plant closing, breaking implicit contracts with employees, and the other catalog of questionable activities Bain is accused of having done.
This story is important for its own sake. Tobacco also reveals the amorality with which too many entrepreneurs and firms approach the business enterprise.

Need we add that Mitt Romney belongs to a church that has particular objections to tobacco use?

Guess if it’s legal, it’s “wealth-creation,” right? And that’s always beyond questioning.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on October 11, 2012 3:06 PM:

    Mitt's a sociopath!

    Hell, selling butts to the Russkies was not only profitable, but probably patriotic in his own mind.

    Hell, if he could have found one, and felt he could get away with it, Mitt would have had Bain buy a company which marketed heroin, needles, syringes, little rubber bands for the kids to tie-off with, lighters, and little spoons, to Kindergarteners.

  • Mimikatz on October 11, 2012 3:19 PM:

    Well that's the point, isn't it? I keep harping on this, but Mitt believes only in himself and his own infallibility. His goals are to make money, gain power and promote the Mormon Church. Tobacco use is discouraged or maybe even prohibited by Mormons, like caffeinated beverages, but promoting them to people who are stupid enough to use them? Just a smart way to make money. If they die, it is their own fault for falling for the spin. Mitt would never do that, he's too smart. And it is just one less non-Mormon or apostate Mormon, and really, do we need more of those?

    The idea that there are ethical limits on how much one should exploit the weak or vulnerable just isn't really part of Mitt's nature. It requires empathy and a sense that we are all small parts of an interconnected whole. Mitt isn't. He's the Mitt, the big one, and he deserves everything he gets.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on October 11, 2012 3:42 PM:

    Slightly tangential, but for me, Mitt & Co.'s part in Kay Bee Toys' demise is enough. felt like they just balled up my childhood, threw it on the floor, and did the James Brown Good Foot on it...

    That said, there really is no low they won't sink to. Dolla dolla bill, y'all!!

  • Larry Reilly on October 11, 2012 3:46 PM:

    You know how they'll spin it: Romney was killing Russians and that was/is a good thing.

  • Anonymous on October 11, 2012 3:49 PM:

    "Need we add that Mitt Romney belongs to a church that has particular objections to tobacco use?"

    i thought he belonged to the church of the almighty dollar....

  • RepublicanPointOfView on October 11, 2012 5:14 PM:

    The whole point of life is making money! My wealthy republican friends and I know that life is a game and that 'he who dies richest wins'.

    Making money from killing Russkies is not only good business, it is good foreign policy to kill off the citizens of our worst enemy.

    As for our next president being a member of a religion that is opposed to smoking yet making money from big tobacco, so what! He also invested in and has made money from Stericycle, the medical waste corporation that makes money from the disposal of fetuses from Planned Parenthood.

  • Rick B on October 11, 2012 9:17 PM:

    @C U N D

    "if he could have found one, and felt he could get away with it, Mitt would have had Bain buy a company which marketed heroin, needles, syringes, little rubber bands for the kids to tie-off with, lighters, and little spoons, to Kindergarteners."

    Exactly. That is the "freedom" that Romney is selling on the campaign trail. It's the freedom of the super-wealthy to sell addictive products to addicts --- and the freedom to create more addicts! Government regulations which infringe on that "freedom" is simply "Unamerican."

    Of course as a Mormon Romney has been taught to lie for the lord, so he will simply never be sufficiently honest to tell what he means by "freedom." We've certainly seen how easily Romney lies and reverses position on his stated "beliefs" in order to cater to the audience he is speaking to at the moment. His statements at any one moment clearly mean nothing as promises of what he will do when directing his organization to act.

  • KIDDVIRGIE on November 19, 2012 8:45 PM:

    I took my first home loans when I was very young and that helped my business very much. Nevertheless, I need the bank loan as well.