Ten Miles Square

Blog

October 11, 2012 12:17 PM Mitt Romney Made Big Money From Big Tobacco

By Harold Pollack

The first story about Mitt Romney’s Bain years that genuinely angers me.

I haven’t paid much attention to the debates over Romney’s Bain years. His behavior struck me as par for the course in that unsentimental neighborhood of American financial entrepreneurship that Bain called home.

My own beef concerns the immense psychological distance between Romney’s plutocratic policy positions and the creative destruction he has witnessed or unleashed over his business career. How could someone who witnessed the human consequences of plant closings and layoffs speak so disdainfully of 47 percent of Americans who are epically less fortunate than himself? How could he so obviously lack a sense of urgency regarding those left without health coverage—not to mention the elderly, low-income, and disabled Americans who rely on programs such as Medicaid his budget would deeply cut?

Because I’m so angry at Romney for policy reasons, and because I don’t know enough about the granular details of what Bain actually did, I’ve avoided prognostication about Romney’s character as a businessman beyond that.

I make an exception for this story. 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.

Samefacts readers know my strong views regarding cigarettes, and the obscenity of people profiting from a product that kills 400,000 Americans and millions of people around the world. My wife and I watched her parents suffer from lung cancer. Both died, way too young, from this disease.


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.” Specifically, Bain felt Philip Morris could build support within the hospitality industry and by openly seeking to curtail access to cigarettes for young people.
In another 1995 document, Bain suggested that the company produce smokers’ rights newsletters and jumpstart “state-level” lobbying work that involved phone campaigns. Consultants suggested augmenting their “phone scripts” to include the specter of job losses due to cigarette tax increases, and bringing up their own “medical, science related issues.” that could “combat regulatory pressure.”

Huffpo also links to documents in which Bain advises BAT to pursue activities which “support consumers’ freedom of choice to smoke.”

Post-Soviet Russia has experienced public health catastrophe. Tobacco and alcohol misuse are central elements of the problem. When I visited Saint Petersburg doing HIV prevention work, I met many public health workers who lit up to lighten the tension of their difficult work. I imagine quite a few smoked Marlboro’s, Benson and Hedge’s and other western brands–whose all-too- effective marketing sways many people who might otherwise have quit.

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.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.

Comments

  • yellowdog on October 12, 2012 1:47 AM:

    Romney advised Big Tobacco? Seems about right. Romney has the values of the board room at heart--and those values carry over into his conception of the presidency. The values of a CEO are appropriate in a shareholder meeting surely, but they are not a perfect fit in a president.

    Calvin Coolidge had a similarly narrow conception of the office. Following this view, President Coolidge left the response to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 entirely in state and nonprofit hands. He pursued a strict cut-taxes, limit-regulation, balance-budgets agenda. He signed restrictive legislation on immigration, denied the existence of major economic problems (in agriculture), and had limited grasp of foreign policy. (Thus he accepted much bad advice.) He vetoed public health and veterans measures, among others. He seemed to listen largely to lawyers and financiers from Boston. (He had been governor of Massachusetts.) In his day, Coolidge actually made Herbert Hoover seem progressive.

    Calvin Coolidge never seemed to understand that being president was more than being businessman-in-chief. Romney seems to have few convictions apart from this belief.

  • Ajay on October 12, 2012 3:22 AM:

    Thanks for your grateful informations, this blogs will be really help for students loan

  • Rich on October 15, 2012 12:19 PM:

    I guess the Mormon prohibition on tabacco doesn't mean much to him. So much for "faith-based" values, not that I'm surprised.

  • Mark Elsom on October 15, 2012 11:48 PM:

    Do you people have a facebook fan page? Dr Dre Beats I seemed for one on twitter but could not discover one,Monster Diddybeats Headphones I would really like to change into a fan!

  • mymncoadway on November 28, 2012 2:20 PM:

    Fashion bazaar can be beneath related change and also to be in level with the complete appearance tendency, there is cost to acquirement appropriate adoration True Religion Jeans. For those who accept also been arcade regarding artist True Religion jeans, just like Accurate Enjoyment jeans or Monarchy jeans, people accept unsurprisingly apparent potentially they are not cheap. These kinds of artist [url=http://www.onlinetruereliginoutlet.com]True Religion Outlet[/url] can bulk advancement from several $ 100 if you buy them in a store. Precise jeans and Monarchy True Religion jeans are two of the most popular brands if this comes to the newest artist True Religion jeans, but they also can bulk absolutely a little money. The ultimate way to get these labels and also save will be to boutique for the kids online. By video arcade online pertaining to Adoration Accurate True Religion jeans or Affliction True Religion Jeans, you can generally spend less at nuclear one hundred dollars or even more. The bulk you save is determined by the solid and appearance regarding True Religion jeans that you obtain. The know-how is on the web abundance tend not to accept to absorb added cash accepting retailers and on increased accessories. So as to accommodate True Religion jeans from beneath costs as compared to the bazaar price. Bargain Jeans doesn't beggarly that they are impacted and of sub standard.

    Cheap [url=http://www.jeansoutlettruereligionsale.com]True Religion Jeans[/url] has bought acceptance because of the absolute plus absolute design which is adopted throughout. People name the appearance and you simply get it using the bargain True Religion jeans. To perform abiding that you are taking best account for your money, inquire reviews on the humans who accept accustomed bargain genuine religion. Humans likewise say that currently they scratching these jeans that they acquainted as if they are around heaven. When you are appearance sensitive, yet you want to abrasion clothes that are unintentional and comfortable, again Monarchy jeans are a the main bigger selections. You can enter appearance plus fashion, because these are True Religion jeans from artist brands, but at the same time abide adequate and pet back these include True Religion jeans afterwards virtually all. This is a considerable compromise, popularity you to participating abundant in addition to feel considerable at the mentioned time.

    Boot cut is look of good buy accurate affection True Religion jeans which is often acclimated by the individuals. Characteristics of the appearance are generally it is simple to appearance, flared at the bottom, beeline appropriate on the lower calf. This look is reached abrasion for any humans exactly who accept plentiful thighs since it will within the absolute body. Next physical appearance of good buy accurate affection is stretch out, as the title suggests it really is fabricated from the amplitude actual which will acclimatize automatically to your appearance of the body. This really is limted by the people accepting acceptable anatomy plus brand to help abrasion derma certain jeans. With so abounding positive aspects offered by discount accurate religion, it can be appropriate to appointment on line abundance plus abode your current adjustment at this time.