Burton A Abrams

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Professor Burton Abrams was a University of Delaware (Newark) academic economist who worked for the tobacco industry for many years through the Cash for Comment Economists Network.

The idea of running a team of cash-for-comments academic economists was developed by Ogilvy & Mather Public Relations for the Tobacco Institute in 1983 and 1984. At that time the operation was run by one of O&M's contracted consultants, James Savarese, who had both economics and labor/union contacts, and it focussed on a small core-group of academic economists who were found speaking engagements at various society meetings.

Both the Tobacco Institute and Jim Savarese knew Professor Robert D Tollison, of the Economics Department of George Mason University who also ran the neo-con/supply-side Public Choice Society. Tollison and his associate Richard E Wagner had long worked for the international tobacco lobby organisation ICOSI (later INFOTAB) and they had excellent contacts with a large number of Hayek [libertarian] economists at other universities, due mainly to Tollison's directorship of the Center for Study of Public Choice, which was located at GMU, but run as a private think-tank.

Tobacco Industry money generously supported the Center, and before long Tollison and Savarese were using it as a recruitment and money-laundry service to develop the cash-for-comments network among appropriate academic economists. The idea was to have in each of the States at least one "Professor of Economics" at a prominent local university, who was willing to support and promote industry propaganda. They were paid on a piece-work basis, averaging $1,000 to $3,000 each for articles planted in local newspapers, or for appearances as 'independent expert witnesses' at legislative or ordinance hearings on smoking bans, or to oppose the raising of excise taxes on cigarettes.

Network creation

The first project began in June 1984 with Tollison and Savarese getting 13 network economists to write op-ed articles in support of the tobacco industry position on excise taxes. These draft articles were sent first to the Tobacco Institute for 'improvement' and legal clearance, then returned to the economist who was instructed to plant them on a specific local newspaper, -- and then send copies to their Congressmen (Reps and Senators). This became the pattern of operations.



The Cash-for-Comments Economists' Network was run by Savarese through a partnership with Professor Robert D Tollison who used the staff and facilities of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University to prove cut-out and organisation services. They developed and maintained a network of Economics Professors with at least one on tap in virtually every US state. As one Professor transferred or dropped out (there was a regular turn-over) a new one would be recruited in that State. In all, about 130 university professors were involved in the period 1985-1995, and costs ran to $3 million/year at a time when professor's salaries were in the $30-40,000 pa range. An active network member at a State university could almost double his normal salary.

  The main focus of the group was to write commissioned op-ed articles on a subject determined by the Tobacco Institute. The draft article would then pass back through the network to TI staff, who were essentially public relations experts. Here they were 'improved' and refined; then sent to the Institute's outside lawyers for vetting. Modified articles then returned to the professor, who would then send them to a designated State newspaper as if they were his 'independent expert opinion'. The professors received a base amount for writing and bonuses for successfully planting the article on the newspaper. Some, but not all, received a small (eg.$1000) annual retainer.[2]]

  Published papers would also be copied by the professor and sent to his local Federal Representative and Senator (for a further bonus). Sometimes there were special commissions, but generally the work was writing op-eds and LTE's where they were paid just on results (varied from about $700 to $3000 over the years). Network members could also be called upon to provide witness services and promote the cigarette companies' political/economic line at local ordinance or State legislative hearings. An active professor of economics at a State University could almost double his salary with these activities and with some further appearances, for instance, speaking on the importance of cigarettes in economic terms at major economic conferences, etc.
      Cash for Comments Economists Network   &   Robert Tollison   &   James Savarese   &   Network Document Index


The recruited professors would be instructed on occasions to write a 1200-1400 word opinion article (known as 'op-eds') for their local newspaper. The subject to be discussed or the claim to be challenged, and any important statistical information and possibly a broad outline, would be sent to them along with the names of (usually two) selected newspapers. They would also be given the name of two local Federal or State politicians to lobby by sending a copy of their article, along with a personal note.

They were paid on the basis of work performed -- at rates which varied between $600 and $3,000 for each article. This was good money for a second-rate State university professor of economics at the time. See longer explanations: Economists' network and the full-blown Cash for Comments Economists Network.

Documents & Timeline

1984 Jul: The Tobacco Institute's Cigarette Excise Tax Plan.

The plan augments our basic lobbying efforts by relying on groups outside the industry -- some not regularly associated with the industry -- to argue against excise taxes for us. It is an ambitious program, based on the notion that many of the most effective protests against tobacco taxes will come from groups philosophically distant from The Institute. Many such groups agree with us on the excise issue, even though they disagree with us on other matters.

At the federal level, supporting Congressional members from the tobacco states is essential to our lobbyists. The tobacco members consistently vote as a unified group -- something that is rarely seen in Congress today. They are our lobbyists' most important resource. The program recommends that economic and other consultants assist us in developing, "packaging," and presenting our anti-excise arguments in legislative testimony or meetings with coalition members.
Economic consultants with different areas of expertise will conduct research and act as spokespersons for The Institute and organizations supported by The Institute. Specific activities with economists are discussed throughout the tactics.

  • Stimulate reputable public finance economists at key state universities to determine the validity of state revenue forecasts, perhaps on behalf of state business organizations and present arguments against excise taxes in various forums; e.g., meetings with potential coalition members or budget officials.
  • Encourage economists to make the case against regressive taxation in meetings with potential coalition members and legislators.
  • Retain public finance economists affiliated with non-profit organizations to research the subject and use their findings in forums such as:
  • Private meetings with state legislators or staff ;
  • formal testimony before government bodies ;
  • targeted media appearances;
  • speeches before business, civic, labor, and other groups ;
  • tax symposia in key states where the proceedings could be published for use in other states ; and
  • articles which raise the visibility of key arguments in the business, academic, and popular press.


  • Presenting specific members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees with arguments prepared by economists with whom they share some common interest; e.g college affiliation, service on the same commission.
  • Gaining the support of Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), the most influential labor/liberal tax reform group in the country, in opposition to excise taxes.
  • Relying on the AFL-CIO -- via The Bakery, Confectionery, and Tobacco Workers Union-- to ensure that the labor/liberal tax package that emerges in the next session of Congress does not include tobacco. [Note: the union became known as BC&T or BCT. Later BCTGM - also later still as IUF)


- A list of economists in key states who may be willing to act as industry and third-party spokespersons on the tax issue.
- Following is a list of economists in key states who might assist us as experts receiving honoraria. We have begun contacting them to ensure their willingness and expertise. We are asking each about past experience; work with similar issues; previous work with the industry; published articles or research; and availability.
Our intent is to have a group of individuals whom we can call upon as needed to testify, conduct special research and discuss their research projects and/or views on excise taxes with budget officials, potential coalition members, legislators and the media. [3]

1985 Jan 31: Hurst Marshall (Issues Manager) has distributed this Tobacco Institute list of economists from the cash-for-comments network. It has been organise by State, and includes the names of Congressmen they wish to influence.

Attached for your information are the names of economists who have been identified by PR to assist TI on the federal cigarette excise tax issue. These people are also available to testify at the state level.

If you feel that this type of witness can be of assistance to you on state cigarette tax issues, please contact Fred Panzer for details and arrangements.

Please notify your lobbyists as to the availability of these people. At the same time, you may wish to ask them for their ideas or suggestions for other economists within their states.

This economist will be detailed to make the contact with Congressmen by sending him/them the published op-ed.

DELAWARE (Senator Roth)
Professor Burton Abrams, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware [4]

1985 Mar: Tobacco Institute document "Federal Markets" on the likely allies the industry has in opposing the earmarking of cigarette excises for healthcare.

Market: Delaware
Positive Actions by Local Allies:
Academics: Professor Burton Abrams (University of Delaware) wrote an op-ed article that appeared in the Wilmington News Journal (major newspaper in home state of Senate Finance Member Roth). Copies were sent to Roth.

See page 4 [5] and Success List: [6]

1985 June/1986 March-July The Cash for Comments Economists Network was commissioned by the Tobacco Institute to write economic opinion pieces opposing excise taxes on cigarettes in mid-year-1985. This propaganda requirment resurfaced as a major project for the economist in the peak of the Tobacco Industry's PR campaign against the Packwood tax plan (although the threat was obviously still a possibility until the end of 1986r).

The Tobacco institute (much later) put together a package of commissioned economics reports (see front section of document), followed by about thirty op-eds and composite pieces which were generated by the Tollison/Savarese Cash for Comments Economists Network in this 1985-86 time frame. It illustrates the propaganda value of this network -- and shows what it can accomplish in a very short time for just a few thousand dollars in academic bribes.

These op-eds attacking the Packwood tax plan were all published in local newspaper across the USA. (Copies needed to be sent in for payment to be made.) A few are from July 1985 and the rest appeared in local newspapers during March-July 1986. These spontaneous independent expressions of expert opinion all miraculously come from Professors of Economics attached to the Center for Study of Public Choice ...

Joseph M Jadlow, Oklahoma State Uni. (He had two op-eds in different papers.);   William C Mitchell Uni of Oregon, Eugene;   Lee G Anderson, Uni of Delaware;   John S Howe Uni of Kansas, Lawrence;   D. Allen Dalton, Boise State University;   Thomas F Pogue, Uni of Iowa, Iowa City (He had two.);   Scott Atkinson, Uni of Wyoming. (He had two in different papers.);   S. Charles Maurice, Texas A&M Uni;   Todd Sandler, Uni of Wyoming;   Michael A Crew, Rutgers Uni, Newark;   Robert B Ekelund Jr., Auburn Uni (He had two.) ;   Ann Harper-Fender, Gettysburg College;   Lee Alston, Williams College;   Paul L Menchik, Michigan State Uni;   Henry N Butler, Texas A&M Uni;   Burton A Abrams, Uni of Delaware;   Ryan C Amacher, Clemson Uni (He had two.);   Dominick T Armentano, Uni of Hartford;   Fred McChesney, Emory Uni;   and a think-tanker David Wilhelm (Citizens for Tax Justice);

Also short extract pieces and letters-to-the-editor from A James Heins, Uni of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana;   William J Hunter, Marquette Uni, Milwaukee;   Dennis E Logue, Dartmouth College;   William F Shughart, George Mason Uni;   Harold Hochman, Baruch College, City Uni of New York;

Also uncredited overviews in the Newport Daily News, the Times-Review in Texas, Herald PA, etc. which expresses the encapsulated wisdom of most of the above with the addition of Thomas Borcherding (Claremont Graduate School, Calif);   K. Celeste Gaspari, Uni of Vermont, Birmingham;   David N Laband, Uni of Maryland;   Dean Tipps (Service Employees Intl. Union);   Allen M Parkman, Uni of New Mexico, Alburquerque, NM;   Richard K Vedder, Ohio Uni, Athens;   Roger L Faith, Arizona State Uni, Tempe;   Lee Alston, Williams College Mass;   and William J Hunter, Marquette Uni, Wisc.; (Some sections were published in multiple papers). [7]
This was a massive amount of propaganda coverage for a payment of less than $1000 each to these Professors at that time.

1985 Apr 25: Burton Abrams has written a tobacco-funding-inspired article for the Wilmington News Journal "Simpler tax code: Is time finally here?"
As with all the articles generated by the Tobacco Institute in this batch of op-eds, it only refers obliquely to cigarette excises, and is wary of attacking the Reagan Administration which is then trying to quietly reverse its 'no tax increases' stance to reduce the spiralling government debt. See page 14 [8]

1985 June 30 to Sep 6: The Tobacco Institute have arranged the weekly syndication of a series of Opinion pieces, comparing statements of four economists (varied weekly) on various subjects. These have been picked up and run by newspapers; presumably in the belief that they are worthy articles of economic opinion. The economists quoted are:

There's also published articles on tax reform by Todd Sandler (Uni of Wyoming); Michael A Crew (Rutgers Uni); Robert Ekelund (Ashburn Uni); Joseph Jadlow (Oklahoma State Uni); Ann Harper-Fender (Gettysburg College); Thomas Pogue (Uni of Iowa); Lee J Alston (Williams College), Paul L Menchik (Michigan State Uni); Henry Butler]] (Texas A&M Uni); Burton A Abrams (Uni of Delaware) [9]

1985 June 21: James Savarese submits his bill to the Tobacco Institute for

Op Ed Project - $1000 each 'professional fees'
for Abrams, Alston, Armentano, Harper-Fender, T Anderson, Denzau, Bohanon, Jadlow, Wagner and Menchik.

Southwest Social Science Meeting -- Houston

Eastern Economic Association Meeting -- Pittsburgh


1985 Sep 6: Acey at the Tobacco Institute has sent a bundle of newspaper clippings along to their printer/copier.

Enclosed are 15 original newspaper clipings (don't lose them!) some in better shape than others.

We'd like these articles on seperate sheets so the lobbyists (sp) can make up their own individual packets. They will also be including some publications too.
This brings us back to the infamous Tax Folder... To hold all these clippings, publications and information on tax articles.

Size should be a 9 x 12 folder to fit in a 9x 12 envelope. You know what I mean. Good looking folder, not too slick. Articles should be in black & white. [11]

[Note: The economist's articles are to be circulated in copied form also as a "News Service".]

1985 Nov 6: Ken Arnold of Ogilvy & Mather PR writes to Fred Panzer at the Tobacco Institute.

Fred, here is a summary of the Economist Op-ed and Economic News Service projects.

With regard to the Economist Op-ed project, we have submitted a total of 34 op-ed articles, and 18 of them have been published. Recent articles appeared in the Huntsville Times on September 11, by Robert Ekelund and in the Providence Journal on October 25, by Arthur Mead (see attachments).

Enclosed is a revised op-ed chart, indicating House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committee Members impacted to date, and the circulation of each newspaper publishing the articles. In most cases, the papers are the largest in the targeted district.

This chart list all the important Congressmen they want their economists to influence, including:

DELAWARE -- Senator William Roth (Senate Finance Committee member)
Wilmington News Journal (c. 65,000) April 25 (by) Professor Burton Abrams, University of Delaware [12]

1985 Dec 12: Annual Report of the Tobacco Institute's Public Relations division lists Professor Adams as having served them well:

We believe that the active and creative use of experts -- our scientists in particular -- gives us an edge. But without question, public smoking is our toughest challenge. A close second is taxation. In 1985, most of our resources in this area were focused on the federal situation. That being the case, we concentrated almost exclusively on the home districts and offices of the 56 members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees.

We identified and utilized economists from universities in 48 of those districts. Some testified at the four federal tax hearings in which had interest. Others participated in academic symposia attended by Congressional staffers. Others communicated directly with their Congressmen.
And 34 of them wrote op-ed articles on the need to consider excises as part of tax reform. Many of these articles appeared in the principal newspaper in the targeted districts which have, by our estimation, a total circulation of nearly 4 million. The economists were of great help. [SNIP]

  • Professor Burton A Abrams (University of Delaware) wrote an op-ed article that appeared in the Wilmington News Journal (major newspaper in home state of Senate Finance Member Roth). Copies were sent to Roth. [13]

1986: This is the Tollison/Saverese network list for 1986. It has 64 names, but it still doesn't cover all 50 States. Some States have two or three network members, so newspapers [and sometimes Congressmen] need to be specified for each member to ensure there is no accidental duplication. Telephone numbers (office and home) are often included in case an urgent op-ed or ordinance hearing is needed. These are grouped by State:

DELAWARE -- Professor Lee Anderson College of Marine Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, 19716, 302-451-2650
Professor Burton Abrams Department of Economics, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716, 302-451-2566

1986 Jan: Public Relations Resources Committee of the Tobacco Institute lists Burton Adams on correspondence to their Regional Managers ( Resource Catalog) as a witness for hire. He is available as a witness either for "Public Smoking" or for "Taxes".

Public Smoking/Witness:
Local economists are available on two-weeks notice to provide economic testimony on the public smoking issue. Those economists who have testified or prepared op-ed pieces on the economic effects of public smoking are marked accordingly. The others may be briefed on the potential cost to government of implementing smoking restrictions.
Tax witness: [They will] "explain why excise taxes are regressive and unfair to consumers and unsuitable and unreliable as a means to increase the federal revenue. Those economists who have testified or prepared op-ed pieces on the economic effects of public smoking are marked accordingly. The others may be briefed on the potential cost to government of implementing smoking restrictions. [14]

1986 May: A bundle of 72 pages of information is being circulated by the Tobacco Institute to its Regional Directors. The data is predominantly about the tobacco industry beat-up known as Sick Building Syndrome and the general problems of Indoor Air Quality [all of which down-plays the effects of smoking in confined spaces] Section 1 is headed

List of sources. Local and national experts you can call for quotes or background information. (It promotes the services of three specialist lobbyists)

  • Lewis Solmon - an academic who discounts problems of workplace smoking
  • Al Vogel (of Response Analysis Corp)- who claims to be an expert in public attitudes to smoking and the effect of smoking on labor productivity.
  • Mike Forscey, a labor lawyer/lobbyist who helped the tobacco industry keep the union movement on-side.

They have also provided a list of the 52 Professors of Economics from various State Universities who can be called on to provide services for roughly $1000 a time: This economists name and address are included under "Tobacco & Taxation (listed by state, alphabetically)". [15]

1986 May 30: Fred Panzer of the Tobacco Institute was contacting British-American Tobacco's PR executive, Tom Humber [also worked for Burson-Marsteller and the front National Smoking Alliance] sending him examples of the network economists' work.

Enclosed are: (1) The first wave of 27 op-ed reprints, (2) A second wave of 32 op-ed articles (21 published and 11 unpublished), sent out on Packwood's first tax reform proposal. [Note: They were fighting a anti-smoking proposal floated by Senator Robert W Packwood (a popularist Oregon Republican who switched to Democrats)

I've also included one on the Chase [Econometrics] study. There are a few others being rounded up, as well as a syndicated excise tax feature series we developed. Out of all this should come something useful for your people.

He also lists 21 of the economists and provides copies of many of their recent articles. [16]

1986 Oct 3: The State Directors for the Tobacco Institute have been reviewing all economics network witnesses in their territories, and culling those who are not actively participating. The Washington DC office is now circulating to its State Directors a list of the economists available who...

"...have been identified in several states by J. Savarese as available and hopefully capable to testify in our behalf, or aid in our defense against proposed state of local legislation, from an economic aspect.

This list differs from others in providing a list of the economic specialities of each network economist, along with the Congressmen they were designated to influence. He is listed as :

DELEWARE (Senator Roth)
Professor Burton Abrams
University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, 302-738-2564
[Specializing in] Monetary and fiscal theory and instit.'s - public choice. [17]

1986 Dec 8: Sam Chilcote (President) is summing up the Tobacco Institute's activities in fighting the Packwood Tax Plan which attempted to impose special excise taxes on tobacco, alcohol and fuel (in the oil crisis years) to reduce their use. Packwood also wanted to make these taxes and tariffs non-deductable for federal income tax purposes. The document bundle (219 pages) includes:

  • Pages 2 to 34: A major study done for the TI by Policy Economics Group
  • Pages 35 to 50: Another major study commissioned from DeSeve Economics Associates for the Coalition Against Regressive Taxation (CART) [funded and controlled by tobacco to act as a front]
  • Pages 51 to 57: A couple of papers done for Covington & Burling
  • Pages 58 to 100: A long document which has deliberately NOT included the name of the organisation which produced it within the document itself. (But done by deSeve Economics Associates Inc.)
  • Pages 101 to 129 : A paper on the "Burden of Tobacco Taxes on Selected Demographic Groups"
  • Pages 130 to 144: Some booklet trying to rabble-rouse the Hispanic and Black communities and make them believe Packwood is attacking them racially.
  • Page 145 to 177: A Citizens for Tax Justice 'poll' on attitudes. and a Coalition Against Regressive Taxation document
  • From Page 178 to end: Many copies of the op-eds the C4C Economist have had published in newspapers

See Abrams article in the Wilmington News Journal on page 202 of the document bundle. [18]

1986 Dec 11: James Savarese sends Fred Panzer at the Tobacco Institute a summary of the activities of his network of economists. This is effectively the beginning of the main cash-for-comments economists network.

Dear Fred,
I have attached a list of all the economists we have used along with the projects they have worked on in behalf of the Tobacco Institute.

There are now 62 names on the list (Some states have 4 or 5) not counting himself and Bob Tollison. The details given for each, consist of State, Regional Division [of the TI], Name, Address and Telephone number. Added to this is a list of the 'Projects' they have completed (in later lists, also the names of Congressmen they have contacted.)
Virtually all of these cash-for-comment academics have been generating op-ed articles for newspapers, or have, in some unspecified way, opposed the Packwood Excise Tax plan -- or perhaps helped fake up one of the 'Chase' [Econometrics studies]. A few participants have attended Congressional or government inquiries ['Treasury I') or local ordinance hearings as 'independent witnesses' while secretly acting for the tobacco industry.
At this time two of the 64 members (Ann Harper-Fender and Gary Anderson) were acting temporarily as advisors to Ronald Reagan's Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations -- which sought to bring pressure on the FDA, EPA and OSHA not to be so pro-active with smoking bans.
Other participants have been promoting the industry line at various academic conferences and fora [mainly as keynote speakers at economic society meetings] , and a few of the core-team were involved in brian-storming sessions with members of the tobacco industry looking for new angles for their PR, and for possible research project which might generate some economic propaganda for the industry.
Many of them have joined in with the industry's orchestrated letter-writing campaigns opposing workplace smoking bans.

[Note: GSA = Government Services Administration.   'Ways & Means' = Congressional committee on finances.   ALEC = American Legislative Exchange Council (a formalised way for big business to directly influence Congressional and State politicians)   Chase Econometrics = A company that did economic impact studies for the tobacco industry in various locations to 'prove' that smoking bans would destroy local economies. ]

The references for this network member were:


Professor Burton Abrams

Department of Economics, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19711, 302-451-2566
Services rendered: -- original excise tax op-ed. [19]

1987 Although Burton Abrams remains on the Tobacco Institute's list of witnesses-for-hire during 1987, he doesn't appear to have been producing op-eds for them during this year.

1988 Jan 15: Jim Savarese and Associates, joint subcontracts with Ogilvy & Mather, is outlining the arrangements for handling the economists and the labor unions to the Tobacco Institute:

Nineteen eighty-seven was a banner year for the Tobacco Institute in its fight against excise tax increases at the federal level. Through careful coalition building and effective message dissemination, the Institute was able to fight the battle on its own terms and secure a substantial victory.
In reviewing your 1988 plans, we found many areas where Ogilvy & Mather and Savarese and Associates can continue to provide services. There are also new areas where we have expertise which have not been fully explored.

Savarese then outlines a couple of problem areas before dealing with the Economists Program. [Note: No full list for these 42 network economists appears to exist -- the suspicion is that the day-to-day operation were now being handled at a distance, possibly by the Independent Institute.]

Our work with the network of forty-two economists should continue into 1988. In 1987, the network was effective in producing op-eds and submitting and presenting testimony. These activities should continue in 1988. In addition, the economists network can be used for editorial board briefings, presentations at conferences and the placement of articles on this issue with major media outlets.
In order to make the most of the new opportunities for the economist network, several factors must be taken into consideration:

  • only 7 or 8 of the economists within the network have the potential to make presentations to editorial boards and conferences.
  • those economists selected to make presentations to editorial boards and conferences need a training program. This program may include media training through Michael Sheehan and briefings by Jim Savarese and Bob Tollison.
  • the editorial board program is a limited strategy with applicability mainly at the federal level with some use at the state level.
  • when implementing the editorial board program, Ogilvy & Mather can assist with pitch materials, press kits, and a placement program. The opportunity exists to place economists on key economic programs, panels, and at national and regional tax policy conferences. As an addendum to this effort, it is possible to have their comments reprinted and distributed.

They also want to commission studies. They suggest:

  1. Effects of an excise tax increase on the federal budget (and its fairness)
  2. on bootlegging "and come up with some strong conclusions" [predetermined!]
  3. In addition, Savarese and Associates can locate a conservative economist to make the argument that there is an acceleration of government spending when taxes are increased. The program will include placement in an economic journal.

They also propose to work with a number of right-wing tax groups, some left-wing labor groups, minority groups, senior citizens, agricultural groups, and advertising companies. They propose to sponsor conferences, and make a video on excise taxes.
A national Excise Tax Op-ed Program will target various important members of the Congress and big businessmen (e.g. Lee Iaococca) on the National Economic Commission (NEC). The network economists will be required to target specific newspapers, and a few key political figures. The target for Burton A Abrams is:

Targeted paper: Wilmington Journal
Economist: Burton Abrams, University of Delaware
[Why selected:] Commission members Sen. Patrick Moynihan and Felix Rohatyn are from New York. Because we have great difficulty in getting published in New York, we have decided to target the entire Northeast area. [20]

1988 Mar 31: The Tobacco Institute's list of available economists, with details of their target for a review of Robert D Tollison and Richard Wagner's "Smoking and the State" book (secretly funded and published by the tobacco industry). Jim Savarese writes to Jeff Ross who now looks after the cash-for-comments network:

I have listed below potential areas where we could place book reviews for the Tollison/Wagner monograph.
Delaware Targeted paper: Wilmington Journal -- Economist: Burton Abrams, University of Delaware. [21] [22] [Note: He doesn't appear to have contributed one]

1988 May: Savarese has sent the Tobacco Institute a bundle of clippings of the articles planted by this and other economists in their newspapers. This is proof of service, required for payment. Abrams has managed to plant an article Equitable and efficient ways to raise taxes on the Sunday Forum pages of the Sunday News Journal, Wilmington (May 22) [23] (This could be a review… but doubtful)

1988 May: Jim Savarese has sent the newspaper clippings of the National Economic Commission (NEC) Excise Tax Op-ed Program along to the Tobacco Institute. This following the second term of the Reagan Administration; the budget deficit had blown out to such an extent that it was obvious that the next President would need to find new revenue streams -- and cigarettes were the obvious target. NEC was charged with making recommendations for deficit reduction.
The Tobacco Institute instructed their tame network economists to write op-eds for their designated local newspapers attacking the idea of increased excise taxes. These are newspaper clippings:

  • Dom Armentano, Uni of Hartford (New Haven Register) Reagan's successor must resist temptation to raise taxes.
  • Burton A Abrams, Uni of Delaware (Sunday News Journal) Equitable and efficient ways to raise taxes.
  • Dwight Lee, Uni of Georgia (The Atlanta Journal) Tax increase won't cut budget deficit.
  • Allen Dalton, Uni of Idaho (Idaho Press-Tribune) Federal tax hike destined in 1989.
  • Todd Sandler, Iowa State Uni (Cedar Rapids Gazette) The Shape of Taxes to Come
  • John Howe, Uni of Kansas (The Capital-Journal) Less spending, not more taxes, is the only real budget solution.
  • David G Tuerck, Suffolk University (The Boston Globe) A sinful proposal.
  • Thomas I Wyrick, Southwest Missouri State (The News-Leader) Higher taxes can't solve budget crisis.
  • Jeffrey R Clark, Fairleigh Dickinson Uni (Daily Record NJ) Excise tax: Bitter medicine for economy.
  • William Mitchell, Uni of Oregon (Register-Guard) Tax increases not solution to reducing deficit.
  • Michael L Davis, Southern Methodist Uni (Dallas Times Herald) Excise taxes are far from painless remedy.
  • Charles Maurice, Texas A&M Uni (Houston Post) Economic panel lets officials dodge the deficit bullet.
  • John David, West Virginia Tech (Charleston Gazette) Taxes will target the poor. [24]

A Status report on the NEC project shows a few days later shows that:

To date, 12 articles have been submitted for publication, 1 article has been published, 1 article has been accepted for publication, and 5 articles are still in the writing stage. [25]

1988 June 2: James Savarese has advised the Tobacco Institute on the current status of the NEC Excise Tax project. The cash-for-comments economists involved were Abrams, Armentano, Clark, Dalton, David, Davis, Howe, Logue, Maurice, Mitchell, Parkman, Sandler, Tuerck, Wyrick, and Miletello

As it now stands, 5 articles have been published, 2 articles (New Mexico and Missouri) are forthcoming, 6 articles have been submitted for publication, and 5 articles are in the revision stage. We have contacted the authors of the articles which are in the revision stage and those articles should be submitted by the end of next week. [26]

1988 June 23: Debbie Schoonmaker at the Tobacco Institute receives a memo from contract organiser James Savarese with an update status on the NEC Op-Ed Project: [Note: NEC = National Economic Commission, the group they were trying to influence.]

As it now stands, 9 articles have been published, 4 articles (New Mexico, Missouri, Oregon, and Idaho) are forthcoming, 4 articles have been submitted for publication, and 2 articles are in the revision stage.

It lists the network economists by the state in which they operate together with the academics's successes in planting articles on their principle state newspapers. [27]

1989 Jan 11: TI Scientific Consultancy Activity 1988-89 This is an 80 page mixed bag of files dumped together. [First is from 1990]

  • Pages 3 to 23 begins with Witness Appearances in 1988 and 1989 involving both "Indoor Air Quality experts" who work for the Tobacco Institute, and three economists: Bob Tollison, and his two acolytes Richard Wagner and Dwight Lee.
  • Pages 24 to 31 Labor IAQ Presentations in 1988 and 1989 which involves key figures in the labor movement and a few Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) experts.(ie sham air-testers)
  • Pages 32 to 39 IAQ/ETS conferences attended by tobacco industry disinformation experts in 1988 and 1989
  • Pages 40 to 41 Academic and Unaffiliated Scientific Witnesses
  • Pages 43 to 53 Smokers Rights Legislation in various states.
  • See page 54: Tobacco Institute "Confidential" memo on "Tax Hearing Readiness" which is their battle plan to counter ear-making -- the designation of cigarette excise taxes to fund health programs. It lists a large number of organizations and a few congressmen who can be relied on to help. It also has both primary and secondary lists of economists from Tollison's "cash-for-comments" network willing to give testimony.

    Economists: [Primary]

  • Bill Orzechowski, Tobacco Institute staff economist
  • Robert D Tollison, George Mason University
  • Richard Wagner, George Mason University
  • Dwight Lee, University of Georgia, Athens
  • Michael L Davis, Southern Methodist University
  • Gary Anderson, California State at Northridge
  • William Prendergast (resource: Prendergast/Solmon papers)
  • Other Network economists [see Secondary attached list below]

"Due by mid-year is a book examining earmarking and "user fees" from a public choice perspective. The treatise will contain 8-10 chapters written by respected economists, including, Henri LePage and Nobel laureate James Buchanan." The Tobacco Institute's list of cash-for-comments professors and senior academics who were available to write op-eds and give evidence at Congressional hearings, etc. had now grown extensively.

Delaware has two in the list:

  • Professor Lee Anderson, College of Marine Sciences, University of Delaware Newark, Delaware 19716 302-451-2650
  • Professor Burton A Abrams, Department of Economics University of Delaware Newark, Delaware 19716 302-451-2566


[Note: TI budget papers show that each op-ed now earned the economists $3,000. Presentations to conferences earned them $5,000. Savarese was paid $70 to $100,000 pa for this project, and Ogilvy & Mather $250,000.]... See page 5 [29]

1989 Mar 17-19: The Annual Meeting of the Public Choice Society together with the Economic Science Association. These are Hayek-oriented neo-con economists of the kind which gave us the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-9. The speakers list mentions man active members of the economists network: -- some of whom spoke many times. (William Hunter in particular.) It is clear that this society was a profitable recruiting ground for Tollison and Savarese.
The large group of speakers connected with Tollison's Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University completely dominated the conference session on Public Health.

This document also contains a list of the Public Choice Society's participants, many of whom were also members of the economist's network. [30]

1989 April 18: Susan M Stuntz (Issues Manager) at the Tobacco Institute memos her boss Samuel D Chilcote. She is sending him material previously used for a two-day "Gerry Long" presentation. He wants to use it in a shorter one-day (unspecified) briefing session. [Note: Gerald H Long was the CEO of RJ Reynolds who in 1988 had just taken over as Chairman of the Tobacco Institute's Executive Committee and wanted to make changes.] [31] This document has the speaker's power-points, including a list of network economists divided on a State-by-State basis. Note the document is 117 pages [32]
The outline for the Powerpoint slides is here in full, together with the names of the politicians they were required to influence. It boasts that the..

Economists' Network 64 Strong [is] Targeted to Congressional Tax Writing Committees [and utilizing the] Production of Op-Eds on Federal Tax Policy.
[List of economists] [33]

1990 May 7: The Tobacco Institute's "1991 Tax and Social Cost Plans" have sections on

  • Social Costs -- Hearings Readiness (preparation for fielding witnesses at Congressional hearings.) They list here the arguments that the Institute and its allies must be prepared to present.
  • Tax -- Hearing Readiness (as above, but for excise tax increases, State and Federal)
  • List of cash-for-comment network economists in each State. This is an updated list with the current locations of each, with phone numbers and addresses.

    Lee Anderson College of Marine Sciences, University of Delaware. Newark, Delaware 19716 302-451-2650
    Professor Burton Abrams, Department of Economics, University of Delaware Newark, Delaware 19716 302-451-2566 [34]

1991 Jan: /E Tobacco Institute draft plan for 1991 with emphasis on Taxes. These are the economist-related paragraphs:

To discourage reliance on consumer excise taxes on cigarettes to meet social and economic objectives by demonstrating that excise taxes are regressive and inconsistent with fair taxation.

Goals and Tactics:

  • Commission two op-ed articles in 1991 from consulting economists. As articles are published, provide to other Institute decisions for promotion and submission to appropriate policy makers.
  • Conduct at least 10 presentations by consulting economists on the excise tax issue before national, regional and state tax policy conferences.
  • Continue to utilize consulting economists for testimony and briefings. Expand appearances to include presentations to business clubs and the business press. Conduct media refresher courses for public speaking appearance and delivery of testimony.
  • Utilize the consulting economists for an op-ed program that addresses the national earmarking issue and state specific earmarking issues. As articles are published, provide to other Institute divisions and promote to appropriate public policymakers. Use field staff network to support distribution efforts. [35]

1991 Jan 8: Savarese has sent the current list of network economists to Carol Hyrcaj at the Tobacco Institute. It contains three new names, but otherwise is essentially the same at the old lists.
Burton Abrams is on the list but doesn't appear to be active. [36]

1994 March 16: A group of academic economists including almost all the members of the Tobacco Institute's cash-for-comments network sent an "An Open Letter to President Clinton on Healthcare Reform." This had been organised by David J Theroux, the founder and operator of the Independent Institute apparently with the assistance of an academic network member, Simon Rottenberg. [The institute was well-funded by the tobacco industry]. They say:

In The Open Letter to President Clinton, 565 economists and 76 other scholars from all 50 states and the District of Columbia state their firm opposition to any form of direct and indirect price controls in any healthcare program.

Rationing Health Care: The New Threat of Price Controls, by Simon Rottenberg and David J. Theroux

They use the old straw-man scare techniques of the sky-falling.

In countries that have imposed these types of regulations, patients face delays of months and years for surgery, government bureaucrats decide treatment options instead of doctors or patients, and innovations in medical techniques and pharmaceuticals are dramatically reduced.

Which, as anyone who has lived in England, Canada, Australia, etc. knows, is pure rubbish.

Along with Abams and his associates, also on this list of signatories were a number of think-tank lobbyists [including most of the Hoover Institute] and others who worked for the tobacco industry, and the Research Director of the Independent Institute, href="../ATN172/00838.html" class="side"> Robert Higgs,</a> who was also a fill-in network economist.

At sometime early in 1998 the Tobacco Institute and its contractors decide to stop using the names of the network economists on their internal correspondence -- despite the fact that they often attach the article being discussed which carries the by-line of the economist.
Instead of the economist's name, the lists only refer to their affiliated institutions. This was a consequence of both the Master Settlement Agreement and the fact that many leaked tobacco documents were now floating around the Internet.
At much the same time they began using Lance Morgan of the PR firm BSMG as a third cut-out between the Tobacco Institute and James Savarese.

1998 June 18: The Tobacco Institute has had Savarese revive the economists network. However the dealings with Savarese are now conducted through a third party, Lance Morgan at the BSMG Public Relations group.
By now they are very wary of including names in their correspondence (some memos had already found their way to plaintiff lawyers and the internet). The subject of this commissioned op-ed subject is not detailed, but the memo says:

Attached is an invoice from Savarese and Associates for the first half of the cost of their project [$45,000 -- $90,999 overall]. If you need help interpreting the material give me a call or feel free to call Jim, Harry Kaiser or Sandy Parrish for further explanation. [Kaiser ran the union-influencing Labor Management Committee activities with Savarese]

In light of last night's vote, I have been in touch with the group and asked that they, where possible, direct their economic contacts to redraft their pieces to reflect current. circumstances. Thanks for your help.

The group is all referenced by the names of their universities only. The Delaware economist is said to be:

DELAWARE University of Delaware
TARGET PAPER: The News Journal
STATUS: Declined - issue


[BSMG Worldwide is a member of the Interpublic Group -- one of three multi-national, multi-media companies that tie up most of the advertising, PR, polling, campaigning and lobbying companies around the world.]

Independent Institute
The Independent Institute, which is itself a component of the Atlas Group of ultra-free-market think tanks (with links to the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute -- all heavily dependent on commissioned corporate funding) appears to have taken over the role of administrator of the Tobacco Institute's cash-for-comments network at the end of the 1990s. Their research director and journal editor, Robert Higgs, was already a member of the network.

Tobacco funding continued to flow. The Independent Institute may have taken over (from Savarese and Tollison), or just assumed the role of 'warehousing' these academic supporters to insulate them from discovery. The Institute acquired as members the bulk of the cabal of cash-for-comments economists who were still operating, and some who had been retired:

Independent Institute -- Senior Fellows

Also dozens of other academics and writers who provided independent contract services to the tobacco industry -- such as:

Other SourceWatch resources

External links