Craig R. Smith

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

Craig R Smith was an aide to Republican Senator Robert Packwood during the Reagan Administration. He helped devise the Packwood tax plan which proposed to solve Reagan's budget problems by raising excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco -- which immediately raise the ire of the tobacco industry and created a healthy backlash within the Republican party.

Rather than suffering from this rejection, Packwood and Smith devised a second plan which involved establishing a Foundation and Institute which would be financed by tobacco and other industries with political problems, which would oppose the "Fairness Doctrine". This initially gave those people who came under attack on radio or TV the right of reply -- but it became extended to mean that activist groups could demand equal time from the broadcaster to counter advertising, as well as just commentary.

In 1985 after Ronald Reagan's landslide win, Craig Smith was a candidate for the position of Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, under the Reagan spoils system which put attack-dog apparatchiks into leadership positions in agencies in order to destroy their ability to regulate. He didn't get the job. However there was probably more money coming in from the tobacco industry.

The Freedom of Expression Foundation (FEE) was created in 1983 by Packwood, with Craig Smith at its head. They extended the "equal time" counter activities even further after dropping the tax plan idea, by accepting generous tobacco industry donations to counter attempts to limit the rights of the cigarette companies to advertise. Their confected arguments were generally based on First Amendment claims: that freedom of speech by individuals engaged in political discourse, also meant freedom to advertise a product that killed its users.

Freedom of Expression Foundation
Packwood tax plan
Sen. Robert Packwood   &   Craig R Smith
Freedom of Expression Institute
Freedom of Expression Project

These were carrot-and-stick tactics, and the tobacco industry knew it. Packwood was able to lever cash donations to his think-tank out of the tobacco industry by not pushing further for excise tax increases, but lobbying for companies that wanted to maintain the right to advertise without the operations of the Fairness Doctrine.

Obviously the tobacco industry admired such ruthless techniques, and they accepted the Foundation terms being offered and gave it a central role in their battle to preserve the rights to advertise. The FEE was linked to the Tobacco Institute by the Freedom to Advertise Coalition (FAC) (which included many newspaper groups and general media and advertising umbrella associations). Burton Neuborne of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was given the nominal head position with the FAC. Later Packwood and Smith also established the Institute for Freedom of Communications because many potential donors opposed to the Fairness Doctrine didn't want to be associated with defence of tobacco advertising.

Packwood went on to other successes. In the mid 1990s Craig Smith was given a sinecure at the University of Southern California, where he taught "first Amendment Rights" from his position as Director of the Center for First Amendment. [2] He continued to run the Freedom of Expression Foundation collecting tobacco industry grants.[3]

Don't confuse the FEF with the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) which is much later and run by a different group.