Heartland Institute and tobacco

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

This page was calved from Heartland Institute in 2011.

The Heartland Institute's tobacco ties are many. Heartland opposes tobacco control measures such as tobacco tax increases (the Institute denies the health effects of second-hand smoke).

Tobacco ties

Although Heartland calls itself "a genuinely independent source of research and commentary," its has been a frequent ally of, and funded by, the tobacco industry. According to a 1995 internal report by Philip Morris USA (PM) on its corporate contributions budget, the company uses its contributions "as a strategic tool to promote our overall business objectives and to advance our government affairs agenda," in particular by supporting "the work of free market 'think tanks' and other public policy groups whose philosophy is consistent with our point of view. ... [W]e have given general support over the years to such groups as the Heritage Foundation, Heartland Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Washington Legal Foundation and a variety of other organizations that help provide information about the ultimate course of legislation, regulation and public opinion through their studies, papers, op-ed pieces and conferences."[1]

According to the Guardian, The Heartland Insitute maintains a "a full section of its website to alcohol and tobacco, where it encourages skepticism about "professional anti-smoking advocates", questions the hazards of secondhand smoke and argues smoking bans violate property rights," in addition it "has historical ties to the tobacco industry." In a 1999 grant request, Heartland stated "that it "has devoted considerable attention to defending tobacco."[2]

Internal company documents show the following contributions from PM to Heartland (which is probably an incomplete list):

  • Unspecified amounts were given in 2011, 2013, 2014 , 2015, 2016.[2]
  • $25,000 in 1993[3]
  • $65,000 in 1995[4]
  • $50,000 in 1996[5]
  • $50,000 in 1997[6]
  • $50,000 in 1998 (proposed)[7][8]

Roy E. Marden, a former member of Heartland's board of directors, was until May 2003 the manager of industry affairs for the Philip Morris (PM) tobacco company, where his responsibilities included lobbying and "managing company responses to key public policy issues," which he accomplishes by "directing corporate involvement with industry, business, trade, and public policy organizations and determining philanthropic support thereto." In a May 1991 document prepared for PM, Marden listed Heartland's "rapid response network" as a "potential spokesperson" among the "portfolio of organizations" that the company had cultivated to support its interests.[9]

In January 1993, PM executive Craig L. Fuller reported that Heartland was one of the "public policy organizations" being considered to sponsor a "conference on the impact of federal mandates/EPA regulations," as part of PM's strategic response to the EPA's decision that secondhand smoke should be classified as a proven lung carcinogen.[10]

In an April 1993 report, Marden noted that he was "developing strategy and tactics" to defeat legislation in California aimed at restricting smoking in public places. He was "liaising with contacts in the public policy arena (think tanks, public interest legal foundations) and the media to generate editorial, op-eds, letters-to-the-editor and position papers." With the Heartland Institute, he was working "re sponsorship of environmental seminars for interested journalists and legislators throughout the Midwest." Simultaneously, he was talking with PM's Washington office to decide how much money the company should give to public policy organizations in 1993.[11]

Fuller's monthly report for August 1993 noted that he had "leveraged numerous contacts in the public policy arena to generate positive publicity for PM and/or a fair hearing on our issues, with particular reference to the misapplication of science by the EPA and the resulting poor public policy ... and the policy arguments against the use of excise taxes to fund proposed health care reform." The Heartland Institute was one of the contacts they had "leveraged," along with the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Capital Research Center, Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, Consumer Alert, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and the National Center for Policy Analysis. He had also provided "background material" about environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) to "various policy groups and media contacts. As a result, EPA Watch, the Heartland Institute and Capital Research Center wrote commentaries addressing the EPA and ETS. These commentaries are expected to appear in various newspapers around the country."[12]

Marden's monthly report for February 1994 noted that he was "working with the Heartland Institute in the planning of a health policy forum for state-level think tanks to develop a unified strategy and action plan, and in the use of their fax-on-demand technology to promote health care positioning consistent with our interests to legislators, public opinion makers and the public."[13] In April, he reported that he was working with PM's Washington office "and the Heartland Institute in the development of strategy and ally mobilization to preserve the deductibility of tobacco advertising expenditures."[14]

In 1995, the Heartland Institute introduced "PolicyFax," a fax-on-demand service that offered to send thousands of policy position papers by fax as a free service to government officials and journalists. On February 2, 1996, Marden reported that the service would be adding the summary of a report on secondhand smoke. "This telephone service is linked to ALL state legislators and key regional media throughout the country and is free to those audiences," he wrote. "Heartland maintains statistics on documents requested and we will be able to track requests."[15]

Later that month, Heartland president Joseph Bast wrote a letter to Tina A. Walls, PM's Vice President for State Government Affairs, informing her of a collaboration between Heartland and the American Legislative Exchange Council, another PM-supported policy advocacy organization on whose board Walls sits. In a handwritten note at the bottom of the letter, Bast added, "Roy Marden's on our board!"[16]

In 1999, Heartland was listed again in an internal PM document as one of the "portfolio of organizations" with which the company planned to mobilize against a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit, with Heartland's "rapid response network" among the company's "potential third party activities."[17] On October 26 of that year, Marden sent an email to John Ostronic and Frank Gomez in which he listed "the key groups in my portfolio & key actions taken by those groups in opposition to the Fedsuit." Heartland's contributions to the effort included "blast faxes to state legislators, off-the-record briefings, op-eds, radio interviews, letters."[18]

Notwithstanding this long and intimate partnership with the tobacco industry, Heartland president Joe Bast bridled in February 2005 when writer Glenn Fleishman characterized the institute as a "sock puppet of industry" and criticized its role as both a tobacco mouthpiece and an opponent of municipal wi-fi initiatives. "No, there is no 'Philip Morris exec.' on our Board of Directors," Bast wrote in reply to Fleishman's article. Bast did not respond to a query from Fleishman pointing out that a biographical note on the Heartland website indicated that Marden worked at PM.[19] What was unknown was that Marden had left PM in May 2003 and the biographical note on Heartland's website was outdated.

Following SourceWatch's documentation of Heartland's ties to the tobacco industry, the group wrote that Marden "helped convince others in the company to approve contributions to us because of our opposition to high taxes on cigarettes, the abuse of tort law leading up to the Master Settlement Agreement, and other tobacco-related issues. This was not a conflict of interest: All nonprofit organizations put representatives of foundations and corporations on their boards with the expectation that they help “give or get” financial support ... Heartland was speaking up for over-taxed smokers and against nanny state regulations long before Philip Morris offered any funding and before Marden joined the organization’s board."[20]

Bast has also argued that "we do not take positions in order to appease or avoid losing support from individual donors. We have, in fact, a long record of standing behind our research even when it means losing the support of major donors." He also had no response when asked to provide specific examples from its "long record" of publishing reports against the pecuniary interests of its funders.[19]

More recently, in 2006 the Heartland Institute partnered with the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) in "a campaign to change public opinion about tobacco." The campaign will utilize press releases, letters to editors and an effort to win coverage in magazines and journals, according to an article about the partnership on the NPN Market Pulse web site, a news and information site for petroleum and convenience store marketers. Tom Briant, NATO's Executive Director, said, vowed to work to prevent public health smoking restrictions from being enacted in any more states. "We will certainly work to try and prevent similar statewide smoking bans from being adopted in other states," Briant said, "because we believe the owners of bars and restaurants should have the right to determine how they accommodate their customers and not have government dictate those kinds of regulations."[21]

In February 2009 Heartland lists 5 of its personnel as being "Tobacco Policy Experts".[22] These were Joseph Bast, Ralph Connor, the Local Legislation Manager; John Nothdurft, Heartland's Legislative Specialist; Brad Rodu, from the University of Louisville and W. Kip Viscusi, a Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School.

Heartland also currently lists "Tobacco" as being one of its seven priority topic areas. In an essay -- titled "Tobacco and Freedom" -- Heartland's senior fellow - legal affairs, Maureen Martin and President, Joseph L. Bast, argue that smokers already pay too much tax, that proposals for further restrictions on tobacco and smoking are based on "junk science", that lawsuits against the tobacco industry are an example of "lawsuit abuse", that bans on smoking "hurt small businesses and violate private property rights", that the harm caused to smokers can be reduced by "educating" them "about their options" and that restrictions on smokers violate "the basic libertarian principles that ought to limit the use of government force."[23]

The introduction to Heartland's tobacco portal claims that it "cuts through the propaganda and exaggeration of anti-smoking groups by giving you access to the best available research and commentary from scores of independent research organizations, publications, and government sources."[23]

It also promotes Bast's July 2006 book of essays on tobacco, Please Don’t Poop in My Salad. Introducing the book, Heartland concedes that "defending smokers is a thankless task in today’s politically correct environment." While stating that "Bast doesn’t deny that smoking is an unhealthy habit" it argues that cigarette taxes and bans on smoking go too far and that there is a need to respect "the rights of smokers and the owners of bars and restaurants."[23]

Articles and resources


  1. Untitled, Philip Morris, 1995. Bates Number 2045865162/5175. (This document provides an overview of PM USA's Corporate Contributions budget.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Jessica Glenza, Sharon Kelly and Juweek Adolphe Free-market groups and the tobacco industry - full database the Guardian accessed Jan 23 2019
  3. 1993 Corporate Contributions Report for PM USA/ NYO, Philip Morris, 1993. Bates Number 2073010046/0047.
  4. 1995 Public Policy Grants, May 22, 1996. Bates Number 2041273353/3356.
  5. "Public policy recommendations for (With paid Status", Philip Morris, February 25, 1998. Bates Number 2063351196/1220.
  6. 1997 Policy payments for Slavitt", Philip Morris, 1997. Bates Number 2078848138/8147.
  7. D. Nicoli, Public Policy Process 1998", Philip Morris, October 5, 1998. Bates Number 2072783059/3095.
  8. "1998 Public policy Contributors", December 17, 1998. Bates Number 2065243965/3979.
  9. "Industry Affairs Portfolio of Organizations Federal Suit", May, 1991. Bates Number 2078212231/2234.
  10. Craig Fuller, "November/December Monthly Reports", Philip Morris, January 15, 1993. Bates Number 2041424406/4415.
  11. "Monthly Report, April 1993", April 1993. Bates Number 2078212285/2286.
  12. Craig Fuller, "monthly Report", September 16, 1993. Bates Number 2041424327/4336.
  13. REM Monthly Report", February 1994. Bates Number 2078212289/2291.
  14. "REM Monthly Report", February 1994. Bates Number 078212289/2291.
  15. R. Marden, "CRS Report Outreach", February 8, 1996. Bates Number 2046669721.
  16. J.L. Bast, "W9", Heartland Institute, February 26, 1996. Bates Number 2046851411.
  17. "External Affairs Mobilization Universe for DOJ Lawsuit", Philip Morris, February 25, 1999. Bates Number 2076395791/5798.
  18. R. Marden, "Fedsuit Actions/Marden", email, Philip Morris, October 26, 1999. Bates Number 2077575920A/5921.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Joseph Bast, Response to "Sock Puppets of Industry", Wi-Fi News, February 2, 2005. (Scroll to the foot of the page for the note that Bast posted in response to the article.)
  20. "Reply to Our Critics", Heartland Institute, accessed February 2009.
  21. "NATO assesses Nov. 7 results, aims to change public opinion about tobacco", NPN MarketPulse, November 15, 2006.
  22. Heartland Foundation, "Tobacco Policy Experts", Heartland Foundation, accessed February 2009.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Maureen Martin and Joseph L. Bast, "Tobacco and Freedom", Heartland Institute, accessed February 2009.

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