Joseph A Cannon

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Joseph A Cannon was an attorney and anti-smoking official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the Reagan Administration. He was part of a politically-oriented spoils cabal of EPA executives which directed an attack on regulations, reduced agency funding, and promoted less regulatory activities. These were Reagan's colleagues and supporters from the Sagebrush Rebellion who worked to gut the agency. They were led by beer barron Joseph Coors, the Secretary of the Interior James Watt, and they acted with the compliance of EPA Administrator, Anne Gorsuch Burford.

Cannon was given the EPA job as part of the Reagan spoils system following his election win in November 1980. Cannon had been a member of the Reagan-Bush Campaign Committee staff, and now he became the special assistant for regulatory reform at the EPA during the first Reagan term. However he was the exception which 'proves' the rule (in the sense of 'testing it') -- he provided protection for the vocal scientist/activist James Repace at the EPA who battled against air pollution. Repace was constantly coming under attack from the tobacco industry.

Cannon was a committed conservative Republican, and he later became a director of Newt Gingrich's Empower America organisation.

Documents & Timeline

1981 Jul 1 President Reagan himself nominated three top EPA officials at the beginning of his first term under 'guidance' from Joseph Coors. Anne Gorsuch Burford was to be the Administrator. Under her would be:

  • John Horton, to be EPA Assistant Administrator for Administration (ex New Jersey engineer and businessman)
  • John A Todhunter, Assistant Administrator for Pesticides and Toxic Subtances
  • Kathleen M Bennett, Assistant Administrator fo Air Noise and Radiation.

Administrator Anne Gorsuch then filled new posts created as part of the agency's reorganisation:

  • Frank Shepherd, Associate Administrator for Legal Counsel and Enforcement (ex Miami lawyer)
  • Nolan E Clark Associate Administrator for Policy and Resource Maangement(Washington lawyer)
  • William A Sullivan Jr. Associate Administrator for Legal Counsel and Enforcement (ex lawyer/consultant to steel communities)
  • Robert M Perry, EPA General Counsel (Houston corporate trial attorney)
  • John E Daniel, Chief of Staff for Administrator (ex lawyer and Washington Representative)
  • Thornton W Field, Administrator's special assistant for hazardous wastes (enver attorney and regulatory affairs specialist)
  • Kitty Adams, special assistant for regulatory reform (environmental consultant and leg. assistant to US Senate)
  • Joseph A Cannon, special assistant for regulatory reform (Washington attorney)
  • Christopher J Capper, Special Assistant/Acting Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response. (no background)
    (Replaced by Rita Lavelle at Coor's request)
  • Paul Milbauer, special assistant to the Administrator and adviser on toxic substances
  • Byron Nelson III, Director, Office of Public Affairs (ex journalist and Senatorial press secretary)


1981 Joe Cannon's eventual title was Assistant for Regulatory Reform to EPA Administrator Gorsuch during the first Reagan Administration. [3]

1981 Jul 1 Environmental Health Letter (Gershon Fishbein) says Anne Gorsuch, Reagan's head of the EPA, has named numerous new EPA execs.

  • Steven J. Durham, who served in the Colorado legislature with EPA Administrator Anne M. Gorsuch, has been designated EPA's regional rep in Denver, covering the Mountain States area. A resident of Colorado Springs, he is currently general manager of Seven Falls Co., which operates a major tourist facility.
  • Charles R, Jeter, director of the water pollution control program in the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, has been appointed regional EPA rep in Atlanta; he was the president last year of the Association of State & Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators. [Other EPA appointments: ]
  • John E. Daniel, former director of legislative affairs for the American Paper Institute, as chief of staff.
  • Frank A. Shepherd, a Miami attorney who has represented several large corporations, asassociate administrator for legal counsel and enforcement.
  • Robert M. Perry, an attorney for Exxon in Houston, as general counsel.
  • Nolan E. Clark, a Washington attorney, as associate administrator for policy and resource management.
  • William A, Sullivan, Jr., an attorney who represented cities with large steel mills, as deputy associate administrator for legal counsel and enforcement.
  • Thornton W. Field, an attorney for Adolph Coors Co., as special assistant for hazardous wastes.
  • Joseph A. Cannon, an attorney and member of the Reagan-Bush Campaign Committee staff, as special assistant for regulatory reform
  • Kitty Adams, former aide to the Business Roundtable, as special assistant for regulatory reform.


1981 July 15 A letter shows that staff from the tobacco industry's contractor Arthur D Little had a meeting with Joseph A Cannon at the EPA. He was then the Assistant for Regulatory Reform. They were dealing with the PSD requirement: they wanted a "grandfathering" clause that would exclude from EPA control any of the older plants.

President Reagan had just issued a new Executive Order requiring a Regulatory Impact Analysis before the EPA took action on polluters.

Joe Cannon seemed very optimistic about the prospects of the Reagan Administration being able to push its Clean Air Bill through the Congress this year. We questioned him pretty strongly about this, but he remained unshaken.[5]

1982 June Environmental Health Letters reports that:

EPA is going through a series of top-level management shifts, partly—but not entirely—resulting from the withdrawal of the nomination of Denver lawyer James Sanderson for the post of Assistant Administrator for Policy and Resource Management, the No. 3 post in the agency (behind Administrator Anne M. Gorsuch and Deputy Administrator John Herhandez).

Immediately after withdrawal of the Sanderson nomination, EPA appointed Joseph A. Cannon as Associate Administrator for Policy and Resource Management, where he has been acting since last September. It should be noted that the post of Associate Administrator does not require Senate confirmation; Assistant Administrator, for which Sanderson was to be nominated, does require it.

Sanderson was an attorney representing Chemical Waste Management, the Denver Water Board, and other clients including Chevron Shale Oil, Snowmass and Adolph Coors Co., while simultaneously serving as a paid Special Assistant/advisor to EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch. The EPA was dealing with the Colorado Water Quality Standards issue at that time, and she must have been aware of his lobbying work.[6] [7]

{The) EPA sought to avoid the Sanderson flap by asking the White House to nominate John Daniel, now chief of staff at EPA (which does not require Senate confirmation) to the post of Assistant Administrator, for which he presumably would have no trouble being confirmed. Then, according to our sources, Sanderson would be appointed to Daniel's post. The White House is understood to have rejected the plan.

Cannon will be responsible for policy analysis, regulatory reform, the budget, standards, regulations and management systems and evaluation. Cannon, 32, served in two Washington law firms before joining EPA in May 1981 as special assistant to the Administrator,[8]

1984 Dec Cannon was also now the boss of Repace. Philip Morris executive lobbyist Amy Millman believed that Cannon was anti-smoking and a member of the anti-smoking group GASP [9]

1984 Dec 13 Following the disastrous forced-firing of James Watt, Anne Gorsuch Burford and about 30 corrupt EPA executives (late 1983), the old EPA boss William Ruckelhaus was brought in to restructure the EPA. He was not a zealot at gutting the EPA. Sam Chilcote, the CEO of the Tobacco Institute remarked at an Annual Meeting about their attempts to rebuild relationships: Re: the Reagan Administration and the EPA:

The administration's nominee for head of the EPA is Lee Thomas. The good news is that we understand he is a reasonable man.

The bad news is that under Thomas will be two men in key positions who are known anti-smokers. Joseph Cannon, Assistant Administrator for Air, in charge of the $75,000 study mentioned in Mr. Milway's comments (checking for dangerous smoke levels in air-craft cabins), and James Repace, who claims that cigarette smoke in the air kills between 500-5,000 nonsmokers annually.

One month ago, we asked prominent medical researcher, Dr. Sorell Schwartz of Georgetown University, to critique Repace's work. We will use that critique in briefings with EPA officials. The EPA, under Bill Ruckelshaus, was not afraid to sanction its own staff when they did shoddy work. We hope that tradition continues.

We are fortunate to have Dr. Schwartz's assistance. One of our greatest weaknesses is our lack of qualified medical researchers to help us refute the anti-smokers with legislative testimony, public appearances and articles . Covington & Burling is actively attempting to identify and develop such experts. [10]

Sorell Schwartz ran the first of the WhiteCoats groups of compliant mercenary scientists for the tobacco industry out of Georgetown University. They recruited WhiteCoats through the Washington (and European) law firm, Covington & Burling. This first group was known as the Indoor Air Pollution Advisory Group (IAPAG).

1985 Cannon left the EPA shortly after Reagan's landslide win for his second term.

1987 According to his biographical note Cannon was working as a corporate attorney. He then joined "the acquisition team in the purchase of Geneva Steel from USX Corporation in 1987".

1991 (later biographical note) Mr. Cannon was inducted into the Utah Business Hall of Fame in 1991. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Enterprise Institute, the Board of Directors of Empower America, the Board of Directors of Coalitions for America and the Board of Directors of the Deseret News Publishing Company. He is a member of the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee and the Brigham Young University National Advisory Council. [11]

1994 Sep 12 Cannon is now a Director of Newt Gingrich's Empower America (the successor to the Coor-funded Sagebrush Rebellion and Wise Use movement). His associates have sent a letter to Craig Fuller (once his White House link at the EPA -- now a Philip Morris executive) requesting the company's attendance at a fund-raising dinner on the SS Intrepid hosted by Steve Forbes, Fuller is offered the title of "Vice Chairman" of this new organisation if he can sell tickets to a table of 10 at only $1000 a ticket. This will also give him a lobbying lunch with Jeane Kirkpatrick (Reagan's United Nations Ambassador).

Empower America now has a membership of 400,000 under the leadership of Newt Gingich, Trent Lott and Lamar Alexander - which can provide the company with contact services. The sales pitch is: "We have become a prominent voice in the national policy debate, participating in issues of healthcare, welfare, crime and economics" and "we need your help to continue to challenge the Clinton administration's destructive policies which threaten us as individuals and as a nation." [12]

1995 Joseph A. Cannon is a director of Eagle Publishing, the parent company of the conservative publishing house, Regnery Publishing. He joined the board in 1995.


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