Leon E. Panetta

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

Leon Edward Panetta is a former Congressman who served as Office of Management and Budget director and White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton. He now heads the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.[1]

On January 9, 2009, President-elect Barack Obama named Panetta as his choice to head the Central Intelligence Agency. [2][3]


A biographical note on the website of Panetta Institute for Public Policy states that "Panetta has had a long and distinguished career in public service, ranging from his duty in the U.S. Army to his service as the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. Born in Monterey on June 28, 1938 of Italian immigrant parents, Panetta attended both Catholic and public schools and worked on his family’s farm in Carmel Valley, where he lives today with his wife Sylvia. He earned a B.A. magna cum laude from Santa Clara University and his J.D. from Santa Clara University Law School, where he was an editor of the Law Review. He served as a First Lieutenant in the Army from 1964 to 1966 and received the Army Commendation Medal."[1]

"Panetta first went to Washington in 1966, when he served as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Thomas H. Kuchel of California, the Senate Minority Whip. In 1969, he became Special Assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and then Director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, where he was responsible for enforcement of equal education laws. His book Bring Us Together (published in 1971) is an account of that experience. In 1970, he went to New York City, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Mayor John Lindsay, overseeing the city’s relations with the state and federal governments. Then, in 1971, Panetta returned to California, where he practiced law in the Monterey firm of Panetta, Thompson & Panetta until he was elected to Congress in 1976," it states.[1]

"Panetta was a U.S. Representative from California’s 16th (now 17th) district from 1977 to 1993. As a House member, he was a key participant in the 1990 budget summit as well as every other summit during the 1980’s. He authored the Hunger Prevention Act of 1988; the Fair Employment Practices Resolution extending civil rights protections to House employees for the first time; numerous successful measures to protect the California coast, including creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; legislation that established Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for hospice care for the terminally ill; and other legislation on a variety of education, health, agriculture and defense issues," it states.[1]

"From 1989 to 1993, Panetta was chairman of the House Committee on the Budget. He also served on that committee from 1979 to 1985. He chaired the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Domestic Marketing, Consumer Relations and Nutrition; the House Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Personnel and Police; and the Select Committee on Hunger’s Task Force on Domestic Hunger. He also served as Vice Chairman of the Caucus of Vietnam Era Veterans in Congress and as a member of the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies," it states.[1]

"Panetta left Congress in 1993, at the beginning of his ninth term, to become Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the incoming Clinton administration. In that position, he was instrumental in developing the 1993 budget package that is widely credited with a balanced federal budget and a budget surplus," it states.[1]

"Panetta was appointed Chief of Staff to the President of the United States on July 17, 1994, and served in that position until January 20, 1997. He was the principal negotiator of the successful 1996 budget compromise, and was widely praised for bringing order and focus to White House operations and policy making ... Mr. Panetta served a six-year term on the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange beginning in 1997. He was Chairman of the Committee for Review for the New York Stock Exchange Board of Directors and was Co-Chair of the Corporate Governance and Listing Standards Committee for the Stock Exchange. He served on the National Review Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the board of the National Steinbeck Center, the University of California Santa Cruz Foundation, and since June 1998, he has served on the board of the Santa Clara University Law School Board of Visitors. He also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for Santa Clara University; as a member of the Fleishman-Hillard International Advisory Board; as a trustee for the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula; and as a director for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He is Chairman of the National Board of Advisors of the Center for National Policy as well as Chairman of the Pew Oceans Commission. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for Blue Shield of California; IDT; Zenith; Connetics; the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation; Bread for the World; and Close Up. He lectures nationally and internationally on the state of the economy, the federal budget and other issues facing our nation," it states.[1]

"Mr. Panetta is married to the former Sylvia Marie Varni, who administered his district offices during his service in Congress and continues as a partner in his many activities," it states.[1]

Panetta was appointed Chief of Staff to the President of the United States on July 17, 1994, and served in that position until January 20, 1997.

Involvement with tobacco issues

A 1995 narrative written by "Todd" (who is presumably Todd Haymore, a staffer for then-Congressman L.F. Payne, D-VA) chronicles a series of secret meetings held between the White House and representatives from tobacco-growing states to broker a deal to stop the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's efforts to regulate nicotine a drug. The memo, a chronology of events apparently written to refresh Payne's memory, indicates that then-White House chief of Staff Leon Panetta engaged in secret negotiations with representatives of tobacco-growing states to "remove [FDA Commissioner] Kessler from the radar." Panetta dangled a proposal in front of tobacco companies, telling the representatives that "voluntary action" by tobacco companies on the youth access issue "may be the best way to stop Kessler from attempting to regulate tobacco products."[4]:

"After it became apparent that the FDA/Kessler situation as the greatest problem facing tobacco state members, it was decided that voluntary action by the tobacco companies on youth access issues may be the best way to stop Kessler from attempting to regulate tobacco products. Panetta said that if the industry came forth with a voluntary proposal aimed at reducing youthe access, the administration would removed Kessler/FDA from the radar."[4]

The memo also indicates White House attempts to keep the negotiations secret:

"Panetta stressed the need to keep this meeting and the comments within as quiet as possible. He said that if the meeting or discussions reached the press, the 'negotiations' would be off and the White House would deny knowing about them."[4]

Tobacco-friendly Congressman Thomas Bliley (R-VA) met with tobacco industry leaders and told them about the White House's youth access proposal. The industry put together a proposal and submitted it to Panetta. As a subsequent meeting, Panetta warned Congressmen L.F. Payne (D-VA), Bliley (R-VA) and Charlie Rose (D-NC) "to keep this proposal and this meeting very quiet because media leaks would cancel any further discussions."[4]

Ultimately, then-White House Counsel Abner Mikva reviewed the industry's proposal and made a counter proposal that the industry found unacceptable. There is no way to know the effect these negotiations may have had on tobacco companies ramping up of youth smoking prevention programs in the mid-1990s.[4]


Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 "About the Institute: Leon E. Panetta, Institute Director", Panetta Institute for Public Policy website, accessed February 2009.
  2. Julianna Goldman and Jeff Bliss, "Panetta, Blair Tapped for Top Intelligence Positions," Bloomberg, January 5, 2009
  3. President Barack Obama, "Nominations & Appointments", President Barack Obama's website, accessed February 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Todd Chronology of FDA-Tobacco Events Memorandum. 7 pp. May 23, 1995. Philip Morris Bates No.2074153715/3721
  5. Board of Trustees, Monterey Bay Aquarium, accessed September 18, 2007.
  6. Advisory Board, Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, accessed March 19, 2008.
  7. Directors, Alliance to End Hunger, accessed January 21, 2009.

External resources

External articles

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