The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) is a now-defunct, industry-funded PR front group run by the APCO Worldwide public relations firm. It provide the tobacco and chemical industries with a way to hang the "junk science" label on environmentalists and health activists. Originally the ex-Governor of New Mexico, Garrey Curruthers was hired in to front it, but he proved totally incompetent, and so a back-room lobbyist, Steven J Milloy, working for EOP and Jim Tozzi was transferred to the front-of-house operations, and proved to be an excellent network personality and self-publicist. He became known as the "Junk-man" and earned himself a spot on Fox TV news as a resident contrarian.
TASSC was created in 1993 as a front for Philip Morris which was attempting to discredit second-hand smoke, known as ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) research as a long-term cause of increased cancer and heart problems in the community -- especially among office workers and children living with smoking parents. In January 1993, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had finally firmed up on its opposition to second-hand smoke and published its determination that ETS was a "Class A" ('known') carcinogen, responsible for about 3,000 premature deaths each year.
APCO billed the tobacco company $25,000 a month to run the TASSC operation. And Rupert Murdoch, who was both a board member of Philip Morris and a close associate of the triumvirate who ran the company, promoted Milloy by giving him a special "Junk Science" spot on Fox TV News. This sealed Milloy's popularity and made him a news-worthy science celebrity - with his own blog. He promoted the need for "sound science" ... which implied that most of the EPA's research work was not. 
TASSC was always a phantom scientific organisation run by a couple of lobbyists. However through on-line sign-up to become a 'member' of TASSC, eventually claimed hundreds of members and they were able to run a mail-fundraising campaign. People were more gullible then.
TASSC did have a paid 'Advisory Board' of corrupt scientific entrepreneurs who already worked for the tobacco industry, and the organisation (if it actually ever existed) also sloughed off a couple of short-lived on-line subsidiaries and forums. It's effects were enormously amplified by the early development of the Internet at a time when there were very few competing forums. Junkscience.com proved to be a memorable URL which became popular with rebellious teenagers and people who prided themselves as contrarians.
Steve Milloy promoted an antagonistic positions on a wide range of popular scientific consensus positions, including global warming, the dangers of smoking, nuclear radiation, EMF problems, phthalates, pesticides, dioxins and DDT. He had a well-developed, if laboured, sarcastic turn of phrase which went down well with teenagers. Probably his most destructive stance was the position he took on climate denial, although promoting doubts about the dangers of smoking goes close.
The value of using humour and creating an diverse defence for a wide range of industry poisoning and pollutant problems was:
- it kept the junk-science claims simple, general, and easy for the lay-person to understand (he tapped into the pre-Trumpian belief that scientists were biased, stupid, over zealous, etc.).
- it removed or reduced suspicions that this was a tobacco front operation. (It was widely suspected to a be chemical industry front.)
- it brought funding in from other allied industries, and extended tobacco's value-for-input benefits.
- it played on the back-lash against personal correctness [PC] by implying that health activists were puritans, or simply anti-corporate zealots mired in the past.
- 1 Euro-TASSC
- 2 A "Sound Science" Award for Gina Kolata's Reporting on Silicon Breast Implants
- 3 Junk Science
- 4 The Whitecoat Project
- 5 Citizens for the Integrity of Science
- 6 Funders
- 7 Founding member scientists
- 8 Articles and resources
- 9 Resources
Later, Philip Morris and APCO extended the role of TASSC to the UK and Europe using the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think-tank to create an organisation known widely in the tobacco documents as "Euro-TASSC". The IEA had the ear of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (on retirement she became a Philip Morris lobbyist). It was eventually renamed the European Science & Environment Forum (ESEF) and run by their full-time environmental lobbyist Roger Bate, a life-long staffer at the IEA. 
Dr. George Carlo who helped set the ground-work for TASSC and remained on its "Advisory Board", was simultaneously working for Dow Chemicals (dioxins and breast implants); the Cellular Telephone Industry Association (opposing the need for research into the GSM/D-AMPS pulsed EMF power); and the energy companies (global warming). See World Health Organisation's 2000 report. He was associated with Milloy for many years.
A "Sound Science" Award for Gina Kolata's Reporting on Silicon Breast Implants
In 1995 TASSC awarded New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata its "Sound Science in Journalism Award." Announcing the award TASSC Chairman Garrey Carruthers praised Kolata "who responsibly detailed in a series of stories how science has been distorted and manipulated to fuel litigation concerning silicone breast implants." 
Explaining their award to Gina Kolata TASSC wrote that she "wrote several articles on how science has been distorted and manipulated to advance implant-related litigation. Why it was chosen: Everyone seemed to be afraid to talk about it -- the FDA has treated the issue like a hot potato and respected scientific researchers and medical professionals were criticized and harassed when they spoke out. It would have been an easy issue to avoid, but Kolata courageously took it on. Her articles were well-balanced and presented the strong scientific case -- and why it had been distorted in the first place -- for silicone breast implants." 
George Carlo who had an important behind-the-scenes role with TASSC had a contract with Dow Corning for $1.3 million over breast implant rupture safety through his Health & Environmental Sciences Group. The most senior member of his staff, Martha Embrey was working on the silicon breast implant problem, and Carlo had registered the Breast Implant Public Health Project (BIPHP) as a Delaware company, specifically for lobbying work on behalf of Dow.  
"Public health professionals need to be aware that the "sound science" movement is not an indigenous effort from within the profession to improve the quality of scientific discourse, but reflects sophisticated public relations campaigns controlled by industry executives and lawyers whose aim is to manipulate the standards of scientific proof to serve the corporate interests of their clients. " 
The Philip Morris effort also spawned the "junk science" home page. junkscience.com writer/editor/publisher Steven Milloy worked for TASSC, ultimately as its executive director before the sham operation was allowed to fade out of existence:
"...by 1995, a TASSC Web site was being planned with PM to distribute scientific papers and polls to support PM's position. 44 TASSC and its Web site are now defunct, but its executive director Steve Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute (a libertarian think tank in Washington, DC, that has received funds from the tobacco industry), now produces a "junk science" Web site. Milloy's Web site continues TASSC's original work in criticizing and "debunking" the science behind public health and environmental issues, including secondhand smoke."
After TASSC was exposed as a tobacco front through the release of the tobacco industry files, Milloy joined forces with Bonner Cohen who had previously run the "EPA Watch" newsletter for APCO and the tobacco industry. They registered a company "The Advancement of Sound Science Corporation".
The Whitecoat Project
One of the forerunners of TASSC at Philip Morris was a 1988 "Proposal for the Whitecoat Project," named after the white laboratory coats that scientists sometimes wear. The project had four goals: "Resist and roll back smoking restrictions. Restore smoker confidence. Reverse scientific and popular misconception that ETS is harmful. Restore social acceptability of smoking."
To achieve these goals, the plan was to first "generate a body of scientific and technical knowledge" through research "undertaken by whitecoats, contract laboratories and commercial organizations"; then "disseminate and exploit such knowledge through specific communication programs." Covington & Burling, PM's law firm, would function as the executive arm of the Whitecoat Project, acting as a "legal buffer ... the interface with the operating units (whitecoats, laboratories, etc.)."
The effort to create a scientific defense for secondhand smoke was only one component in the tobacco industry's multi-million-dollar PR campaign. To defeat cigarette excise taxes, a Philip Morris strategy document outlined plans for "Co-op efforts with third party tax organizations"--libertarian anti-taxation think tanks, such as Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Citizens for Tax Justice and the Tax Foundation. Other third party allies included the National Journalism Center, the Heartland Institute, the Claremont Institute, and National Empowerment Television, a conservative TV network.
In one memo to Philip Morris CEO Michael A. Miles, vice president Craig L. Fuller noted that he was "working with many third party allies to develop position papers, op-eds and letters to the editor detailing how tobacco is already one of the most heavily regulated products in the marketplace, and derailing arguments against proposed bans on tobacco advertising." 
In April 1996, Milloy proclaimed himself a public health expert and began turning out a stream of anti-environmental, anti-public health commentary through his "Junk Science" homepage (www.junkscience.com). The site claims to debunk bad science used by "lawsuit-happy trial lawyers, the 'food police,' environmental Chicken Littles, powerdrunk regulators, and unethical-to-dishonest scientists to fuel specious lawsuits, wacky social and political agendas, and the quest for personal fame and fortune." Although Milloy's Junk Science Home Page does not disclose its specific funding source, the website, Citizens for the Integrity of Science [in 1999], and the debunked TASSC share the same address at 1155 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 300 in Washington, DC. 
The phone number for junkscience.com is registered to TASSC and Milloy previously worked for the dubious public relations EOP Group) at 1155 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 300 in Washington, DC. This is the same phone number and address Milloy has used for the Citizens for the Integrity of Science, Junkscience.com, NoMoresScares.com, and of course, the defunct The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. The fax number used on numerous press releases over the years is "an interoffice fax" at 1155 Connecticut Ave NW,. according to a simple internet search.
Citizens for the Integrity of Science
A previous Sourcewatch investigator commented:
The internet site, CFIS.org (Citizens for the Integrity of Science), is registered to Steve Milloy's home address in posh Potomac, MD, with Steve Milloy listed as the administrative contact. So who is actually paying for junkscience.com? We don't know, and Milloy has repeatedly refused to disclose his patrons.
CFIS does appear to have some sort of board, though we know of only two members, including Milloy. In a May 11,1999 Freedom of Information Act filed by Citizens for the Integrity of Science posted on the Junkscience web page, Steve Milloy listed himself and Michael Gough of the Competitive Enterprise Institute as "Directors" of Citizens for the Integrity of Science, with TASSC's old 1155 Connecticut address and contact info, which is also Milloy's current business address. 
Milloy, an 'Adjunk' Scholar at Cato Institute  would have encountered Rupert Murdoch during Murdock's term as Cato Director -- thus leading to Milloy's Junk Science columns on Fox News website and newspapers. For many years, including Murdoch's term, a Philip Morris V.P. sat on Cato's board, which probably sufficiently explains Milloy's appearance on Cato's payroll.
We now know that this scam was set up and run by APCO directly for Philip Morris.
|Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives|
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.
Although TASSC was set up and run specifically for the tobacco industry initially, it was quickly apparent that it gained credibility by widening its attack, with a special emphasis on the (claimed) harmlessness of dioxins (Agent Orange and Dow Chemical's Roundup herbicide), and on what it maintained was the fiction of global warming.
|TASSC's later funders include:|
|Dow Chemical||General Motors||Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory||Lorillard Tobacco|
|Louisiana Chemical Association||National Pest Control Association||Occidental Petroleum||Philip Morris|
|Procter & Gamble||Santa Fe Pacific Gold||W.R. Grace.|||
Founding member scientists
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, "TASSC, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition", 1995. Bates Number 2048294227/4237
- "Tobacco Strategy" (internal company memorandum), Philip Morris, March 1994.
- "Defending Hot Air: TASSC Takes On Global Warming", PR Watch, Volume 4 Number 3, 3rd quarter 1997.
- Bob Burton and Sheldon Rampton, "Thinking Globally, Acting Vocally: The International Conspiracy to Overheat the Earth", PR Watch, Volume 4 Number 4, 4th quarter 1997.
- "ACSH vs. Ashes: Tobacco's Worst Enemy, or a Smoke Screen?", PR Watch, Volume 5 Number 4, 4th quarter 1998.
- Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, "How Big Tobacco Helped Create 'the Junkman'", PR Watch, Volume 7 Number 3, 3rd quarter 2000.
- Chris Mooney, "The Fraud of "Sound Science"", the gadflyer v1.1
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