TASSC (Doc. Index)

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

This is the tobacco archives documents index. See TASSC for the basic entry.

The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition was one of the tobacco industry's most successful front groups. It became the arbiter among many gullible journalists and TV personalities as tp what was sound science and what was junk-science. The ramifications of this carefully-constructed science cynicism extended to effect legislation and regulations to control many poisoning and polluting industries, quite apart from the cigarette business, This was particularly in areas like dioxin poisoning (Agent Orange) and fossil fuels (Edison Institute and energy lobbyists) and the widespread disbelief in climate change.

In the early 1990s the tobacco industry was fighting a rear action to diminish the impact of a number of epidemiological studies which had implicated environmental tobacco smoke (ETS - passive smoking) in the increased rates of lung-cancer among non-smokers. They employed a PR company, controlled by the boardroom lawyers for Philip Morris, Arnold & Porters (A&P), to create an organisation that could be used to attack science in general, rather than tobacco research in particular.

In 1992 the basic idea of TASSC was handed over to Philip Morris's (virtually) private public relations firm APCO (originally the real-estate holding company of PM's boardroom law-firm Arnold & Porter's …. A&P Co …. became APCO …. became APCO Worldwide). APCO) hired ex Governor Garrey Curruthers to run this new operation, but he proved to be useless, and he was replaced by a young lobbyist Steven J Milloy. Milloy had previously worked as Executive Director in Don Ritter's NEPI (National Environmental Policy Institute), which was funded by both the tobacco industry and a section of the oil industry (to oppose the SuperFund clean ups). He was also a registered lobbyist with the EOP Group and had also worked for two other substantial pseudo-science service providers to the tobacco industry: EPAN, and Thorne G. Auchter/Jim Tozzi's Multinational Business Services (MBE).

Milloy took over "The Advancement of Sound Science Association" (TASSC) and, with the active involvmeent of APCO and his old PR/lobbying firms, he managed to gain support from industries other than tobacco. These corporate science executives, together with some individual support from a handful of scientific mavericks and professional industry cash-for-science consultants became members of this new coalition. There are always a few genuine-but-eccentric scientists who imagine that a malign scientific establishment existed which determined who is, and who is not, politically correct, so keeping them from reaching their full genius potential. So some of these members may actually have been legitimate.

Milloy proved to be a good salesman of these ideas and he was particularly adept at promoting the concept of a world inundated by "junk science" churned out by sloppy scientists. He popularised the term "Junk-Science" to match another libertarian slogan, 'Nanny State', also being promoted by the tobacco industry.

The tobacco industry was hoping to use TASSC to discredit the regulatory efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), all of which had vigorous anti-smoking programs. TASSC was to become a front to promote the message that some research was "sound-science" (that which found no evidence of harm by passive smoking) and the other was "junk science". By becoming the general arbiter in the popular media of which scientific reports (general, not just tobacco) was sound and which was junk, they were able to discount (or to use Milloy's favourite term "debunk") all smoking-and-health research. They also had other media manipulation plans. By 1993 TASSC claimed to have 300 scientist as members (who apparently never met): but this was the early era of the on-line activist, and so it may have had many signed-up supporters, since it didn't cost anything to join. It did, of course, have a large number of grantees and scientific consultants working for the tobacco industry who lent their name to support TASSC's membership and committee claims.

Like many of the tobacco documents, many TASSC/APCO documents show that they felt it important to keep up the pretence of a real association with real members in case documents were ever leaked. Philip Morris gave the overall supervision of this project to Ellen Merlo, widely known as "Czarina" who was second in command of PMI (International) Corporate Affairs, which ran most of the early dirty-tricks projects. She was supported by Senior staffers Vic Han, and Tom Borelli.

Documents & Timeline

1992 Sep 23 A proposal from APCO to Philip Morris outlines a program for TASSC in 1994. They are about to launch the coalition in the Fall, and claim to have support from 300 business, industry, scientific and academic members :

"We are very excited about the development and progress of TASSC .... We have recently conducted a survey of current TASSC members to enlist their input on issues, programs and activities.

[Note: Many of these claims are so 'over the top' that it's often difficult to know how much of this was a con-job -- since they were charging Philip Morris for building a real membership, and some of the board may actually have believed them. They were, of course, recruiting corrupt scientists from other industries. Science corruption was, and still is, a major sector of industry worldwide.]

The outline includes

(ii) broadening the funding base of TASSC.
(iii) conduction an on-going and comprehensive research program (finding science reports to criticise)
(iv) directing the activities and involvement of Garrey Caruthers and other key leaders.

(v) coordinating and directing outreach to the scientific and academic communities....

[Note: Garrey Curruthers was the ex-Governor of New Mexico who had been recruited by APCO at $5,000 a month to act as the front for TASSC. Steve Milloy was a registered Washington lobbyist, who was bought in initially behind the scenes to run the Public Information Bureau. Later Curruthers was pushed out (he was useless) and Milloy assumed the official title of Executive Director.]

By persuading other industries with poisoning and polluting problems to support the 'coalition' they would reduce the obvious pro-tobacco slant of any press releases and publications. TASSC's real value to the cigarette companies was in keeping criticism of science, general, rather than making specific attacks on anti-tobacco/health research. If TASSC maintain credibility by having multiple funders, the organisation's spokesmen (Steve Milloy) could deny under oath that this was a "tobacco-funded" or a "tobacco-controlled" organisation. It could possibly also establish claim to a tax-free status as a promoter of science.

Milloy excelled with the "junk-science" line: among sections of the American media he became the arbiter of what was good science and what was on the nose. He has a good sarcastic pen, and wrote well, and he had the resources of APCO's "IssueNet" computerised global monitoring organisation, and the old Newman Partners Ltd (NPL) database of information constructed for Philip Morris. This provided him with the raw material for quick criticism which could be turned into quick press-releases, widely picked up and used by a lazy newspaper industry. Since Rupert Murdoch was close friends with fellow Australians Geoff Bible and Bill Murray who jointly ran Philip Morris International in New York (Murdoch was on the PM board, and they were on Fox and News Ltd boards) Milloy also had the luxury of a regular spot on Fox News.

To run this operation APCO wanted