Dolphin Group

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

The Dolphin Group is a U.S. public relations firm with offices in Sacramento and Los Angeles. The Dolphin Group has worked for the Philip Morris tobacco company, including running the unsuccessful campaign for Proposition 188, a 1994 California ballot initiative bankrolled by big tobacco interests.

Until late 2005 the company's website boasted that "everything we do is designed to change the perceptions of an individuals or group - to get them to think differently - and to ultimately persuade them to change their behaviour."[1]


The firm was founded in 1974 by Bill Roberts, who had been a partner in Spencer Roberts, the company hired by Ronald Reagan to run his first successful campaign for California Governor in 1966.[2] (Roberts died in 1988.)[1]

In 1988, the Dolphin Group created the infamous Willie Horton ads, which used racist imagery to derail the U.S. presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis.

The Dolphin Group and Tobacco

In 1991 the Dolphin Group conducted a misleading survey of restaurant owners, which claimed to find that smoking bans in restaurants would hurt business. The survey asked restaurateurs how much business they thought they lost during a ban on smoking in Beverly Hills, California; it didn't attempt to quantify those losses using any sort of objective measure. They survey was repeated in Bellflower, California after a clean indoor air law was enacted in that community. Both surveys reported a 30 percent loss in business following the enactment of a clean indoor air law. But a study of sales receipts commissioned by the city of Bellflower showed that restaurant revenues in that city actually rose by 2.4 percent during the smoking ban. The Dolphin Group survey became the subject of a Consumer Reports article (May 1994) titled, "The 30 Percent Myth," that described the misleading use of such anecdotally-derived statistics. The survey was conducted for Restaurants for a Sensible Voluntary Policy, a tobacco industry front group. Dolphin Group executive Fred Karger also ran the California Business and Restaurant Alliance, another tobacco industry front group.

The tobacco industry spent more than $18 million to promote Proposition 188, a "Trojan Horse" measure that was billed as a tobacco control measure but was actually an attempt to water down tough local and state smoking restrictions. Former Dem. State Assemblyman Terry Friedman called it "the most deceptive campaign in my quarter century of close observation of local politics." During the campaign, the Dolphin Group set up a deceptively-named front group calling itself Californians for Statewide Smoking Restrictions, and spent $8 million on direct mail and outdoor advertising. The proposition failed, however, after voters learned of the deception.

The Dolphin Group and the California "Living Wage" Initiative

In July 2000, the Dolphin Group represented hotel interests in Santa Monica, California in promoting a similar piece of "Trojan Horse" legislation -- a "living wage" initiative that was actually intended to override living wage legislation by the Santa Monica city council.[3]


Los Angeles

Sacramento Michael Boccadoro


On its website the Dolphin Group lists part of its past and present clients, as at May 2008, as[4]:

  • Aetna Life and Casualty
  • Agricultural Energy Consumers
  • Alliance of Western Milk Producers
  • Altria Corporate Services
  • Banfield
  • Bixby Ranch Company
  • California/Nevada Credit Union League
  • California Farm Bureau Federation
  • California Licensed Beverage Assoc.
  • California Poultry Federation
  • California Table Grape Industry
  • California Strawberry Industry
  • California-Tahoe Conservancy
  • Central Valley Project Water Authority
  • Chino Basin Coalition
  • Coalition for a Sustainable Delta
  • Coca Cola, Inc.
  • Community Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) Competitive Power Ventures
  • Cucamonga Valley Water District
  • Diageo
  • Donahue Schriber
  • General Motors, Inc.
  • Hilmar Cheese Co.
  • Inland Empire Utilities Agency
  • Kern River Gas Transmission Agency
  • Kraft Foods, Inc.
  • Marriott International
  • Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
  • Miller Brewing Company
  • Oregon Licensed Beverage Assoc.
  • Presley of Southern California
  • Republican Local Elected Official Committee
  • Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA)
  • Southern California Edison
  • Southern California Water Committee
  • Southern San Joaquin Irrigation District
  • Sunworld International, Inc.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
  • Warmington Homes
  • West Basin Municipal Water District
  • Californians for Clean, Safe, Reliable Water – Yes on Proposition 204
  • Californians for Responsible Food Laws – C.A.R.E.F.U.L. – Yes on Proposition 135
  • Californians for Statewide Smoking Restrictions – Yes on Proposition 188
  • Citizens for a Fair Farm Labor Law – No on Proposition 14
  • Citizens for the Republic – President Regan’s Political Action Committee
  • Committee for the Presidency – Independent Expenditure Committee in support of George Bush for President
  • Crime Victims for Court Reform (California) – No Vote on Supreme Court Justices Bird, Grodin and Reynoso
  • Deukmejian for Attorney General (California)
  • Deukmejian for Governor (California)
  • President Ford Committee
  • National Republican Senatorial Committee
  • Reagan/Bush Committee (1980 and 1984)
  • Thone for Governor (Nebraska)

Numerous local and regional initiative/referendum campaigns, including:

  • Santa Monicans Against the Living Wage – No on Measure JJ (Santa Monica, CA)
  • Contra Costa Consumers for Choice - No on Measure L (Contra Costa County, CA)
  • Rosemead Neighbors Against the Recall (Rosemead, CA)
  • Citizens for a Better Glendora - Yes on Measure D (Glendora, CA)
  • Friends of Quarry Bend - Yes on Referendum One (Sandy, UT)
  • Citizens Against Measure R - No on R (Lodi, CA)

Contact Details

11620 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 410
Los Angeles, California 90024
Phone: 310 446 4800
Fax: 310 446 1896

925 L Street, Suite 800
Sacramento, California 95814
Phone: 916 441 4383
Fax: 916 441 4132

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Dolphin Group", The Dolphin Group website, September 2005.
  2. Honoring Ronald Reagan", Spencer-Roberts website, accessed May 2008.
  3. Jorge Casuso, "Major Conservative Consulting Firm Pushes Hotel Backed Wage Initiative", The Look Out, July 17, 2000.
  4. "Partial List of Past and Present Clients", The Dolphin Group website, accessed May 2008.

Other SourceWatch Resources

External links

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