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Economics Professor Kenneth Greene of the State University of New York was one of the founding member of the Cash for Comments Economists Network run by his associate, Robert Tollison (George Mason University) and lobbyist James Savarese]] for the tobacco industry. This was a Tobacco Institute operation that maintained a list of about 50 compliant professors of economics (one to each state) who were willing to secretly work for the tobacco industry by mainly writing op-ed articles for their local newspapers, appearing at local ordinance hearings, and sending letters to their Congressmen. They generally earned about $1000 a time from mid-1984 to 2000.
|HOW THE NETWORK WORKED|
The Cash-for-Comments Economists' Network was run by Savarese through a partnership with Professor Robert D Tollison who used the staff and facilities of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University to prove cut-out and organisation services. They developed and maintained a network of Economics Professors with at least one on tap in virtually every US state. As one Professor transferred or dropped out (there was a regular turn-over) a new one would be recruited in that State. In all, about 130 university professors were involved in the period 1985-1995, and costs ran to $3 million/year at a time when professor's salaries were in the $30-40,000 pa range. An active network member at a State university could almost double his normal salary.
The main focus of the group was to write commissioned op-ed articles on a subject determined by the Tobacco Institute. The draft article would then pass back through the network to TI staff, who were essentially public relations experts. Here they were 'improved' and refined; then sent to the Institute's outside lawyers for vetting. Modified articles then returned to the professor, who would then send them to a designated State newspaper as if they were his 'independent expert opinion'. The professors received a base amount for writing and bonuses for successfully planting the article on the newspaper. Some, but not all, received a small (eg.$1000) annual retainer.]Published papers would also be copied by the professor and sent to his local Federal Representative and Senator (for a further bonus). Sometimes there were special commissions, but generally the work was writing op-eds and LTE's where they were paid just on results (varied from about $700 to $3000 over the years). Network members could also be called upon to provide witness services and promote the cigarette companies' political/economic line at local ordinance or State legislative hearings. An active professor of economics at a State University could almost double his salary with these activities and with some further appearances, for instance, speaking on the importance of cigarettes in economic terms at major economic conferences, etc.
|Cash for Comments Economists Network & Robert Tollison & James Savarese & Network Document Index|
Documents & Timeline
1984 Jan: Network Beginnings: Although the documentation is scarce, it is quite clear from the available evidence that the Cash-for-Comments Economists Network was being created at about this time. Kenneth Greene and Harold Hochman had originally joined forces with James Savarese to help the Tobacco Institute lobby in New York State. Then Robert Tollison and Richard Wagner, who had been working for the international ICOSI (International Committee on Smoking Issues) organisation, had transfered over Tobacco Institute control to expand their network to other US States. Thomas Borcherding (from Claremont soon followed.
1985 Dec 12 At the annual meeting of the Tobacco Institute the PR Report included a paragraph which noted the contribution to retaining smoking by Greene:
Professor Kenneth Greene (State University of New York) wrote an op-ed article on tax reform and submitted to the New York Times and Newsday. Although neither paper could use the piece, copies were sent to Ways & Means Members Downey and Rangel and Senate Finance Member Moynihan.