Scott E Atkinson

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

Scott Atkinson (aka Scot) was a Professor of Economics at the University of Wyoming's Institute for Policy Research in Laramie. He was also a member of the Cash for Comments Economists Network which was run for the Tobacco Institute by Professor Robert D. Tollison and lobbyist James Savarese with the help of Tollison's wife Anna and the staff from the Center for Study of Public Choice (located on the grounds of George Mason University).

Researchers alert: Atkinson spelled his first name 'Scott' in published articles, however Savarese & Associates got it into their heads that it was 'Scot', so the 46 documents in the tobacco archives are split about 50:50.

Prof. Atkinson shared the State of Wyoming with other cash-for-comment professors from the University of Wyoming: Todd Sandler and Chuck Mason. Scott Atkinson provided the Tobacco Institute with more quotable quotes than Sandler or Mason.See

The network later split up and most of the members transferred over to work for the tobacco industry under the cover of the Independent Institute with William F Shughart taking a leading role. Savarese and Tollison then appeared to have formalised their partnership, with Tollison and his wife becoming part of James Savarese & Associates.

 

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.[2]]

  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

1972 PhD Economics University of Colorado, Boulder.


1972-73 With the EPA Office of Research and Development in Washington.


1973-79 Department of Energy, Washington DC


1974 (From) "Analysis of Alternative Air Control Strategies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. Several studies have documented the inefficiency of early EPA controls. Scott Atkinson and Donald H. Lewis, for example, showed that controls of particulate emissions in the St. Louis area were six to ten times more expensive than the minimum cost approach.

[This was done for the Office of Energy Systems and the EPA ]

1979-81 Economist with the American Petroleum Institute in Washington DC, and also an Adjuct Professor with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Reston.

(This was the stamping ground of Robert Tollison and James Buchanan when they were putting together the Public Choice Society).

1981-86 University of Wyoming


1985 June/1986 March-July The Cash for Comments Economists Network was commissioned by the Tobacco Institute to write economic opinion pieces opposing excise taxes on cigarettes in mid-year-1985. This propaganda requirment resurfaced as a major project for the economist in the peak of the Tobacco Industry's PR campaign against the Packwood tax plan (although the threat was obviously still a possibility until the end of 1986r).

The Tobacco institute (much later) put together a package of commissioned economics reports (see front section of document), followed by about thirty op-eds and composite pieces which were generated by the Tollison/Savarese Cash for Comments Economists Network in this 1985-86 time frame. It illustrates the propaganda value of this network -- and shows what it can accomplish in a very short time for just a few thousand dollars in academic bribes.

These op-eds attacking the Packwood tax plan were all published in local newspaper across the USA. (Copies needed to be sent in for payment to be made.) A few are from July 1985 and the rest appeared in local newspapers during March-July 1986. These spontaneous independent expressions of expert opinion all miraculously come from Professors of Economics attached to the Center for Study of Public Choice ...

Joseph M Jadlow, Oklahoma State Uni. (He had two op-eds in different papers.);   William C Mitchell Uni of Oregon, Eugene;   Lee G Anderson, Uni of Delaware;   John S Howe Uni of Kansas, Lawrence;   D. Allen Dalton, Boise State University;   Thomas F Pogue, Uni of Iowa, Iowa City (He had two.);   Scott Atkinson, Uni of Wyoming. (He had two in different papers.);   S. Charles Maurice, Texas A&M Uni;   Todd Sandler, Uni of Wyoming;   Michael A Crew, Rutgers Uni, Newark;   Robert B Ekelund Jr., Auburn Uni (He had two.) ;   Ann Harper-Fender, Gettysburg College;   Lee Alston, Williams College;   Paul L Menchik, Michigan State Uni;   Henry N Butler, Texas A&M Uni;   Burton A Abrams, Uni of Delaware;   Ryan C Amacher, Clemson Uni (He had two.);   Dominick T Armentano, Uni of Hartford;   Fred McChesney, Emory Uni;   and a think-tanker David Wilhelm (Citizens for Tax Justice);

Also short extract pieces and letters-to-the-editor from A James Heins, Uni of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana;   William J Hunter, Marquette Uni, Milwaukee;   Dennis E Logue, Dartmouth College;   William F Shughart, George Mason Uni;   Harold Hochman, Baruch College, City Uni of New York;

Also uncredited overviews in the Newport Daily News, the Times-Review in Texas, Herald PA, etc. which expresses the encapsulated wisdom of most of the above with the addition of Thomas Borcherding (Claremont Graduate School, Calif);   K. Celeste Gaspari, Uni of Vermont, Birmingham;   David N Laband, Uni of Maryland;   Dean Tipps (Service Employees Intl. Union);   Allen M Parkman, Uni of New Mexico, Alburquerque, NM;   Richard K Vedder, Ohio Uni, Athens;   Roger L Faith, Arizona State Uni, Tempe;   Lee Alston, Williams College Mass;   and William J Hunter, Marquette Uni, Wisc.; (Some sections were published in multiple papers). [3]
This was a massive amount of propaganda coverage for a payment of less than $1000 each to these Professors at that time.

1986 March These are copies of the letters and articles that the cash-for-comments economists wrote to various newspapers editors, and also the ones they wrote to their Senators -- none of which mentioned that they'd been paid by the Tobacco Institute to write both the op-eds and the Congressional letters. These were sent to the Tobacco Institute as proof of their services:

Scott Atkinson, at the University of Wyoming's Institute for Policy Research wrote to the Managing Editor of the Casper Star-Tribune. He says he is personally quite concerned by the Packwood attack on Wyoming's economy.

In the past, your paper has reported on research of mine regarding the monopoly power of railroads shipping Wyoming coal and the threat of discriminatory coal tariffs to Wyoming's economy.

Enclosed is an op-ed which I hope your paper will be able to publish. It addresses a different threat to Wyoming's economy — that from the Packwood Tax Reform Bill, in particular its excise tax provisions.
[4]

He also sends identical letters to the Laramie Daily Boomerang and Cheyenne Wyoming Eagle and followup letters to Senators Malcolm Wallop and Alan Simpson.

Newspaper clippings of some of the network members' published articles for this project are grouped here:[Printed versions]


1986 May The Tobacco Institue is celebrating the media it has generated against the Packwood Tax Plan. One of those successes (with quotes from the article is):

Scott Atkinson, Director, Institute for Policy Research and Professor of Economics, University of Wyoming, in the Laramie Boomerang.
Packwood Tax Reform Bill Threatens Wyoming Economy

The Packwood bill presumably would reduce middle and lower income tax inequities. Instead, this proposal would most likely increase these inequities,raise the prices of a vast array of commodities, and depress Wyoming's economy even further."

He also managed to plant the same article on the Caspar Star a few days later.

Packwood Tax reform bill threatens state's economy. [6]

1986 Apr 1 Mitchell's Open Letter on the Packwood tax plan and also Savarese's check list of the network economists -- those who had written, and those who had also contacted their Congress targets. [7]


References