Jun. 19 2001
Washington, DC — Caught in its first effort to kill the federal tobacco lawsuit by denying the necessary funding, the Bush Administration is now reported to be seeking to settle the case. The American people should be concerned that the Administration is seeking yet another way to let the tobacco industry off the hook for decades of deception and wrongdoing. It is especially worrisome that Administration officials are weakening the hand of their negotiating team by stating ahead of time that they believe they would lose in court. No attorney representing a client in good faith prepares for trial by saying they expect to lose, and this statement is a tremendous disservice to the government's client — the American people. It is also an inaccurate appraisal of the government's case given the extensive and powerful evidence of industry wrongdoing. The Administration's approach gives every indication that the settlement is intended to be a sweetheart deal for the tobacco industry.
This is clearly a political decision, not a legal judgment. The tobacco industry made more than $8.3 million in campaign contributions during the last election, 83 percent of it to Republicans. Killing the federal tobacco lawsuit is one of the industry's top priorities. In contrast, thousands of Americans have contacted the White House in recent weeks with a message that they want their day in court and an end to special protection for Big Tobacco. It speaks volumes about the political influence of the tobacco industry that its campaign contributions appear to be drowning out the voices of the American people.