Tobacco Gun for Hire James Enstrom, Willie Soon and the Climate Deniers Attack on Merchants of Doubt

James Enstrom

This article was co-written by Dan Zegart, author of Civil Warriors, the legal siege on the tobacco industry.

A leaked email chain reported earlier this week on DeSmog shines a harsh light on the behind-the-scenes coordination between well-known climate deniers and fossil fuel funded spindoctors. 

But it turns out that there is much more to this story than just climate change, and we find ourselves once again reaching back into the rich history of scientists paid by tobacco companies to conduct research bringing into question the links between cigarette smoke and cancer. 

The October 2014 email discussion, led by infamous climate denier Fred Singerasks whether it would make sense to file a lawsuit to try and stop the release of the new feature length documentary, Merchants of Doubt – a film tracing the tactics used by Big Tobacco to spread misinformation and how those same tactics are now being used by those attacking climate change science and the 97% consensus

As an expert-for-hire who has taken money from both Big Tobacco and fossil fuel companies over the span of his career, S. Fred Singer is a major focal point in Merchants of Doubt.

But where the really interesting story lies, is in two of the recipients of the Singer email who share an uncannily similar history.

How Tobacco Shills Inspired Climate Denial

DeSmog UK’s history series examines how the tobacco industry’s PR tactics proved inspirational for the army of climate change deniers.

Dr Fred Singer and his sceptic Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) would become an increasingly important platoon in the army assembling against climate science.

Along with the late Dr Frederick Seitz – a founder of the Marshall Institute – the SEPP would use PR tactics developed by the tobacco industry to question and undermine climate science.

Seitz, for example, accused the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of producing scientific summaries “exaggerating risk… solely – we suspect – to satisfy an ideological objective of aggressively constraining the use of energy.”

Calls For Media To Accurately Label Climate Deniers Growing Louder

The public debate over how to address climate change has been hindered in no small part by the media’s refusal to properly identify climate deniers, according to an open letter penned by fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry titled “Deniers are not Skeptics.”

Now, campaign group Forecast the Facts is making an open appeal to the media to accurately label climate deniers, enabling supporters of the CSI effort to co-sign the letter, which so far has garnered over 20,000 signatures.

The open letter, released last month, was signed by nearly 50 scientists and skeptics, including physicist Mark Boslough, science writer Ann Druyan, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, who say that public understanding of global warming science has been “confused” because of the misuse of the term “skeptic.”

“As scientific skeptics, we are well aware of political efforts to undermine climate science by those who deny reality but do not engage in scientific research or consider evidence that their deeply held opinions are wrong,” they wrote. “The most appropriate word to describe the behavior of those individuals is ‘denial.’ Not all individuals who call themselves climate change skeptics are deniers. But virtually all deniers have falsely branded themselves as skeptics. By perpetrating this misnomer, journalists have granted undeserved credibility to those who reject science and scientific inquiry.”

Mont Pelerin Society A Window Into Ideological Heart Of Kochtopus Climate Denial

It’s known as the Kochtopus – the extensive network of think tanks, institutes, university departments, political funding arms and “grassroots” activist groups funded by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The multi-tentacled network has pumped tens of millions of dollars into groups that deny the risks of human-caused climate change.

But if it is Koch cash that helps fuel these groups, then what is it that fuels the Koch brothers themselves beyond the obvious financial interest?

As DeSmogBlog has revealed, Charles Koch is a long-standing member of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) – a global group of industrialists, academics and economists who share the “neoliberal” ideology of limiting government control.

If the Koch network has many groups dangling from its tentacles, then Charles Koch’s membership with the Mont Pelerin Society provides a window into the ideological heart of the Kochtopus.

DeSmogBlog today publishes the global membership directory of the Mont Pelerin Society as it was in 2010, with all personal contact details redacted.

Koch Industries Hires Tobacco Operative Steve Lombardo to Lead Communications and Marketing

Q: What does Koch Industries do when it needs better PR?

A: Hire a veteran helper of the tobacco industry.

At O'Dwyer's, Kevin McCauley writes January 9 in Koch Bros Lure Burson PA, Crisis Chair”:

“Steve Lombardo, PA/crisis chair at Burson-Marsteller in Washington since April, is moving to Koch Industries next month for the chief communications/marketing officer slot.

The 53-year-old sees an opportunity to showcase how the $115B Wichita-based conglomerate works to improve the lives of people around the world, according to Politico.

Prior to B-M, Lombardo helmed Edelman’s StrategyOne research operation, ran his own shop for an eight-year span and served as vice chairman of Blue Worldwide, Edelman’s advertising unit.

Lombardo has been involved in Republican politics, recently serving as senior research and communications director for Mitt Romney presidential run.

KI is the firm of conservative activists Charles and David Koch. Their empire includes Georgia-Pacific, Koch Pipeline/Fertilizer, Molex (electronic components), Flint Hills Resources, INVISTA (chemicals), Matador Cattle and Odessa Power.

Lombardo and Edelman colleague Jackie Cooper wrote about the “Republican Brand Problem” in O'Dwyer's in December 2012.

PR firm Burson-Marsteller and Lombardo both have relevant histories with tobacco.

Could Lead Paint Lawsuit Pave Way For Class Action Against Coal Industry?

Coal industry executives ought to pay attention to the lead paint lawsuit currently happening in the California court system.

Recently, a lawsuit was filed against the makers of lead paint, alleging that the industry knew about the toxicity of their product and yet still promoted it as “safe” to the public.  The industry has faced many lawsuits over their products in the past, most of which were unsuccessful for the victims, due to the fact that the industry was often up front about the dangers of their products, and they funded public studies to determine the health effects.

But things have changed in the American legal system, and attorneys are now taking a page out of the tobacco litigation playbook.  By unearthing documents that detail the lead paint industry’s attempted cover-up of the dangers, they avoid the “buyer beware” caveat that the tobacco industry used for so long. 

And just like the tobacco industry, lead paint manufacturers were specifically targeting children with their ads.  The California lawsuit is making that a central part of the trial.  Also reminiscent of the tobacco litigation, the suit was filed by cities and municipalities, not individual victims, greatly increasing the chance for success.

The coal industry should be paying very close attention to the progress of this litigation, as their activities could become the next target of skilled attorneys.  For decades, the coal industry has been poisoning American citizens with their coal-mining, -burning and -dumping activities.  Additionally, the dismal working conditions for miners has cost many families an unnecessary loss of life.

How To Spot A Fake Grassroots Movement

PERHAPS somebody should write a pocket guide book with the title: “How to spot you've been suckered by a fake grassroots movement”.

Once it's written, these guide books could be distributed free of charge to crowds at anti-carbon tax rallies, US Tea Party marches and pretty much any gathering of a “movement” telling you that you're freedom is being put at risk by big governments, nanny states, new world orders or communists disguised as climate scientists or public health professionals.

But why the sudden need for the guide?

There's now emerging evidence that if these really are “grassroots” movements, then many of the seeds and the fertilisers are being supplied by major corporations and “libertarian” billionaires. It turns out that the US Tea Party movement and its calls for “freedom” from government intervention wasn't some organic uprising of community concern after all.

A new academic study documents how the Tea Party was envisioned and planned by tobacco company executives in concert with Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group established by oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

As reported on DeSmogBlog, the study “‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party” shows how the industry wanted to hide their profit motive and fear of the government regulating their deadly products behind a “movement to change the way that people think”, as R.J Reynolds Tobacco's head of national field operations Tim Hyde described it.

Dick Armey's Tobacco Ties: The Early Years

This is the first of a three-part series on Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) and his relationship to Big Tobacco throughout his career.

Dick Armey, who recently resigned from the Tea Party group Freedomworks, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984, as a representative from Texas. A smoker, Armey first appeared on the tobacco industry's radar in 1985 after he appeared at a press conference in support of a bill aimed eliminating the federal tobacco support program – something the industry did not favor.

Even thought he opposed tobacco price supports, which put him squarely on the opposite side of that issue from the tobacco industry, Armey solicited a relationship with the industry.

In 1987, Armey wrote a
letter to Samuel Chilcote, President of the Tobacco Institute, saying he had a lot to learn about politics and asking if Chilcote would do him the “great personal favor” of sitting on his Political Action Committee Advisory Committee. Handwriting on the letter, apparently by Chilcote, cites a scheduling conflict, and indicates Chilcote likely did agree to Armey's request.

Nevertheless, after that the Tobacco Institute started regularly donating funds to Armey's re-election campaigns through its political action committee (“TIPAC”) in fairly small amounts at first – just $250 in 1987. The industry's donations to Armey grew steadily as his time and his influence in the House increased. By 1991, Armey was getting
$500 donations from TIPAC, plus additional donations from individual cigarette companies

By 2000-2001, Armey was routinely pulling in $1,000 donations from TIPAC and individual tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds (RJR), Lorillard and Philip Morris.

Little Black Lies: Manufacturing Irony

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ll know that the Alberta government is suing the tobacco industry for $10 billion. What may be less clear is how ironic this gesture of fiscal responsibility is, coming, as it does, from a government that happily perpetuates the same transgressions that got Big Tobacco in trouble in the first place.

Each year, approximately 3,000 Albertans die from tobacco-related illnesses,” Premier Alison Redford said when she announced the legal action last May. “This lawsuit, to be clear, is not about banning cigarettes or punishing smokers. It is about recovering health-care costs as a result of the misconduct of the tobacco industry.”

The issue, Redford reminds us, is not that cigarette smoking kills thousands of people, and costs taxpayers millions of dollars, every year. No, Redford, like others who have sued the tobacco industry over the last 30 years, are outraged that these purveyors of America's most widely used addictive drug lied and lied relentlessly to the North American public.

Rather than come clean and acknowledge the scientific evidence that cigarette smoking caused various illnesses, the tobacco industry embarked on an insidious campaign to discredit the science and foul the public airways with deceptive advertising, all so innocent smokers would keep buying their deadly products (a crime that was sardonically portrayed in the hit movie, Thank You for Smoking).

This strategy, which has been used by other industries that make dangerous or polluting products, became known as the art of “manufacturing doubt,” after a now infamous memo from a senior tobacco official. “Doubt is our product,” the anonymous tobacconist wrote, “since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

It sounds complicated, almost impossibly so, but it’s actually rather simple if you have enough money. Corporate collectives have been doing it for decades: funding bogus science and investing in think tanks to produce dubious research results that cast doubt on legitimate research findings, from cancer-causing tobacco to global warming carbon emissions.

Add well-funded advertising campaigns that create a new reality irrespective of the truth, and corporations have been able to thwart government regulations that might otherwise damage their bottom lines – or at the very least make them fess up to the less savoury impacts of their products and services.

If this sounds eerily familiar, it should. The Government of Alberta, in cahoots with the oil industry, has been using a similar strategy to promote tar sands development in northern Alberta. The first step was to create a monitoring system that was incapable of detecting pollution in the land and water in the tar sands region.

FreedomWorks' Pro-Coal Lobbyist Tom Borelli is Former Professional Pro-Tobacco Scientist

Tom Borelli, a former science director at Philip Morris who fought claims that secondhand tobacco causes lung cancer and respiratory illness in children, is now touted on Fox News as an expert on the cleanliness of the coal industry. Borelli was busy this election season fighting Obama's “war on coal” on behalf of his new employer, FreedomWorks.

Borelli has a long history of attacking the EPA on behalf of Big Tobacco. Serving in his role as Philip Morris' Director of Corporate Scientific Affairs, Borelli appeared in a notorious 1992 film produced by Philip Morris attacking the Environmental Protection Agency for declaring secondhand tobacco smoke a known cancer causing agent. Borelli states that:

“Based on careful review of the science we believe that environmental tobacco smoke has not been shown to be a risk factor in the development of lung cancer, respiratory disease in children or heart disease.”

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