The retail giant Wal-Mart is joining other big businesses in ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative corporate bill mill that helps spread “shoot first” laws like the one linked to the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. In a letter to ALEC, Wal-Mart Vice President Maggi Sans wrote, “Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC’s decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission ‘to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets’” Sans said. “We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC.” Other large corporations that have already left the organization include Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Intuit and others.
I’m not being rhetorical and I haven’t been associated with Chuck Ford & Sons or CLBA since 2005 when I went to graduate school. And, in fact, before I left I recommended that CLBA support the smoking ban if the issue were to arise again. So just answer the questions. Why did you single out CLBA, Chuck Ford and Ford Sovine & Ford? Why did you single them out in 2007 as opposed to 2006 if you weren’t being vindictive? And if you’re so opposed to groups like ALEC–which I happen to be–why haven’t you attacked ardent supporters of ALEC and Big Tobacco like CRA?
Seth, I just documented what I found in tobacco industry documents posted on the Internet. I wouldn’t even know about these firms, let alone their activities, if I hadn’t have found their names listed in tobacco industry documents describing them and their relationships to the tobacco industry. My job for the first three years I was at CMD was to set up CMD’s Tobacco Portal, which included gathering information on lobby shops, PR firms, front groups, individuals, employees, etc. associated with the tobacco industry. I am glad you are opposed to ALEC, and I’m glad you supported Colorado’s smoking ban. I no longer work for CMD and rarely contribute to SourceWatch at the moment, but if you can point me towards documentation of a current alliance between the CRA and Big Tobacco, I’d be more than happy to write it up on my own blog.
I’m sorry if I come across as bent out of shape about this. With all due respect to the research work of CMD, GASP, Mr. Bialick and yourself: Peter Meersman and CRA are mentioned approximately 80 times from the 1980s to 2006 in Tobacco Legacy documents. My father is mentioned once that I’ve found. Yet if you enter a search for “Tobacco Lobbyist Colorado,” my father–who was a subcontractor of another group representing RJ Reynolds for a few years in the early 90s–is one of the first things that pops up. If you enter Chuck Ford & Sons, the same thing comes up.
I’ve even gone so far as to see if there is any credence to the claim that CLBA was a member of Phillip Morris’ field action teams prior to my father taking over as Executive Director.
This is what I found:
“[Lyn] Hopwood [CLBA Director] thought the whole idea was going to be tough for Philip Morris to pass. He was very skeptical about this being nothing more than a ploy by Philip Morris to lock in market share.”
I NEVER represented tobacco interests and recommended support of a statewide smoking ban to CLBA and yet I’ve had multiple employers or clients question me about my relationship to the tobacco industry because I worked for Chuck Ford & Sons.
If CLBA hadn’t been backed into a corner by the bill sponsor’s refusal to accept an amendment exempting small taverns with fewer than ten employees, it would NOT have opposed the ban.
Can you see how making my former business and, by extension me, a Big Tobacco pariah might feel a little unfair?
I agree there are short term impacts from smoking bans as smokers protest. But in the long term, smoking bans have been proven to be neutral at worst for economies, are often beneficial for economies as well as good for the health of workers and the public. And you haven’t factored in the capital expense that restaurateurs had to incur to put in high-volume “smoke-eaters.” One bar owner told me she paid tens of thousands to install these units, and incurred almost $400 worth of maintenance on them quarterly — all unnecessary when smoking is simply eliminated from the business. And even tobacco industry documents show smokers appreciate clear delineation of where they can and cannot smoke.
I’ll be straight up. I don’t think you knowingly supported a corporate agenda to eliminate small business competition, but while you were at SourceWatch and PRWatch you did author several Wiki entries that attacked CLBA. Oddly, and despite clear knowledge of the fact that restaurant associations have a history of supporting the tobacco industry, you never analyzed that situation to level similar attacks against CRA or its representation. I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I have personally suffered some undeserved “guilt by association” as a result of the attacks you made on CLBA. I respect your work and the work of SourceWatch. I’m just trying to set the record straight.
CLBA never took any money from the tobacco industry to support its opposition campaign and they originally supported the smoking ban with an exemption for small taverns. The bill’s sponsor, in 2005, killed his own bill rather than allow that exemption. Yet exemptions for Cigar Bars and Cabarets were perfectly acceptable to groups like GASP who you’ve cited in the past.
Where’s the outrage over that? Why aren’t Cigar Bar and Cabaret lobbyists “front groups” for the tobacco industry?
…and more’s the point: Why isn’t GASP on SourceWatch’s or your list as “front group” for CRA and its interests. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, isn’t it?
The notion that GASP is a front group for the Colorado Restaurant Association is ludicrous. The two have been at odds on policy matters more than they have agreed.
CLBA, at least before 2007, was at odds with the CRA more than they agreed. What makes them a front group for tobacco when CRA isn’t? You also included a line in your attack on Ford Sovine & Ford that said:… their close ties to alcohol interests notwithstanding, they also represented the Marriage & Family Therapists… CLBA has fought proliferation of alcohol since it was founded because things like Sunday Sales are a prelude to alcohol in big box stores like Wal-Mart. But I guess that wouldn’t matter to you since you seem intent on advocating for ALEC-friendly organizations like CRA.
For someone who advocates against “spin,” you’re pretty good at.
I think you understand, probably better than I do, that what you don’t say is as important as what you do say when you’re spinning.
Seth, I have never stated that CLBA has taken money from the tobacco industry. In our 2004 report, “Tobacco Industry Involvement in Colorado,” I wrote “Other established Colorado groups listed as tobacco industry allies at one time or another (and used for various issues) include…” and CLBA was included on a list along with about 20 other groups. That was the only mention of CLBA in the report. The inclusion of CLBA on the list of industry allies was based on documents like this one, http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/cxr27d00, a report by a PR agency created for Philip Morris, that actually listed CLBA as a tobacco industry ally. I am sorry for trouble or “guilt by association” you have had to endure as a result of your association with CLBA or any other groups explicitly listed in PM documents as allies.
You know, CRA is mentioned in that document as well. Did you write a Wiki about CRA and its representation being a “front group” for tobacco interests?
I have no idea of the context in which CLBA was mentioned in Tobacco Industry documents in 2002. The other thing I’ll mention is that the document you linked to in the Wiki about Chuck Ford wasn’t to Tobacco’s affiliation with CLBA, it was to Tobacco’s affiliation with NLBA. To my knowledge, while CLBA was a dues paying member of NLBA, it received no funds from either them or Tobacco for its opposition campaign. Don’t you think that given a 1988 memo from CRA to Tobacco Companies about supporting a statewide ban, you might question why Tobacco wouldn’t support CLBA’s opposition campaign. Isn’t it possible that Tobacco saw the Clean Indoor Air Act as an opportunity to limit their losses?
The document you cite doesn’t list CLBA as an ally. It lists them as a TARGET of tobacco industry efforts to win allies. Quite to the contrary of what you imply, I’ve provided other documentation that shows CLBA was RESISTANT to overtures by the industry.
That’s awesome! One thing I don’t understand: If you dislike ALEC, why do you support the policy agenda of organizations like the Colorado Restaurant Association whose membership crosses over with ALEC so extensively? I don’t have anything against smoking bans, but it seems to me that Colorado’s was designed to put the little guys out of business while supporting large corporate restaurants who didn’t have to foot the bill for renovations and licenses in order to comply with the ban. Your thoughts?
Your references do not support your claims. To my knowledge, I have not supported the policy agenda of the Colorado Restaurant Association, which for many years opposed a smoke-free law in Colorado. After they finally dropped their opposition to a smoke-free law, I supported that, but otherwise have not claimed to support their policy agenda. Restaurant Associations in the past have been notorious allies of the tobacco industry. In addition, I have had feedback from local businesses that the smoke-free law has been a boon to business. For example, the owner of Lois’ Place, in Grand Junction, told me years ago that the smoke-free law boosted her income by increasing the turnover of tables in her small restaurant. The law effectively stopped patrons from tying up tables by buying one cup of coffee and then sitting and smoking for a long time.
This link (http://www.protectlocalcontrol.org/resource.php?id=8088) to a description of a memo from 1988 suggests that the Colorado Restaurant Association proactively supported a statewide smoking ban. When groups like the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association opposed the ban on the basis that it would hurt small taverns you authored descriptions of their opposition campaign that described them as a “front group” for the tobacco industry.
This link (http://ow.ly/d/EBH) suggests that many small businesses didn’t fare as well as your friend’s business in Grand Junction.
The Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, as other Licensed Beverage Associations across the U.S., has acted as a surrogate for the tobacco industry, also known as a “front group.” My name is not mentioned in the memo you cite at ProtectLocalContro.org. Data collected now across years and in many states show smoking bans on the whole do not hurt businesses.
Actually, the data you cite show that smoking bans don’t hurt economies. However, there are clear, short-term impacts to small businesses that aren’t necessarily reflected in things like sales receipts.