TipSheet item

Publication date: July 13, 2005


New revelations about the tobacco industry's role in lobbying for White House control, suppression, and corruption of federal scientific findings on environmental health will be unveiled July 20, 2005, in a special issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The bombshell comes on the heels of the sudden resignation of Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) chief of staff Phillip Cooney after a whistleblower offered evidence that the White House operative was doctoring scientific findings on climate to suit the fossil fuel industry. Cooney, who had been a top petroleum industry lobbyist before being appointed to CEQ, got a job with ExxonMobil just days after his resignation.

The integrity of the White House offices that have set themselves up as arbiters of science is under increasing question. Critics charge that they have corrupted regulations meant to protect public health by short-circuiting the regulatory process to help industries giving the most money to presidential campaigns. The advantages to industry and the White House of doing it this way is that it eliminates the public disclosure built into the rules for normal regulatory proceedings.

One of the key tools for White House suppression of science is the so-called "Data Quality Act," an obscure rider slipped without discussion into a 2001 appropriations bill by industry lobbyist Jim Tozzi. An article in the AJPH Special Supplement, "Scientific Evidence and Public Policy," details how Phillip Morris manipulated the White House Office of Management and Budget in hopes of killing findings that second-hand smoke was harmful to human health.

Now OMB has the power to keep any federal agency from publishing its scientific findings. Tozzi, a former top OMB official himself, got some $65,000 a month from Philip Morris alone, and practically wrote not only the Data Quality legislation, but the OMB regulations for implementing it.

The revelations are in an article by four academics, Annamaria Baba, Daniel M. Cook, Thomas O. McGarity, and Lisa A. Bero. McGarity is at the Univ. of Texas (Austin) and the other three are at the Univ. of California (San Francisco). They gleaned much of their information from a massive trove of internal tobacco industry documents published online as part of legal settlements.

That article is just one of 23 in the AJPH special supplement, which broadly analyzes trends over recent decades that either help or hinder good science from being applied to public decisions on environmental and occupational health. Much of the issue focuses on the aftermath of the 1993 Supreme Court decision in Daubert vs. Merrell Dow, which left federal judges in the role of science gatekeepers.