This site deals only with the corporate corruption of science, and makes no inference about the motives or activities of individuals involved.
There are many reasons why individuals become embroiled in corporate corruption activities - from political zealotry to over-enthusiastic activism; from gullibility to greed.
Please read the OVERVIEW carefully, and make up your own mind.
Robert D ('Bob') Ebel
— A n economic consultants to the Tobacco Institute who was briefly recruited into the cash-for-comments economists network. —
Robert Ebel was an economist, syndicated columnist and editor of a tax journal who, for most of the time, stayed outside the formal economists network of the Tobacco Institute. However he was happy to accept an occasional consulting commission.
He does not appear to be an ultra-libertarian like most of those recruited for the cash-for-comments network. They were generally from the narrow Public Choice Randian right-wing end of the spectrum.
Robert Ebel was mainly on the periphery of the cash-for-comments economists network run by Jim Saverese, and he had once been his employer. Ebel operated as a freelance economist working for a variety of industries, and dabbling in various aspects of the tax law. So, while he was never formally a member of the tobacco industry's network, he was occasionally called upon to provide services and was always available for hire..
The cash-for-comments economists network was set up by Professor Robert Tollison with James Savarese who was a lobbyist and consultant to the Tobacco Institute. It's purpose was to provide propaganda and lobbying services to the tobacco industry in all 50 US States, utilizing trusted and prominent academics at the local universities. It employed only Professors of economics at well-known State universities, and secretly commissioned them to:
If they could claim to be a disinterested 'non-smoker' or even 'anti-smoking' — and " just a concerned citizen" expressing an expert academic opinion — this was seen as further enhancing their value in promoting the industry's positions and policies.
- Write op-ed articles for their local newspapers (after they had first been sub-edited and legally cleared by the Tobacco Institute). This earned them $2—3,000.
- Appear as 'independent' witnesses at local ordinance hearings, or at State or Federal legislative hearings.
- Make public statements to the broadcast or print media, or write letters to the editor supporting the tobacco industry's position [but concealing their connections]
- Make submissions to academic/scientific conferences. This could earn them $5,000.
- Write letters to their Congressmen; these letters had often been rough-drafted by the tobacco industry.
Some payments were laundered through Savarese & Associates, and some seem to have passed through the Center for the Study of Public Choice. Other means of hiding the sources of payment were probably via tobacco industry lawyers.
Some key documents
• Director of the Public Finance Program of the Urban Institute and Executive Director of the Minnesota Tax Study Commission. Later he was contracting through Peat Marwick's Policy Economics Group..
1984 Apr 30: This document on Tobacco Institute's Excise Tax Plan notes that:
The Executive Director of the [Minnesota Tax Study] Commission is Robert Ebel, a liberal Democrat with ties to national liberal/labor organizations.
He was the director of the District of Columbia's Tax Study Commission in 1978. Previously, he worked on the staff of the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, the District of Columbia Department of Finance, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
1984 July 11: Tobacco Institute Excise Tax Planning document State Excise Taxes Background and Strategy Overview for Sample States Mentions under
University of Minnesota (St. Paul): Most of the academic work in public finance is being done on this campus. Three members of the faculty in the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics serve as consultants to the Minnesota Tax Study Commission. Thomas Stimson, Glen Nelson, and Arley Waldo.
[Thomas Stimson was already a member of the cash-for-comments network. Thomas Borcherding is also mentioned in another state.]
Key Minnesota Officials on Tax Issues
Executive Director of Minnesota Tax Study Commission: Robert Ebel
1984 Dec 6: Quoted in State Budget & Tax News.
Minnesota's tax study commission, which is due to report Dec. 15, is a panel of citizens headed by St. Paul Mayor George Latimer, said Robert Ebel, the commission's director. Trade unions, citizens 1 groups and businesses are represented on the commission. Although commission members at first were unfamiliar with the vocabulary of tax analysis, they soon learned with explanations, Ebel said.
The state provided $540,000 for the study, which was conducted by a full-time staff of 10 and a number of consultants, with very competent assistance from state revenue department and legislative workers, Ebel said. All meetings were open, as Minnesota law requires.
1985 Nov 13: Research and State Tax Policy [NCSL Conference]
Robert Ebel (Minnesota Tax Commission, DC Tax Commission, and now Northwestern Bell) followed Shannon at the NCSL meeting with a discussion of how research should contribute to state tax policy. He traced the history of thinking about tax policy to such early writers as Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th Century and argued that "much present day perspective is to be gained by recognizing the intellectual past."
[The hypocricy of this statement is astounding. However he was obviously seen by the tobacco industry mainly as a tax theorist — but not necessary a fellow traveller.]
Ebel, an economist by training, suggested that economists are "in a unique and advantageous position to formulate public policy." This does not mean making policy but acting "as an honest broker in identifying and evaluating the set of competing solutions to society's problems."
1986 Oct 22: He is listed alongside David Wilhelm (CEO of CTJ) as a speaker at a Potential Tax Conference run by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).. They are looking for Tobacco Institute funding to run the Conference,
Citizens for Tax Justice is perfectly positioned to help define the parameters of the upcoming debate over state tax reform.
It was to focus on the "Regressiveness" of State Tax systems (such as cigarette excises).
One way is through the publication of reports similar to those we did at the federal level—reports that document at the state level the problems of corporate tax avoidance, the growing tax burdens of working families and the poor, and the failure of loopholes to stimulate new jobs and investment.
We are in the process of preparing these state research reports.
Another way is through a CTJ-sponsored tax reform conference that would bring together the media, the principal federal and state legislative players, and key academicians in a forum that would get our message across in a visible way.
A conference fee of $100 is appropriate.
The estimated total amount needed from the Tobacco Institute would be $38,355.
Many of CTJ's friends & allies cannot afford $100. As a result, CTJ will make arrangements for those who wish to attend but are financially unable.
[ie. we can load the conference with anti-tax fanatics.]
1987 May 20: Karen Doyne from Fleishman-Hillard Inc, the Tobacco Institute's favourite PR company, has written to Robert Ebel at the Urban Institute. He has been assisting the Citizens for Tax Justice in its conferences, and is seen as a guru on the regressive nature of excise taxes. She is trying to enlist him to the tobacco cause.
She has also enlisted Mario Obledo of LULAC (Hispanic leadership), and has prepared a draft letter for him to write to the LA Times.
1987 Nov 23: Karen Doyne of Fleishman-Hillard is sending her "Minnesota Recommendations" to Jeff Ross at the Tobacco Institute. She has listed some potential allies that she would like to recruit "as logical extensions of the F-H's current coalition work for TI."
She mentions Hispanic groups (LULAC); Veterans; Southeast Asians; Opportunities Industrialisation Centers; American Indians; and Economists.
Jim Savarese and I are investigating the availability of economist Robert Ebel, a friend of mine, former tax aide to Sen. Durenberger and an employee of Jim's some years ago.
[Karen Doyne also worked for Senator David Durenberger — who resigned in 1994 after a scandal, and went to work as a health industry lobbyist.]
He [Ebel] was head of the Minnesota Tax Study Commission which overhauled the state's tax system. He is currently with the Urban Institute, but freelances for various outfits. [eg he is available provided the price is right.]
I believe that Bob opposes excise taxes (as Jim says most economists do), and he has been very helpful to me in terms of background on the issue. However, since he is very "Minnesotan" as a rule, I don't want to guess his attitude toward cooperating with TI. Jim and I are having lunch with him on Tuesday, and will report back.
1987 Dec 1: Karen Doyne transmits to the Tobacco Institute some material provided by Bob Ebel. He is being recruited to write op-ed material on excise taxes, provide political analysis, and as an authority on the Minnesota tax situation.
He offers suggestions on lobbyists to hire.
[This is a substantial document that would have required payment.]
Attached are a number of clean photocopies of articles on tax written by Ebel and others from his Minnesota Tax Study Commission.
1987 Dec 12: Doyne of Fleishman-Hillard reports that she has
- Assisted in formulating excise tax strategy targeted to Minnesota through meetings and written materials.
- Met with Minnesota economist Robert Ebel regarding the Minnesota legislative situation and initiated discussion of his potential assistance to TI.
1988: RJ Reynolds files contained this 17 page document which is the public relations and fight-back planning program of the Tobacco Institute for 1988
The document then concentrates on tactics to fund customized research designed with tobacco industry objectives in mind, and in the enlisting of other industries that could also be effected by social-cost arguments.
- Their counter for the Great American Smokeout (anti-smoking) program has a budget of $555,750
- The Social Cost program has the Strategy:
Aggressively counter "social cost" research with credible, independent economic studies. Demonstrate that "social cost" arguments can be applied to other industries and generate support from them to challenge these arguments. The tactics include all the familiar factors of op-eds, speeches made at economic conferences, media tours, witness statements, etc. [See the document]
- Establish a network of "social costs" economists to review literature, to conduct research, and to prepare articles and legislative testimony.
- Commission and promote research on "social costs" issues, i.e., smoker vs. nonsmoker productivity, absenteeism and accident rates, etc.
- Promote Tollison and Wagner's "social cost" book which effectively critiques the claim that smoking imposes significant costs upon society.
- Support and promote an academic "social cost" symposium. Also, seek opportunities for "social costs" economists to deliver presentations on the issue at national and regional economic conferences.
- Establish a coalition of businesses concerned with the abuse of "social costs" economics and encourage them to aggressively speak out. Identify and promote a well-known personality to serve as the group's spokesperson.
Media: Promotion of the social costs program relies upon academic publications and symposia, op-eds and book reviews of social cost research, expert media tours, videos and general publications.
Social Costs" Economists Network
We have identified a core group of economists uniquely qualified to work on the issue. The group will conduct research for publication and presentation at academic conferences and symposia, and will be available to challenge "social costs" economics utilized by anti-smokers at public and legislative forums. The group includes:.
[Ebel does not appear on any later lists of the cash-for-comments network that developed after this date. The others all appear prominently.]
- Gary Anderson, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Economics California State University at Northridge.
- Robert Ekelund Jr., Ph.D. Lowder Professor of Economics Auburn University
- Richard Higgins, Ph.D. Economist Washington Economic Research Consultants (Former Deputy Director, Bureau of Economics, Federal Trade Commission)
- Dwight Lee, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Economics University of Georgia
- Robert D. Tollison, Ph.D. Director, Public Choice Center, George Mason University
- Richard Wagner, Ph.D. Holbert Harris University Distinguished Professor George Mason University
- Bob Ebel, Ph.D. Director, Public Finance Program, The Urban Institute.
1988 Jan 15: Jim Savarese, subcontracted to the tobacco industry via Ogilvy & Mather, is writing a proposal which was sent to the Tobacco Institute.
Nineteen eighty-seven was a banner year for the Tobacco Institute in its fight against excise tax increases at the federal level.
He then outlines a couple of problem areas before dealing with the "Economists Program." [No full list for these 42 network economists appears to exist]
Through careful coalition building and effective message dissemination, the Institute was able to fight the battle on its own terms and secure a substantial victory.
In reviewing your 1988 plans, we found many areas where Ogilvy & Mather and Savarese and Associates can continue to provide services. There are also new areas where we have expertise which have not been fully explored.
Our work with the network of forty-two economists should continue into 1988. In 1987, the network was effective in producing op-eds and submitting and presenting testimony. These activities should continue in 1988. In addition, the economists network can be used for editorial board briefings, presentations at conferences and the placement of articles on this issue with major media outlets.
In order to make the most of the new opportunities for the economist network, several factors must be taken into consideration:
The opportunity exists to place economists on key economic programs, panels, and at national and regional tax policy conferences. As an addendum to this effort, it is possible to have their comments reprinted and distributed.
- only 7 or 8 of the economists within the network have the potential to make presentations to editorial boards and conferences.
- those economists selected to make presentations to editorial boards and conferences need a training program. This program may include media training through Michael Sheehan and briefings by Jim Savarese and Bob Tollison.
- the editorial board program is a limited strategy with applicability mainly at the federal level with some use at the state level.
- when implementing the editorial board program, Ogilvy & Mather can assist with pitch materials, press kits, and a placement program.
They also want to commission studies. They suggest:
They also propose to work with a number of right-wing tax groups, some left-wing labor groups, minority groups, senior citizens, agricultural groups, and advertising companies. They propose to sponsor conferences, and make a video on excise taxes.
- Effects of an excise tax increase on the federal budget (and its fairness)
- on bootlegging "and come up with some strong conclusions" [predetermined!]
- In addition, Savarese and Associates can locate a conservative economist to make the argument that there is an acceleration of government spending when taxes are increased. The program will include placement in an economic journal.
A national Excise Tax Op-ed Program will target various important members of the Congress and big businessmen (e.g. Lee Iaococca) on the National Economic Commission (NEC). The network economists will be required to target specific newspapers, and a few key political figures. The target for this member of the network is:
Targeted paper: Minneapolis Star and Tribune
Economist: will contact Robert Ebel
[Why selected:] Rep. Bill Frenzel, Commission member and House Ways and Means committee member, is from Minnesota.
1988 Mar 31: Jim Savarese is writing to Jeff Ross at the Tobacco Institute re the National Economic Commission (NEC) and their Excise Tax Op-Ed Project using selected members of the cash-for-comments economists network.
I have listed below areas that we should target that would be beneficial in reaching members of the NEC. Also attached are the materials that we will send out to the authors.
Minnesota: Rep. Bill Frenzel, Commission member and House Ways and Means committee member, is from Minnesota.
Targeted paper: Minneapolis Star and Tribune
Economist: will contact Robert Ebel
Around this date Ebel joined Peak Marwick which had a Policy Economics Group with provided economic propaganda services to the Tobacco Institute.
1989: The Tobacco Institute's Susan Stuntz has written "The Plan" for countering public-smoking ban hearings, excise tax increases, etc.. She writes under "Resources and Status":
Robert Tollison, George Mason University, Richard Wagner, University of Florida and Darwin Johnson, [Peat Marwick's] Policy Economics Group and other economists from prestigious academic Institutions will be asked to prepare and deliver testimony. [at Congressional hearings]
To demonstrate the discriminatory aspect of certain excise taxes [they would use] Robert Tollison and other economists.
1989 Jan: State Legislature magazine lists him as Director of Government Finance for the US Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
[He] foresees great pressure on states from business to conform tax bases to any federal tax. "The intergovernmental implications of a national value-added tax are really complicated," says Ebel, a former executive director of the Minnesota Tax Study Commission, "and if the United States adopts a clean, consumption variant of the VAT in order to achieve efficiency goals, and the states don't go along with that, all hell's going to be paid with the constituency out there."
1989 Jan 24: James Savarese and Leslie Dawson are reporting on a meeting with the Tobacco Institute. Their staff accompanying them were Leigh Payne and James Moeller. Decisions made:
- Dr Robert Ekelund's response to the New Zealand [Chetwynd advertising] study will be published in the Journal of Addiction.
- The op-ed program is on track. We are trying to place Cohen's Chicago Tribune editorial in the Congressional Record.
- Leigh Payne is continuing to meet with legal counsel to review the legal requirements of setting up the [Helping Youth Decide] foundation.
- Release of the Peat Marwick study is on hold.
- The Freedom to Advertise Coalition (FAC) is preparing a press release on the AMA tobacco conference in Houston this weekend.
1991 July 17: Ebel was now working with KPMG Peat Marwick, who are also hired to produce 'customised' research for the tobacco industry. They offer this C/V to the Tobacco Institute
Robert D. Ebel is Director of State and Local Services for the Policy Economics Group of KPMG Peat Marwick in Washington, D.C. Prior to his joining the Group he was the Director of Government Finance Research for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) from 1988-91. He also served as the Director of the Public Finance Program at the Urban Institute from 1986-88.
He has organized and directed state and local study commissions for the legislatures of Minnesota and the District of Columbia, taken the lead research management role in tax studies for Hawaii, and Nevada, and for the South Carolina ACIR, and has provided expert research to several other states and the U.S. Congress.
Dr Ebel holds a B.A. from Miami University and a M.S. and Ph.D. from Purdue University.
He is also speaking at a conference
1991 Sep 2: He is on the Advisory Board of the "State Tax Notes" newsletter
1992 July: Philip Morris disinformation executive, Craig Fuller's Monthly Report for July 1992:
On tax matters, we were successful in having the Conservative Democratic Forum drop from its health care reform package any references to raising excise taxes on tobacco or alcohol products.
We continue to work with PM USA and KMPG Peat Marwick in designing a study that will aid in countering the "social costs and negative externalilties" arguments for raising cigarette and alcohol excise taxes to fund health care reform. KMPG Peat Marwick has presented its outline for the study whieh is currently being reviewed and refiined.
1996 Dec 11: Ebel is listed as with the National Tax Association.at a joint Hearing on Competitive Taxation and Economic Development at Annapolis.