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.
Michael D Pratt
— An economist with Virginia State University who strayed temporarily into the cash-for-comment area. He didn't seem to stay long. —
This economist seems to have fallen under the lure of tobacco industry cash only briefly. He provided them with lecture-services together with Professor John Bowman, also a the Virginia Commonwealth University,
He doesn't appear to have done anything of signficiance for them after this time.
Tobacco lobbyist James Savarese and Professor Robert Tollison of George Mason University collaborated in the 1980s to provide the tobacco industry, through the Tobacco Institute, with a number of networks of academics who would be willing to write propaganda material ... always provided their names were not linked to the industry or to any of the cigarette companies.
The idea was simply that the academic 'sleepers' would be available on a cash-for-services basis when needed to counter attempts to increase excise taxes, or to ban public smoking, or just to appear as independent experts at Congressional hearings and promote the industry causes.
Economist were by far the most useful academics to the tobacco industry because the distinction between economics and politics was never clear: so support of the cigarette companies could always be claimed as support for free-market economics ... the rights of individuals to make public choices ... small government ... or even the first Amendment to the Constitution.
The economist always claimed to be 'independent' 'professionals' and ' academics' from some credible university, and never revealed the source of their funding in their op-eds or letters-to-the-editor.
If ever put under cross-examination, they must be able to claim with weasel-word precision, that they had never received a penny from the tobacco industry. Therefore all payments were laundered, either through tobacco industry lawyers (usually Covington & Burling), the principle organisers, James Savarese & Associates, or through Bob Tollison's Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University.
The aim was to have, in each State, at least one academic economist, one academic lawyer, and one academic from a business management, business law, marketing or advertising discipline willing to jump into action and write op-ed articles for their local newspaper, or to appear at local ordinance or legislative hearings. Copies were always sent to a local Congressman, who sat on some important (to the tobacco industry) committee.
The academics were always expected to wave their own and their university's credentials vigorously, and loudly proclaim their "independence' from any crass-commercial motives. And those who could boast of being 'non-smokers' were especially prized — since without this addiction, their non-dependent-on-tobacco status was thought to be proved beyond any doubt!
In the tobacco archives there's also
- a tobacconist and retailer organiser with this name
- a Michael Pratt MD MPH of Baltimore working for the Centers for Disease Control in the early 1990s,
- a Georgian attorney involved in a run-off for the Republican nomination in some primary.
Also don't confuse Michael Pratt with another network economist Harlan Platt.
Some key documents
• Economist at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond Together with his university associate John H Bowman he was briefly involved in the cash-for-comments economists network being run for the Tobacco Institute by Robert Tollison and James Savarese. Their involvement only lasted a bit over a year. Another associate, George Emil Hoffer was also involved (perhaps for a longer time).
1985 Mar 20: -23 [Doc date Dec 18 84] Ogilvy & Mather have set up seminars for some of the tobacco industry's cash-for-comments economists under the auspices of the Southwestern Social Science Association and the Eastern Economic Association. Trish Milita of O&M writes to Jim Savarese [network organiser who is temporarily] at the Tobacco Institute:
These are very strong academic panels and add a great deal of depth to our list of consultants for future use. I know all of these individuals personally except for Henry Butler who is a friend of Bob Tollison's at Texas A&M.
They all understand their mission and will be submitting papers for us to review well in advance of the meetings.
All the speakers, with the possible exception of Bowman and Pratt, were knowingly employed by the tobacco industry to promote their Social Cost and Taxation agendas.
- The SouthWestern Social Science Association seminar run by O&M in Houston (Mar 20) was on "Taxation and Social Process. It had Robert Ekelund in the chair, and papers by Henry N Butler, Joseph M Jadlow and Richard E Wagner. Keith Watson was a discussant.
- The Eastern Economic Association seminar, run by O&M in Pittsburgh (Mar 21) was on "Perspecives on Tax Reform". It had Robert Tollison in the chair, and papers by William Shughart, Gary Anderson, and a joint paper by John Bowman/ Michael Pratt. The discussant was George Hoffer.
1985 June 21: James Savarese submits his bill to the Tobacco Institute for
- Op Ed Project - $1000 each 'professional fees'
for Abrams, Alston, Armentano, Harper-Fender, T Anderson, Denzau, Bohanon, Jadlow, Wagner and Menchik.
- Southwest Social Science Meeting — Houston
- Keith Watson ($1,000),
- RB Ekelund Jr ($2,003)
- Joseph Jadlow ($2,605),
- Richard Wagner ($2,716)
- Robert D Tollison ($5,000)
- Henry N Butler ($2,070)
- Eastern Economic Assoc, Meeting — Pittsburgh
- George E Hoffer ($1,431)
- Gary M Anderson ($2,450)
- Robert D Tollison ($6,375)
- Bill Shurghart III ($2,529)
- Michael D Pratt ($1,288)
- John H Bowman ($1,000)
1986 Dec 11: James Savarese sends Fred Panzer at the Tobacco Institute a summary of the activities of his network of economists. This is effectively the beginning of the main cash-for-comments economists network.
Dear Fred, There are now 62 names on the list (Some states have 4 or 5) not counting himself and Bob Tollison. The details given for each consist of State, Regional Division [of the TI], Name, Address and Telephone number. Added to this is a list of the 'Projects' they have completed (in later lists, also the names of Congressmen they have contacted.)
I have attached a list of all the economists we have used along with the projects they have worked on in behalf of the Tobacco Institute.
Virtually all of these cash-for-comment academics have been generating op-ed articles for newspapers, or have, in some unspecified way, opposed the Packwood Excise Tax plan — or perhaps helped fake up one of the 'Chase' [Econometrics studies]. A few participants have attended Congressional or government inquiries ['Treasury I') or local ordinance hearings as 'independent witnesses' while secretly acting for the tobacco industry. Two of the 64 members (Ann Harper-Fender and Gary Anderson) were acting termporarily as advisors to Ronald Reagan's Advisory Council on Intergovernmental Relations— which sought to bring pressure on the FDA, EPA and OSHA and stop them being pro-active with smoking bans.
Other participants have been promoting the industry line at various academic conferences and fora [mainly as keynote speakers at economic society meetings] , and a few of the core-team were involved in brianstorming sessions with members of the tobacco industry looking for new angles for their PR, and for possible research project which might generate some economic propaganda for the industry.
Many of them have joined in with the industry's orchestrated letter-writing campaigns opposing workplace smoking bans.
- GSA = General (Government) Services Administration.
- 'Ways & Means' = Congressional committee on finances
- ALEC = American Legislative Exchange Council (a formalised way for big business to directly influence Congressional and State politicians)
- Chase Econometrics = A company that did economic impact studies for the tobacco industry in various locations to 'prove' that smoking bans would destroy local economies.
The references for this network member were:
Virginia [ Region VI ]
Professor John Bowman
Professor Michael Pratt
Economics Department, Virginia Commonwealth Univ., 901 W. Franklin Street, Richmond, Virginia 23284
1986 Dec 11: James Savarese sends Fred Panzer at the Tobacco Institute a summary of the activities of his network of economists.
There are now 62 on the list, not counting himself and Bob Tollison. The details given for each consists of State, Name address and telephone number, and a list of the 'Projects' they have completed (together with Congressmen they have contacted in some cases)
Professor John Bowman and Professor Michael Pratt [both of]
Economics Department, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
901 W. Franklin Street, Richmond, Virginia 23284
[Projects] "academic forum"
Both Pratt and Bowman appear not to have remained involved with the economist network after this miscalculation.
1989 Sep: A preliminary report on Social Regulation prepared for the National Chamber Foundation (a tobacco lobby front) by Hanke & Walters has been passed to the Tobacco Institute as a member of the NCF's "Social Cost Council."
It quotes a couple of tobacco industry paid academica lobbyists including Kip Viscusi on fire-safety and
Enclosed is the final draft of the Hanke/Walters study "Social Regulation: A Report Card," which the Foundation is preparing for publication. Several changes were incorporated since the last version, so I ask that you please read it over carefully to make sure that you are satisfied with the final product.
If I do not receive any additional comments by Monday, October 2nd, I will assume that this study has been approved by all members, and will proceed with its publication.
In a provocative study of state-level consumer protection legislation, Michael Pratt and George Hoffer (Apr 1986) examined the effects of new laws, adopted in several states, requiring used-vehicle dealers to disclose any knowledge of product defects.
They found no evidence that the mandated disclosure requirements are effective in increasing the number of good-quality*vehicles traded in the used market; thus, these laws do not appear to reduce a prospective buyer's risk of purchasing a 'lemon'.