That Lincoln Bedroom is good for something at the Whitehouse. At least one thing about the GOP, when they steal, they steal big. No f...ing around with chump change.
Tobacco Escapes Huge Penalty U.S. Seeks $10 Billion Instead of $130 Billion
By Carol D. Leonnig Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, June 8, 2005; Page A01
After eight months of courtroom argument, Justice Department lawyers abruptly upset a landmark civil racketeering case against the tobacco industry yesterday by asking for less than 8 percent of the expected penalty.
As he concluded closing arguments in the six-year-old lawsuit, Justice Department lawyer Stephen D. Brody shocked tobacco company representatives and anti-tobacco activists by announcing that the government will not seek the $130 billion that a government expert had testified was necessary to fund smoking-cessation programs. Instead, Brody said, the Justice Department will ask tobacco companies to pay $10 billion over five years to help millions of Americans quit smoking.
Before it was cut, the cessation program was the most significant financial penalty still available to the government as part of its litigation, which had been the largest civil racketeering and conspiracy case in U.S. history. The government contended that six tobacco companies engaged in a 50-year conspiracy to defraud and addict smokers and then conceal the dangers of cigarettes.
"We were very surprised," said Dan Webb, lawyer for Altria Group's Philip Morris USA and the coordinating attorney in the case. "They've gone down from $130 billion to $10 billion with absolutely no explanation. It's clear the government hasn't thought through what it's doing."
The import of the tabacco settlement story to message board readers is that this is how corporate heads can dismiss the $2.3 trillion in pension obligations to retiree's. They will simply call in a chit in Washington, and presto, no more pension problems. They will ask to have it vanish or to have it covered by more bail out money from the Bureau of Public Debt.
[In case you were distracted by all the flag waving, pensions are deliberately underfunded, upon the advice of accounting firms who showed corporate leaders how to pop their earnings numbers and quickly cash in stock options on the news by passing junk paper to pensions and not cash. The tab is $2.3 Trillion. You might think that is too big, but it is about what the current administration is going to add to the Fed Deficit anyway, so it's just double-downing. Voters don't notice anyway.]
... from today's Post ...
Tobacco Witnesses Were Told To Ease Up Justice Dept. Sought Softened Sanctions
By Carol D. Leonnig Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, June 9, 2005; Page A04
Government lawyers asked two of their own witnesses to soften recommendations about sanctions that should be imposed on the tobacco industry if it lost a landmark civil racketeering case, one of the witnesses and sources familiar with the case said yesterday.
Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said the Justice Department's lead trial lawyer called him May 9 to say her superiors wanted him to scale back the recommendations he had made in written testimony. They sought to remove his suggestions for a ban on tobacco company methods of marketing to young people before Myers took the stand. Myers said he refused to do so.
A second witness, scientific expert Michael Eriksen, also departed from recommendations in his earlier written testimony, court documents show.
According to sources involved in the case, high-level officials at Justice ordered the cut despite objections from career lawyers who have worked on the trial, in some cases years.
Justice Department spokesman John Nowacki said the department thought some of Myers's suggestions would violate the tobacco companies' free-speech rights. He said he had no information about Eriksen's testimony.
I have not followed the tobacco situation very closely....only enough to conclude there have been very few situations where there was so little relationship between wrongdoing and where the money winds up. If less money is made available, perhaps less abuse will occur.
HYPOCRISY rules on all sides, at all levels.
1) The dangers of smoking have been known for decades. Those (and their silver tongued lawyers) who say they are hooked and can't stop are just wimping out and looking for money. Many millions of people have stopped. (No, from personal experience, it's not easy, but not impossible.)
2) Hundreds of lawyers are getting paid multi millions without doing a lick of work just cashing in on a "me-too" situation. Of course, the politicos who direct the pay-offs are getting their kick backs.
3) Governments at all levels would be in a revenue bind of the tobacco taxes ceased to exit. They need that industry and will squeeze for what they can, but see that it survives.
4) Very little of the money dispersed from the law suits has been used for its intented purposes, smoking cessation, etc. Instead, this money has been diverted for general purposes or debt reduction.
Will tobacco, marijuana or prostitution become the next liquor or lottery hypocrisy? Initially, banned by the government, government subsequently becomes the steward and sole owner of these activities, jailing those who try to do it outside of government control.