How $120B Went Up in Smoke

This week’s $120 billion giveaway to the tobacco industry was only the latest development in a sustained effort by the Bush administration to undermine the government’s case. Consider:

— On the campaign trail in 2000 Bush said “I think we’ve had enough suits. I don’t think you can sue your way to policy…. The lawyers I talk to don’t feel [the DOJ has] a case.”

— During the 2000 campaign Morgan Stanley analyst David Adelman wrote a research note titled “‘W’ is for Withdrawing the DOJ’s Tobacco Suit

— Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft “opposed litigation against the tobacco industry while serving in the Senate.”

— Upon assuming office in 2000, Attorney General John Ashcroft “allocated $1.8 million to keep the lawsuit going, instead of the $57 million the department’s lawyers said they would need to mount a vigorous case.” The move “undermined the government’s negotiating strength…paving the way for a potentially weak settlement.”

— In September 2001, Sen. Dick Durbin charged that Ashcroft’s aides “have been bad-mouthing this lawsuit through back channels for months.”