Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Just catching up on a jam-packed week . . .
Last week, the federal government asked U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler to require tobacco companies to fund a five-year, $10 billion stop-smoking program. This amount is only a fraction of the 25-year, $130 billion program suggested by government witness Michael C. Fiore, a University of Wisconsin medical professor. What happened? If you are suspicious, you are not the only one.
Judge Kessler questioned what was behind the government's decision to reduce the proposed size of a nationwide stop-smoking program. According to a recent article, the Judge hasn't yet received a satisfactory answer:
The Justice Department called the $10 billion program an "initial request" that could be expanded. But Kessler on Wednesday said, "There may be some additional influences being brought to bear" on the government's decision.
Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Martin Meehan, D-Mass., sent a letter Wednesday to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, asking him to assess whether "improper political interference" factored in the decision to ask for a smaller program.
"The Justice Department's approach to tobacco litigation should be based on the facts of the case and not political favors to the tobacco industry," the congressmen wrote. "It is highly unusual for government prosecutors to abandon evidence-based testimony by their key witnesses at the last moment in a major trial."
Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum said the government would address the stop-smoking program again today, when closing arguments are scheduled to conclude. But, speaking to several reporters in the courtroom, he said he would not comment on what factors influenced the decision to ask for a smaller program.
Should be interesting to see how they explain this $120 billion decrease in requested penalty. Indeed, the Department of Justice is now investigating whetherh politics influenced the decision to seek redueced sanctions. [bm]