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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mike Hatch and Big Tobacco

From the Pulse:

Mike Hatch has built his reputation as a crusading attorney general willing to investigate excessive profits in the health care industry. He went after Allina and scored points with a public frustrated with increased health insurance premiums and bloated profits. Then he went after MPAAT, the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco. He demanded it restructure its board, and he wanted more smoking cessation programs and fewer publicity campaigns. The original MPAAT board was made up of people who were getting grants, but, in all fairness, those members of the board represented organizations that had been working against Big Tobacco for decades. They were the experts and they were doing the work. Also, every study that’s ever been done proves that public campaigns are more effective in stopping tobacco than tobacco cessation programs. [In the interest of full disclosure, Pulse has been sponsoring Smoke Free Saturday Nights for seven years—before MPAAT existed, and we have received some support for these events from numerous sources, including MPAAT.] Hatch did nothing when Target Market was gutted by Governor Tim Pawlenty and House Speaker Steve Sviggum so they could give tax breaks to their rich friends. Big Tobacco contributes generously to the Republicans in general and to Pawlenty and Sviggum in particular, so it was expected that they would kill a program that had proved effective in getting young people to stop and not start smoking. But what is little known is that one of Mike Hatch’s principal fundraisers when he was running for attorney general four years ago was a principal lobbyist for the tobacco industry. This conflict of interest alone raises questions about Hatch’s commitment to public health.

Thanks to the Drama Queen for pointing this one out.