Moore is Attorney General, Mississippi and lead negotiator for the state Attorneys General in the tobacco settlement. A suggestion from Mississippi attorney Mike Lewis led Moore to the idea of suing the tobacco industry to recover Medicaid costs paid by the state in treating sick smokers. He hired Dick Scruggs, a friend from Ole Mississippi Law School, to research and develop the case.
The two of them, nicknamed Scro and Mo, then took their idea on the road and convinced other Attorneys General around the country to sue the tobacco industry. Their efforts ultimately led to the tobacco industry coming to the bargaining table and negotiating the June 20, 1997 national settlement agreement. This agreement provided the basis for the current debate in Congress over national tobacco legislation.
Before becoming Attorney General of Mississippi in 1988, Moore was District Attorney in Pascagoula, MS. He was named “Lawyer of the Year,” by the National Law Journal in 1997. The following is selections from FRONTLINE’s interview with Attorney General Moore in early 1998.
Lowell Bergman: Let’s go back to May 94 or thereabouts. Back then, how did you describe the tobacco industry?
Mike Moore: Probably the same way I describe them now. The most corrupt and evil corporate animal that was ever been created in this country. I believe they’re the most corrupt and evil corporate animal that has ever been created in this country’s history. They sell the drug, they make a drug, and they sell it knowing that it’s addictive. They market it to our children, who they know will become addicts and they know that they will die from the causes of–of this tribute tobacco related disease. So yes, they’re pretty evil.
Q: And they lie about it.
Mike Moore: I mean that’s the bad thing. You know the two biggest mistake they made, Lowell, to me, and frankly the way we were able to catch them is they didn’t tell the truth about their products, and they hid the dangers. And, they marketed to kids. But for those two things I don’t think we wouldn’t have had an Achilles heal.
Q: So in comparison to lets say, the dealers in illegal drugs, how do they compare?
Mike Moore: Well, a couple ways to measure that. all the illegal drugs in America cause twenty thousand deaths a year. All of them. Cocaine, marijuana, Heroin, all of them. Tobacco kills four hundred twenty thousand people a year. That’s 21 times the n ber of deaths. They cost us billions and billions of health care dollars. Deaths are not quite as immediate as in the cocaine trade or in the illegal drug traffic, but they’re much more detrimental, in my opinion.
Q: Let me take you back even further. Because you’ve come a long way. When you–you grew up here in Pascagoula?
Mike Moore: Right.
Q: When you were growing up as a kid, what did you want to be?
Mike Moore: Well, I guess early on in, in life I guess I toyed with the idea of becoming a priest. And then I discovered girls. So those things didn’t work. I played in a rock n’ roll band. I even thought at one time I would be a rock n’ roll musician. My daddy quickly let me understand that the world is full of mediocre piano players. So, I didn’t get very far there other than having a lot of fun through school and college making some money. Then I really wanted to be a lawyer during my high school years. And knew when I graduated high school that’s what I was going to do. I was going to be a lawyer. And I wanted to be a lawyer because I knew that’s a job that I could take where I can make a difference in people’s lives. That’s what I’ve done my whole career is make try to make difference.
Q: To do what, to make money?
Mike Moore: No, I really didn’t know what field of law that I’d go into. I just knew I wanted to be a lawyer because I knew a lawyer was an advocate and somebody who could go into a court room and make a difference and fight for people and win — right, wrongs if you, if you will. That is something that energized me. From the earliest days of my life, I have always got a good feeling. It is almost indescribable from helping someone. When you help someone and you made their life a little bit better, I just get a good feeling about it. And that feeling never left me. I still do. Whenever I do something good for somebody, I just feel good about it. I like it. It is a high for me. I mean maybe that’s drugs for somebody else but that is a high for me.
Q. What are your politics like?
Mike Moore: I am a pretty conservative Democrat. I am conservative in more ways than most Republicans. But I, I also feel that you ought to treat people fair and just. And the law serves everyone not just the folks at the top of the spectrum. I also believe government can do a lot to motivate people. You don’t hand out things to people but government officials can act in such a matter that they can inspire and motivate people to reach out and help themselves and maybe that sounds like a Republican to some folks but I am a Democrat.
Q: You are a Democrat because why?
Mike Moore: Well, I’ve always seen the other party, Lowell, as a party of exclusion. You know, you can’t be a Republican because you are black, or you can’t be a Republican because you not rich enough or you’re not in this club or whatever at least that’s the way it’s been in my state.
Q: Why tobacco? Why pick on tobacco in Mississippi?
Mike Moore: Why not tobacco? In retrospect, you know it’s easier to say this now then maybe in 1994 but, in retrospect, it was the — the biggest challenge, the biggest legal challenge in history. If we could climb this mountain, so to speak, then there would never be one larger than this. No challenge greater. Nobody have ever beaten the tobacco industry before. We felt like we had a chance. We also knew if we won, we might just do more good than any lawyer had ever done in history. Might save more lives than most doctors have ever saved in history. So I mean, why not do that? Why not be a part of that? And as the movement grew through the years I became more and more convinced we were going to be successful.
I mean just the question you ask me, my mom and dad asked me why am I suing the tobacco industry? Most of my friends asked me, “Mike, you know this–this is crazy. They are going to come after you — they may kill you, I mean this is nuts. You’ll never win.” But I knew somewhere deep in my soul, I suppose, that we really were going to win. Because it was the right thing to do. We were going to have a lot of obstacles. I didn’t know quite how many when we filed it. But I knew we were going to win and I just never lost sight of victory.
Q: Is this a religious experience?
Mike Moore: I don’t know if it was religious or not. I know one thing that we had a lot of breaks in this thing. We were very fortunate. A lot of courageous people came our way. I mean the Jeffrey Wigand’s of the world, the Merrill Williams of the world and so many others. That didn’t just happen by happenstance. That didn’t happen because we were brilliant lawyers or there was some great magnetism that brought them here.
I think we had some help from above, I really do. I think that we were guided in this case and I think we are still guided in this case by a higher power.
Q: That’s hefty talk from a politician.
Mike Moore: Well, you gotta understand from where I came in life. The source of any strength that I have in my life is a very strong faith in God. When I fought the supervisor wars here, which were public corruption cases, the first stop I made every morning was the church across the street from the courthouse. And nothing more than to go and say a prayer and ask the Lord to help me this day and the next day I would do the same thing. That is a source of energy for me, Lowell, maybe some people understand it and maybe some people don’t. But if works for me.
Q: You are a practical politician. I mean back in 1994, you had to know that this would be a risky political move and that tobacco was very powerful?
Mike Moore: Well, I just always believed if you do the right thing, for the right reason and you never ever give up, no matter how tough it gets, that you are going to succeed. I am not naive enough to know or to not believe that you’ll lose sometimes. But losing, to me is a temporary loss. I mean you may lose in one way just saddle back up and go at them a different way.
This is one of those fights against the industry that we couldn’t give up and that’s what I made the lawyers do. I made them promise that they were going to help me, you know you can never, never give up. And if I mean if you don’t want to be, you know make that kind of commitment, then stay on the other side of the line. I mean if you want to come over here on this side of the line, I am never giving up. You guys may all go home but I am going to be in the ditch when you give up.
So it was that kind of fight. And it still is. This fight is not over. I am still fighting it. We got a long way to go. But it is worth it. It really has been worth it.
Q: Now tell me what happened when Mike Lewis called you up on the phone. You were in the office?
Mike Moore: Yep. Sure. Lewis, Mike Lewis and I were classmates at Ole Miss. We actually studied together. And he was almost like a big brother to me in school. He called me up one day and had the darndest story about a secretary and a secretary’s mother who was in the hospital dying from heart disease attributable to tobacco related disease. You know he was almost fretting a bit because he couldn’t do anything to help her.
And he wondered because he had sold everything she had and now she was on Medicaid and the state was actually spending dollars, wonder if there was cause of action that the state can bring against the industry. We just explored that a little bit on the phone and I hung up the phone I go “I don’t know about that, I mean I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not”. But he and his wife came down, who is also a lawyer, and talked to me another classmate of ours at Ole Miss and we talked about it. And I thought it might have some–some merit.
I wasn’t convinced then, at that point, that there was a justiciable case, a real legal case against the industry. But I called Scruggs, a little while a few weeks later, probably, or maybe a short period after that and got him to work on it and Steve Boseman to work at it. And so the theory started being researched
Nobody had ever thought about this before. I mean this is such a novel theory of the law that we worked over a year researching and actually shopping our theories with legal experts across the country.
And we expected them to say we were crazy and what we got in return was “gosh, you guys may have just come up with–with the silver bullet here, this has, it’s risky, but it has a chance”. We start going, “Hmm, right here in Mississippi,” you know.
Q: How did you recruit people to join in the lawsuit?
Mike Moore: Well, we began after we filed our lawsuit going around the country. Obviously as Attorney General went to talk to other Attorneys General. I tried to twist arms if I could, tell them how much proof we had. Insist that this is the right thing to do. Talk about the children issues every motivating factor I could think of to get them interested. Because, I knew the political pressure involved in this. I mean suing the tobacco industry is not a smart political move, especially back then.
Because they come after you. And they did. They sent former Attorney General, hired as lobbyist, to every Attorney General in this country, they sent business representative, industry representatives. Uh not just tobacco but the whatever state it was in. In Louisiana, they sent a chemical industry and oil industry to the state Attorney General said “You better not do this or we are coming after you.” You know, its bad for business, I mean in my own state, my governor sued me. You know, the business community came after me saying that this is bad for business in Mississippi.
So I knew the political price that some of my brothers and sisters would have to pay. But the biggest argument I had is, “This is the right thing to do gang. This is going to save a lot of people’s lives. And these guys are targeting your kids. I mean, just weigh it out, political pressures vs. the children of this country, where do you come out as Attorney General?” And I would have to tell you that I am so proud of the men and women that are Attorneys General of this country cause they came out for the kids and came out for the public health.
Q. What role did Merrill Williams play in the events?
Mike Moore: Probably the two most dramatic events with people would be right here in this building, where we are right now, when I met Merrill Williams, back in probably early 1994. Merrill brought us the famous Brown & Williamson documents here in Mississippi, which are probably still the most damming documents ever produced against the industry.
The fellow I met that day was a guy who was scared to death. I mean, remember I’ve been prosecuting criminals all my life and I’ve had all kinds of witnesses turn states evidence. I have never met anybody that was more afraid of losing their life being in some accident — this guy was sweating, I mean you could almost see his heart pounding in his chest. He, he spoke, you know, a few words and backed off a few words. I mean you had to pull the information out of him.
I met him in this room right over here, and he started handing me some documents and when he handed me the now famous Addison Yeaman memo that says “we are in the business of selling nicotine an addictive drug”, I mean I knew we had the goods on the industry. Having just seen them testify before Congress that you know that “we swear that nicotine is not an addictive drug”, I knew why he was sweating. I knew why he was scared to death. So that was pretty dramatic.
Q. What about Jeffrey Wigand?
Mike Moore: Then there was Jeffrey Wigand, a fellow who I believe has as much character and integrity as anybody in this whole fight. Because Jeff had some real choices to make. And I saw him make them. When Jeffrey made the choice as a Brown & Williamson executive to leave–I know he got fired, but he, he could have contested that. And then when he came here and agreed to testify for us and take the deposition that day out on the beach in front of Dick’s house, I mean he made a decision again for what is right.
I mean he knew that they were going to come after him. They were already after him. He knew that his family was going to be hurt. But he knew what he was doing would probably would do more good for this country than anything anybody had done for public health for many, many years. So, I mean I just I was so proud to see somebody with such courage because that he wouldn’t get anything out of it. Nothing. I mean he was losing, that was a losing decision for him. But he gave so much.
Q. How important were these whistleblowers?
Mike Moore: So, I mean those two guys, Merrill Williams and Jeffrey Wigand, we wouldn’t be here today where we are with the three hundred sixty-eight billion dollar settlement without the courage of those two people. And for people who criticized Jeffrey for any of the blemishes in his life or Merrill Williams, I’d have to ask them to examine themselves and see would you have the courage to stand alone against one of the most powerful industries in this world and do the right thing? Most people would have to answer no.
Q: Tell me about Scruggs.
Mike Moore: We, it’s funny, as time has gone one we’ve become Scrow and Mo or Mo and Scrow. Dick is one of the most unique fellows I’ve ever met in my life. He is a genuine person from this stand point, when I met Dicky, he didn’t have anything. He was married. Well, I say he didn’t have anything, he was married to a lovely lady and he had a son. And they didn’t have any money. He was going to law school. He and I met in law school. And he got out of law school and practiced law and did ok for awhile.
And now obviously he’s doing very, very well. And you know able to buy big planes and boats and all kinds of things. But he is still exactly the same person as I met in law school. He cares about people. He is generous, there is not an arrogant bone in his body if you really know him. He contributes not only of his time, but of his money to things and never ask anybody for credit. He doesn’t even want anybody to know that he’s doing things to help people.
He’s a sensational lawyer, a great strategist, and a damn good friend. I picked well when I asked Dicky to be involved in this. But I knew I was going to pick well because I wanted someone who, no matter how tough it got, would not run. I mean and who would have the resources and wouldn’t be afraid to invest them all.
And people don’t know this, Lowell, Dicky and his wife Diane, invested everything they have in this case. And the reason I know that is because we had we got to a certain point where we had to go out to actually get more funding from other people. Include other people in this case, other lawyers had to split what possible legal fees that maybe paid down the line what other people who really didn’t have anything to do much with the case.
I mean, even if he had to spend every penny that he had, he knew it, and I had the commitment to fight this battle till it was over. And luckily he’s got a wife like Diane who let him do it. And it could have gone, this thing could have bellied up easy, and Dicky would have been back broke, without anything, and have to start all over again. So, I mean that’s commitment and that’s why I get a little bit defensive when people start coming out and saying all these lawyers are going to make a bunch of money. Nobody’s ever sacrificed the way some of these folks have for a cause that’s going to benefit the entire nation. And I don’t think I can say that about every lawyer involved in these cases. But I know I can say about the ones representing Mississippi.
Q: Tell me about Ron Motley.
Mike Moore: Ron Motley. What a character! The best thing I can say about Ron is he is one of the most heartfelt people I have ever met in my life. He is a very emotional character. Uh, he uses that emotion in the courtroom for his clients. He’s a wonderful trial lawyer because he believes. He really deeply believes in the people he represents. In this case, I saw Ron working at 3 o’clock in the morning, 4 o’clock in the morning, get two hours of sleep, and he’s calling me on the phone at 7 o’clock in the morning saying, “look, let me read page 16 of this deposition to you, you’re not going to believe this. I mean he was enthusiastic. His talent and his motivation, and his acceptance of this case as a life mission, uh, is probably one of the things that got us far as we’ve gotten so far. He’s gonna be a benefit to every other state that has him as a lawyer.
Q: Can you remember somebody coming to you, “what are you doing, Mike?”
Mike Moore: Well, you know, several people did. My parents thought I was nuts, filing a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. My best friends told me that this would be the last political thing that I’d ever do in my life. The political advisors in the state and out of the state told me that this was not a smart thing to do, and if you ever had any aspirations for higher office, you can forget them. You may not even win the election, re-election campaign, because they’re going to run somebody against you. And they’ll fund them, and they’ll talk dirty about you and they’ll spend a lot of money doing it. So, the truth of the matter is, Lowell, I didn’t care. I mean I really didn’t care.
Q: Now wait a second. You really didn’t care?
Mike Moore: I really, really didn’t care. I like to consider myself a public servant. I mean I got into this business for one reason, to make a difference. And if I’m not going to do something because there is political threat, on the other side, or because this is going to be tough, I’m not worth myself. No, you can’t make a difference many times if you’re not there to make a difference. I understand that. You got to understand me. I never think I’m going to lose. I always think I’m going to win. And maybe that’s naivete, uh, it’s driven me through my life pretty successfully. I knew I was going to win. I knew the chances. And I’ve lost before, but I knew this was right. Man, I know it’s hard for people to understand. I knew this was in my soul I knew this was the right thing to do and I knew it had the potential to do more good than anything I’d ever done in my life. So what if I lost? So what? I don’t get to be Attorney General? I don’t get to be a United States senator? I don’t get to be some politican, who cares? I will have done more good for this country, even in losing, by exposing this industry than any other opportunity I’d ever have in my life. So why not do it? I didn’t see it as a possibility of a loss.
Q: Sounds like some kind of madness was overcoming people in Mississippi.
Mike Moore: Well, you know you could say it was madness. But it was more damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. You know, we knew we were right. We knew we were going to be criticized. We tried to be as smart as we could in calculating how to file the case, who the opponents were going to be, we were pretty about how we did it.
Q: Did you home cook the case by filing in Pascagoula?
Mike Moore: Well, I’d say that we made sure that we were going to have a fair playing field. The tobacco industry, when they came to Mississippi, and they saw that we filed a lawsuit in my hometown, in Dickey’s hometown, hometown law firm. A half way popular attorney general, they knew that they had a challenge on their hands. Uh, when they couldn’t use their gimmickry to get it removed to federal court or coerce some judge or others to move it to a jury trial rather than a judge trial, they knew they were in trouble. We knew they were trouble. Then when we were able to get the other states involved, which is where they really fought us, uh, and they, the biggest thing they did in my state that helped me eventually, but hurt me at first, is they coerced my governor into suing me, and then they sued me. It took a year of effort to beat that lawsuit. But when they lost that, they were history. I mean, when the Supreme Court of my state said this trial will go forward, they were through, and they knew it.
Q: You know, one of the key moments in all this, I think tactically, strategically was when Bennett LeBow and Liggett said, “hey, we want a deal”. Tell us what happened.
Mike Moore: Well, uh, another one of our Ole Miss Law School classmates who we included in the trial team, Don Barrett, had a relationship with a lawyer in New York, Mark Casowitz who had a relationship with Bennett LeBow. And, uh, Don, to make a long short, Don and Mark began to talk about a possibility of working with the small Liggett Tobacco Company and possibility of a settlement. And Don talked with us and, uh, things proceeded on for awhile and we had meetings, you know, we met in Miami, we met in Memphis, we met all over the country, uh–
Q: In secret?
Mike Moore: Oh, absolutely in secret. If this got out, I mean, this would be a, the tobacco companies would do everything that they, the big tobacco companies do everything they could to kill Bennett LeBow and his company, just like they’re doing now. So it had to be done in secret. And we were able to keep it a secret. That’s probably the only secret we were ever able to keep, is the Liggett One settlement. Nobody knew about that until the day before we announced it. , and it probably was one of the most remarkable events in this four year battle. Because for the first time, a tobacco company agreed to pay money, and cooperate with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit. It shook the industry, uh, pretty strongly. They didn’t act like it, but it did.
Q: Hubert Humphrey opposed it.
Mike Moore: Yah, I tried to get Skip involved in the Liggett One settlement. You know it’s funny. I had Bob Butterworth of Florida, who is my friend and partner throughout this thing, who gets very little credit, but who is as instrumental as anybody else in our success. Bob immediately agreed to be involved in the Liggett settlement. He saw the potential. Scott Arshbarger, you know, Attorney General of Massachusetts, I go to see him when he’s on vacation, down in Florida, and Scott agreed, after one hour of session that he would be involved. Uh, then we called Daryl McGraw in West Virginia, the Attorney General there. He said, “Mike, I’m with you. If you think this is a good thing, we’re going.” So the fifth state that was involved was Minnesota. Dick and I flew, along with Bob Butterworth, the three of us flew to Minnesota to meet with Skip Humphrey, and we never met this Mike Ceresi guy, but he was there that day. We couldn’t have been treated more harshly. They thought we were nuts. Uh, they thought this was a bad idea. Uh, and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. It was almost like it wasn’t their idea, so it must not be good. So we left, knowing we had four states, uh, we wanted to have five, so Louisiana. We got Louisiana to file a lawsuit. They filed a lawsuit, flew to, uh, Washington and joined in the settlement. So, at that point, there were six states involved and five settled with Liggett. It worked the same way with Minnesota the second time, when we did the Liggett Two deal. Uh, we had 22 states, I believe at that time who had filed lawsuits, a few less than that because we got a few more when we were going to do the Liggett settlement. And Minnesota again didn’t want, didn’t see the worth in the Liggett Two settlement, with all the documents and admissions and all the things. And they didn’t agree to sign on until all the other states were lined up, we were walking across to the press conference, and then they agreed to sign on to the settlement and stood there with the rest of us. And I’m glad, it was, it was, it was helpful. But Minnesota has, from the very beginning just drew a line around their state and they wanted to do their own thing and they didn’t want to be a part of all that we were doing, uh, building the army. They just, they just felt like they should just do their own thing and let us do our own thing.
Q: Well, I think what they say is that you’re a great advocate, you’re for the anti tobacco movement, you’ve done a great job, but they’re doing the real lawyering.
Mike Moore: Well, I guess the difference is, I was involved in my case, from the very beginning. I did the discovery, I read the documents, I was prepared to try the case myself. I don’t believe Skip’s done that same thing. He’s let Mike Ceresi, uh, and those lawyers run his case for him, and that’s fine, but it’s just a difference of opinion. Also, from the very beginning, said to every other state in this country, anything that I have, you can have, witnesses, documents, whatever. And that’s how we were able to elicit and get all these other states involved. Minnesota, basically said, “we want you to dump all the documents in Minnesota, and then you’ve gotta come sign all these agreements and you can’t tell anybody about it.” We would have never been able to beat this industry if they were able to cordon us off, state by state, like that. So, I hope they do well. I mean, we want Minnesota just to beat the pants off tobacco, when they, when they try the case.
Q: Now, Bennett LeBow continues to complain about how he’s been treated. He gave you, he broke, if you will, the Great Berlin Wall of tobacco.
Mike Moore: Well, you know, I’m proud of what Ben LeBow did. I’ve grown to know him more and more through the years. He was very, very helpful to us. We’re going to make sure in this national settlement, that LeBow and Liggett are taken of. And I think we’ll have a lot of congressional support to do that. So I don’t really think he has anything to complain about. He’s still very helpful to us. I mean, he’s lobbying as hard as he can for the settlement, if it excludes him. Uh, in other words, if it makes, gives him the ability for his tobacco industry to have some growth and make some money.
Q: So the keys were two whistle blowers and a defector.
Mike Moore: I think, we could not have done this without those three things. I mean some, like Minnesota and others will tell you, “Oh, Merrill William’s not important, and Jeffrey Wigand’s not important.” They wouldn’t be where they are without Merrill William’s documents and without Jeffrey Wigand and without Bennett LeBow. We just saw the value of that early on, and we grabbed hold of it and used it to our best benefit.
Q: And you created, if you will, a safe haven here in Mississippi?
Mike Moore: We did. You know, and, people, I don’t know they ask me, “why Mississippi?” You know, “why did Merrill Williams come to Mississippi and why did Jeffrey Wigand and all these documents?” But, we had a safe haven for the truth for, I believe. Uh, and we weren’t afraid to risk everything to protect these people. Merrill Williams has been protected here. He lives here in Mississippi now. Wigand has been a beneficiary of Dick Scruggs and many others who tried to help him in his life. You know, we hired the lawyers that represented Jeffrey Wigand and Merrill Williams and many others in the lawsuits that the tobacco companies brought against them. I mean, as you know, you were integrally involved yourself in many of those things. Nobody else was willing to do it. Nobody, Lowell. I mean, there weren’t any lawyers in Louisville, Kentucky that were going to come to the aid of Jeffrey Wigand and Merrill Williams. With court orders out there threatening to do everything from holding them in contempt to take their bar license away from them. I mean, nobody else was going to help them. We just took the chance down here, knowing somebody would take action against us.
Q: With Merrill Williams, his documents were stolen from lawyers. Let me put myself in the position of a general counsel for another major corporation– Are you saying, Mr. Moore, that you as the attorney general, can be above the law, and make public documents that are trade secrets, possibly even more valuable than that?
Mike Moore: No, I’m saying with the background information that I had at the time, and understand what it was, I saw with my own two eyes, seven tobacco executives raise their right hand and swear, before Congress, that nicotine was not an addictive drug. They had no evidence of that whatsoever. And then, the very next couple of weeks, I had in my hand, a memo that proved that they were lying. This is evidence of a crime. And when an Attorney General of this country has evidence of a crime, he has a duty to put it in the hands of those people who can do something about it. So where did we take it? We took it back straight to that same committee, the Henry Waxman’s committee, and put those documents on his desk, for him to do what he needed to do with them. We sent them to the Justice Department. We sent them to the Food and Drug Administration. And we saved a copy to use in our case.
Q: And you knew they were going to end up in the New York Times?
Mike Moore: I didn’t know where they would wind up. Uh, I just knew that I had done my job in putting them in the right places.
Q: By the summer of 1996, you’re starting to talk to the tobacco industry. Communication’s starting to happen.
Mike Moore: We had some, what I would call, uh, secret, indirect communications, uh, with the industry by summer of 96. That’s right. And we were working jointly, uh, with the Food and Drug Administration, with Dr. Kessler and some of his top assistants. Frankly, we’ve been working with them for four years. Uh, they’ve helped us, we’ve helped them. Uh, that’s been a good working relationship. Uh, and I think, uh, without their assistance, again, that they’re a player who, if they were missing from this battle, we wouldn’t be where we are.
Q: In a sense, they’re there because the President of the United States let them be there?
Mike Moore: That’s right.
Q: Dr. Kessler served at his discretion?
Mike Moore: That’s right.
Q: So, how important was Bill Clinton’s lack of tobacco company support, if you will, or alliance with them to your effort?
Mike Moore: Well, President Clinton, I have to give him a tremendous amount of credit, because he made the right decision on coming forward with the FDA rule. There was a lot that went into that, as you know, many of the same players, the Merrill Williams documents, the Jeffrey Wigand, the assistance with the FDA, uh, all those things helped buttress the President in making that decision. But he still made it.
He made a decision, I think, that took a lot of political courage, because at that time, he was facing re-election. A lot of tobacco states, a lot of democratic vote that he needed, uh, he could have lost that. And Kessler and President Clinton and I think with Al Gore’s push, they all made the right decision to push the children’s issue especially. Well, that buttressed the Attorney’s General claims, because, one of our main claims was that they targeted the kids. So, it was, it was then a federal state effort, uh, moving forward. And I think that shook the tobacco industry a little bit.
Q: How did you meet Dick Morris?
Mike Moore: I’m trying to think the first time I, I met Dick. I met Dick Morris through, uh, Scruggs. Uh, he had done some work, uh, with Dick in doing some polling. I think even on our case, uh, there was some polling that was done about the advisability of whether judge or jury or whether, uh, the people of this state would really reward the state for uh, the losses from the tobacco industry, which the results came back that they wouldn’t. So it was not a, we found out it was not a very popular thing to do to sue the tobacco industry. Uh, as a matter of fact, I think it was like two to one against us, uh, but we did it anyway. But, I met him several times, uh, through Scruggs, and then, I dealt with him a lot of times since then.
Q: The talks started, they floundered, basically they became public the first series of talks.
Mike Moore: We thought we had a nice plan working, a proposal for a national resolution, but it was still in the works. It was an early drafting stage and the Wall Street Journal, uh, somehow, uh, got a hold of an early draft and leaked it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. People picked it apart, like it was a roadkill, you know, attacked by buzzards.
Even people who had been involved with this began to make public statements against it. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. And of course, we were a bit perplexed, because, wait a minute, we, we hadn’t done this yet. This is just an idea. And of course, we quickly found out how Washington worked. Uh, dpeople leaked things to the newspapers for the sole purpose of finding out how everybody’s gonna respond to it. I mean, that’s how that game works. What a way to do business.
Q: So, you first hear about Philip Carlton from the White House and then it’s my understanding that you then hear from one of Ron Motley’s partners about a possible meeting?
Mike Moore: No, that’s not exactly how it happened. We were meeting with Bruce Lindsey and he asked us whether or not we knew a guy named Phil Carlton. And I think we had also heard that Phil Carlton was suppose to be trying to contact us although I had not received a phone call from him. And Bruce told us that this Phil Carlton guy, whoever he was, neither one of us knew at that time, wanted to meet with him and wanted meet with us. And so, Bruce told us he was going to meet with Phil Carton. We went back and met with Bruce again after he had met with Phil Carlton and of course what he wanted was he wanted a copy of our first proposal. He wanted the industry to have a copy of what the proposal was that we were drafting because at that point, as you remember, what our strategy was is to get a bill done that we thought the industry will never agree to. And have congress pass it, basically cram it down the tobacco industry’s throat cause we never thought they would agree to the restrictions on marketing and advertising and many other things that we wanted to protect the public’s health. Bruce wouldn’t give him a copy. And we wouldn’t give him a copy. The tobacco industry was frustrated they knew we were about to make a play in Congress. And they knew maybe Trent was going to help us with this and they didn’t know what it was. And they couldn’t get a copy anywhere. So, that’s what this constant calling and urgency to try to they were actually trying to stop something but maybe also trying to start something at the same time.
Q. What happens next?
Mike Moore: The way we finally got a direct meeting is that I got a call from the White House. I talked to Bruce Lindsey, and Bruce said that the President wanted us to at least meet with the tobacco industry. At that point, we weren’t wanting to meet with them. You know we were trying to hold off meeting with them. Cause we just didn’t believe, we didn’t trust them. We didn’t believe they would actually do the things we thought we could get passed in Congress.
I mean we had already been burned one time you know by letting people in on this thing, we just we wanted to get our own deal and get it passed through Congress. Whether the tobacco industry liked it or not, as naive as that sounds.
But when, you know, the President of the United States through Bruce Lindsey tells me he wants me to meet with the industry. I mean who am I to say I am not going to?
So I called Scruggs, I say Scruggs we got to change the plan here, we need to meet with them. So Joe Rice, who was working with us, ended up going and meeting with Carlton and Meyer Capwell and couple others the first–they wanted to meet with us.
And so we agreed to do it. So the meeting, the first meeting was set up to be in North Carolina, which I was pretty hesitant to go to North Carolina because I mean these guys were pretty much after us. You know I was afraid we were going to get tricked I was afraid it was a trick.
I didn’t know what it was. I mean, tell you these guys had sued Dick and all these unnamed John Does they had taken out after Merrill Williams, they taken out after Jeffrey Wigand. They called me everything in the book. I mean, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t just go up there and just show up in North Carolina for God’s sake and meet somebody I never met in my life.
Q: Enemy territory? Who were the people who came from the tobacco industry?
Mike Moore: Phil Carlton and I believe Meyer Capwell, for sure. I don’t know if there’s anybody else there or not. But Joe went and told them that we would meet with them. We just wanted to see what they had in mind and they told Joe that they were sincere that they really wanted to set up some meetings. So what we did is when Joe got back and called us, we set up a meeting and what we called neutral territory. It really wasn’t neutral territory.
We had Phil Carlton come meet us at the Campaign for the Tobacco Free Kids in Washington DC, at Matt Myers’ place. And so, we had Matt Myers and myself and Dick and I believe John Cole go and meet in Washington at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids with Phil Carlton.
Q. What happened at that meeting?
Mike Moore: I wanted to see his credentials. I wanted to know that he represented the industry. He is a former Supreme Court Judge. I did a lot of checking on him before he showed up. As I am sure he did a lot of checking on me before I showed up. And, he was a very genuine fellow. He was very businesslike and assured us that the industry wanted to have face to face meetings, and I made several conditions for a meeting.
I mean what I told him was that the only way I would meet is if they would bring the Chief Executive Officers of the industry face to face. I wanted Geoffrey Bible seated right across the table from me. I wanted Steven Goldstone seated across the table from me. Because I wanted to look them eye to eye, man to man to judge their sincerity.
I didn’t want a bunch of tobacco lawyers. I had had it with tobacco lawyers. Don’t send me these lawyers who are involved in these cases cause you know they have no credibility with me, whatsoever. And they said “well I don’t know if we could work that out but we’ll try.” I said “Well if you can’t there won’t be any meeting.”
So I got a call the next day and they said that they’ll have Bible there and Goldstone there and I said that was fine. And they picked them a team of negotiators and my job was to pick a couple other Attorneys General. We were trying to keep it at 4 and 4. That’s what we were trying to keep it at. Believe that or not.
Q: Two CEO’s.
Mike Moore: We were going to have a couple of CEO’s who would come make some statements and they would leave and be available for they didn’t know how long these negotiations were go on. And they would replace them with negotiators who were not tobacco lawyers, new guys. Meyer Capwell, Arthur Golden and many others Bob Fiske and the like.
Q: Boy that’s high power little group there.
Mike Moore: Real high power group.
Q: Bob Fiske, former US Attorney in New York, former special prosecutor.
Mike Moore: That’s right That’s right. These were high dollar players, and very smart, very shrewd negotiators. So my job at that point when I left the meeting in Washington was I had to select some Attorney’s General to be part of the negotiating team. I had to reach out and grab people who I can trust number one to keep it quiet because these had to be secret negotiations.
Mike Moore: We walked into what was a pretty big ball room with a big long rectangular table. And in front of the table was Geoffrey Bible, you know there to greet us when we walked into the room and Steve Goldstone. It was strange. I mean it was you know when the grip on the hand shake was, you are thinking to yourself, these are the guys that I’ve been you know railing against for the last four years. These are these are some folks who’ve done some bad things and you know I’m walking in the room shaking hands with them. And you know the usual nice things gestures that you do and glad to meet you etc. and I don’t know if I was glad to meet them or not but I was glad that they were there. What I wanted to see and I am sure what the other Attorney’s General wanted to see what was it that they were going to say. And more importantly what was it they were going to do.
At the first meeting with Phil Carlton, I had given him a copy of what we had hoped to accomplish with a resolution. We had some goals and objectives that all 22 Attorneys General at that time who had cases had sign on to these are the things we wanted.
Q. What was said at that first meeting?
Mike Moore: Steve Goldstone was tired of being called a drug dealer. He was tired of being called someone who is marketing to kids, and ruining their lives and causing people to die. I think he fundamentally didn’t want to be, uh, described as that.
I think it was heartfelt. I really do, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think they’re good guys because of that, but I think that had gotten to him. That every single day, you’re killing kids. You’re marketing to children. I think it had gotten to him, personally. He was a lawyer, remember. I mean he was a lawyer representing the tobacco industry, and then moved into the job of chief executive.
Well it was kind of a different position for him. He wasn’t a lawyer anymore representing them. He was them. So, I’m not sure he liked that. But, you know, so we started negotiations and it was pretty amazing, Lowell, the things they started saying that they would agree to do.
Q: Why did the industry come to the table?
Mike Moore: I think a number of things. The change in public opinion from the time we filed our lawsuit in ’94 to the time that they began. And that in my estimation was accomplished by the work that the media in this country had done, exposing the truth about the industry. The power of the state’s lawsuits because they’d gone from one little case in Mississippi to 40 cases in this country. The FDA rule. The President of the United State’s involvement. Congressional hearings in the past. The work of all the public health advocates. I think everything built on itself to bring the industry to the realization, they had to have a day time. They had to have a peace of some sort.