News Release

Full Disclosure Urged for ACLU’s Ties With Tobacco Firms

Spotlight on Donations Earmarked for Smoking-Related Issues

WASHINGTON ­ New questions are emerging about financial ties between the tobacco industry and the American Civil Liberties Union.

An article in the latest Nieman Reports, published by Harvard’s Nieman Foundation, cites internal ACLU documents that shed light on contributions from cigarette makers Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds to the national ACLU, its affiliates and the ACLU Foundation. The article, by former Washington Post reporter Morton Mintz, says that most of the money ­ totaling more than $1 million since 1987 ­ was earmarked for a national ACLU task force advocating “smokers’ rights.”

Mintz reports that in the same year that the ACLU started to solicit and receive tobacco money, it also “began to oppose legislation to curb tobacco advertising and its tax deductibility” as well as proposals “to require new, large warning labels on cigarette packs” and “to require smoke-free public places and workplaces.” But the ACLU did not tell the membership in fund-raising letters and publications that the organization was taking tobacco money while fighting anti-tobacco legislation, Mintz writes.

This year, on March 3, at a Senate committee hearing, the ACLU testified in strong opposition to restrictions on tobacco advertising.

Melvin L. Wulf, a former legal director of the national ACLU, contends that the ACLU “has tailored its tobacco-related positions to fit the industry’s interests.”

The Institute for Public Accuracy, a nationwide consortium of policy experts, called Tuesday for “full disclosure of the financial ties between the ACLU and the tobacco industry.”