Anti-Smoking Activist Nominated for #2 Slot at HHS

President Obama has nominated William Corr of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to be the second-highest ranking official at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Wall Street Journal reports.

From the top of the WSJ article today:

President Barack Obama says lobbyists won’t run his administration, but he picked an antitobacco lobbyist with ties to the pharmaceutical industry as the No. 2 official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The nomination of William Corr — former executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, where he was a registered lobbyist until September — highlights the murkiness of Mr. Obama’s antilobbyist policy.

Mr. Obama requires employees to sign a pledge stating they will not “participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the two years before the date of my appointment.” Those rules prohibit Mr. Corr from working on tobacco issues, the White House says.

But Mr. Corr’s nomination raises another question: In an era when industries often make financial donations to public-interest groups that support policies that help those industries, when are public-interest advocates conflicted by the funding that supports the causes they advocate?

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has received millions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies that would benefit from the organization’s work to reduce smoking because they sell products that help people quit, such as Nicorette gum and NicoDerm patches.

If confirmed, Mr. Corr would help run a department that not only regulates the drug industry through its Food and Drug Administration arm but also is its biggest payer through federal insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, said the drug-industry funding of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids creates “a win-win: They get to support the public interest at the same time they are supporting their bottom lines.” […]

The article also notes that the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids was founded in 1996 with initial funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has given the group $85 million in total.

(Note: The WSJ reports Corr is the former executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids but Corr’s official bio at the group’s website currently indicates he is executive director right now.)

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