Tobacco Talks Continue With White House Assistance
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 1) -- Negotiations between tobacco industry representatives and attorneys who are pressing legal claims continued Wednesday, with the White House's help.
"We're still making progress," said Michael Moore, the Mississippi attorney general who is suing the tobacco industry to recoup smoking-related medical expenses. "Still, the focus is children and public health. We're 80 percent there on that."
The Washington Post reported that among the industry concessions under discussion to settle the lawsuits are a ban on cigarette vending machines, an end to all outdoor tobacco advertising and a multi-million dollar campaign financed by the industry to discourage smoking.
Wednesday was the second time a core group of negotiators has met, though group members "have all met at the White House in smaller groups or individually about 10 times," said a source close to the talks who asked not to be identified.
The group has not met with President Bill Clinton, though the source said that one member saw Vice President Al Gore in a hallway on Wednesday "and he gave the thumbs up."
Attending the meeting were Wendell Gauthier and John Coale, plaintiffs' attorneys for the class-action lawsuits; Dick Scruggs, plaintiffs' attorney for a group of state attorneys general; Mississippi's Moore and Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth; tobacco industry representative Phil Carlton of North Carolina; Deputy White House Counsel Bruce Lindsey; and Hugh Rodham, President Clinton's brother-in-law.
Moore said it's important that the Clinton White House is involved.
"If we need a law passed, obviously we need the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass that bill and guess who to sign that bill -- the president of the U.S. -- so he's a real essential player," Moore said.
"If in fact this thing is not resolved in the next few months, it may not be resolved at all," added Florida's Butterworth. "By having the White House involved ... it does help a settlement to actually be arrived at."
The negotiations among the attorneys general of 24 states, plaintiffs' attorneys involved in 18 class-action lawsuits, the tobacco industry, and health interests have been going on for almost a month.
The next meeting "will probably be Monday," said the source, adding that it has not been decided where it will take place.
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