Wednesday 30 April 2014

Local authorities lobbying the government

Earlier this month, Eric Pickles MP, the Minister for Communities and Local Government, took a number of councils to task for breaching the Publicity Code, which prohibits taxpayer-funded political agitation.

Five councils have a fortnight to explain Publicity Code breaches before the Secretary of State issues legal directions.

Five councils have been given a fortnight to explain why steps should not be taken to stop their “propaganda on the rates”, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today (17 April 2014).

Formal letters have been sent to 5 London boroughs triggering the first legal steps the Secretary of State can now take to require compliance with the Publicity Code for local authorities, under the new Local Audit and Accountability Act.

Looking at the Publicity Code, a number of clauses leap out...

15. Local authorities should ensure that publicity relating to policies and proposals from central government is balanced and factually accurate. Such publicity may set out the local authority’s views and reasons for holding those views, but should avoid anything likely to be perceived by readers as constituting a political statement, or being a commentary on contentious areas of public policy.

16. Any publicity describing the council’s policies and aims should be as objective as possible, concentrating on the facts or explanation or both. Local authorities should not use public funds to mount publicity campaigns whose primary purpose is to persuade the public to hold a particular view on a question of policy. It is acceptable for local authority publicity to correct erroneous material which has been published by other parties, despite the fact that the material being corrected may have been published with the intention of influencing the public’s opinions about the policies of the authority. Such publicity should seek to explain the facts in an objective manner.

26. Local authorities should not incur any expenditure in retaining the services of lobbyists for the purpose of the publication of any material designed to influence public officials, Members of Parliament, political parties or the Government to take a particular view on any issue.

All of this is highly germane to the 'sock puppets' issue that I have written about, particularly since 'public health' responsibilities have been devolved to local authorities.

Take an old favourite, Balance North East, for example. According to its website "Balance is funded by the North East’s 12 local authorities" and so it is. Elsewhere on its website, you will find countless "political statements", "commentaries on contentious areas of public policy", "publicity campaigns", "lobbying" and attempts to "persuade the public to hold a particular view on a question of policy".

Take its campaign for further restrictions on alcohol advertising, for example...

Alcohol marketing is recruiting our kids as the next generation of problem drinkers. We don’t think this is right and we need your help to do something about it. We’ve started a petition calling on Government to restrict alcohol marketing and protect children and young people.

Please sign it now and protect them before it’s too late.

Or it's campaign for minimum pricing...

Show your support for MUP

MUP is a targeted measure which will increase the price of products such as white cider and very cheap vodka which are traditionally drunk by the young and people drinking at very harmful levels.

It wouldn’t affect the price of a pint or a glass of wine in a pub and, if you drink within the Government’s recommended limits, is estimated to cost you an average of 28p on your weekly alcohol bill. Isn’t that a price worth paying to save 3,000 lives a year and reduce alcohol related crimes by 46,000?

That’s why this policy is supported by our GPs, our police force and even our publicans. It is also supported by the majority of the people in the North East.

Professionals and politicians from across the North East are telling the Government to ignore the vested interests of the global alcohol industry and introduce minimum unit price. You can add your voice to theirs by writing to the Prime Minister directly or calling on your MP to do so on your behalf.

To email the PM use the following address

To contact your MP go to

Or this...

A question of trust

Some global alcohol companies oppose minimum unit price. You may hear their arguments, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to trust. A minimum unit price is supported by people who put your health and wellbeing first, such as the British Medical Association. It is opposed by some who have a legal obligation to put the profits of their shareholders first.

Or this...

You have the power to bring change...

But it won’t happen overnight. An important first step in getting Government to listen is contacting your MP. Let them know you are concerned about the impact of alcohol marketing on children. Your MP will raise the issue on your behalf. Why not send them a quick e-mail right now?

100 per cent taxpayer-funded, all of it. Not only is it entirely biased towards one point of view, but it actively invites the public to lobby politicians on contentious matters of public policy. Could there be a more brazen breach of the Publicity Code? And there are plenty of other examples of overt political campaigning by similar groups - see here, here and here for examples.

If you have other examples of local authorities breaching the rules - whether under the aegis of 'public health' or not - please leave them in the comments. It's time that something was done about this outrageous use of public money.


Anonymous said...

How is it not possible that a class action lawsuit could be brought against gov'ts that do this (all of them). Proving harm would be easy, every taxpayer has been harmed by this breach of law...

Anonymous said...

Its not just in the UK its been going on illegally in America for quite some time likely decades but its absolute abuse has been going on via Obamas folks in government at every federal health dept with grant making abilities.........its not just anti-smoking its literally everything...
Illicit Lobbying
Report: Local health departments illegally used federal stimulus money to lobby

April 16, 2013 2:15 pm

At least seven local health departments illegally used stimulus grant funds to lobby for greater taxes and restrictions on tobacco and unhealthy foods, according to a report released Tuesday by a nonprofit watchdog group.

The stimulus-funded Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program disbursed about $373 million intended to educate the public about tobacco use and obesity. Federal law prohibits grantees from using the funds for lobbying activities.

According to the group Cause of Action, local health departments from Alabama to California used the funds to devise or promote legislation designed to curb tobacco use or combat obesity.

The report detailing the allegations is the product of a 19-month investigation into the CPPW program.

“[Cause of Action’s] investigation revealed that CPPW money went to support lobbyists and public relations companies who used taxpayer dollars to push laws and agendas that would lead to tax increases on tobacco and high calorie products,” the report said.

The report said illicit uses of CPPW grant funds “essentially transform[ed] the CPPW program into a conduit for lobbying for higher taxes and bans on otherwise legal consumer products.”

Federal law prohibits grant recipients from using federal grant funds to influence “an official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation.”

Internal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which administers the CPPW program, clarifies that the law applies “specifically to lobbying related to any proposed, pending, or future federal, state, or local tax increase, or any proposed, pending, or future requirement or restriction on any legal consumer product.”

Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein criticized the CDC for faulty oversight in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon. He also said specific CPPW grantees may have “committed not just violations [of lobbying prohibitions], but fraud.”

According to internal communications from South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) obtained by Cause of Action through public records requests, DHEC officials altered meeting minutes in order to hide the involvement of officials involved in grant fund disbursements after CDC expressed concerns about the use of grant funds for lobbying activities.

“The DHEC stated outright that the purpose of altering the minutes was to hide the fact that its CPPW program coordinator had directed illegal lobbying in the pursuit of smoke-free ordinances,” according to the Cause of Action report.

Anonymous said...

The DHEC did not return a request for comment.

DHEC grant activities, like those of other state health agencies examined in the report, were explicitly geared toward specific legislative goals. Its application for CPPW funding said it would use taxpayer funds to “increase the support for and adoption of comprehensive smoke-free laws.”

While that proposal and similar ones from other states appeared to violate laws governing the use of federal grant funds, Epstein says the CDC has made no effort to effectively oversee the CPPW program.

“It’s not just a sign of misuse of taxpayer dollars,” Epstein said. “In fact, there’s some indication that the CDC encouraged this to occur.”

Previous investigations of the CPPW program have produced similar findings.

According to the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), CDC’s parent agency, federal guidelines for CPPW grant recipients “appear to authorize, or even encourage, grantees to use funds for impermissible lobbying.”

Members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce cited that report and apparent violations of the lobbying prohibitions in multiple communications with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding the CPPW program. The committee’s investigative panel examined the program during a 2012 hearing.

Annual CPPW disbursements are scheduled to grow to about $2 billion in 2015. When expenditures increase six-fold, Epstein said “we’re in a serious situation, because we’re going to undoubtedly see six times the fraud.”

Florida’s Miami-Dade County Health Department, one of the agencies singled out in Cause of Action’s report, denied any wrongdoing in a statement emailed to the Washington Free Beacon.

The Department “did not utilize any of the CPPW funding for lobbying activities, nor does the Department have any reason to believe that any of its contracted providers did so either,” said spokeswoman Olga Connor. “The Department of Health’s contracts specifically bar any provider from utilizing the CPPW funds for any type of lobbying activities.”

The CDC did not return request for comment. Miami-Dade County was the only local government highlighted by Cause of Action to return a request for comment.

Anonymous said...

Smoke Free Florence used federal dollars for lobbying

FLORENCE, S.C. – A government report confirms that Smoke Free Florence, the organization behind implementing the city’s controversial smoking ordinance in 2011, illegally used funds to lobby local elected officials.

Though disciplinary action was taken, a government watchdog group is demanding the county be barred from receiving federal dollars as a result of the violation.

It began in April of this year when Cause of Action (CoA), an advocacy group located in Washington, D.C., accused Smoke Free Florence of misusing monies from a $6 million grant used in an anti-smoking campaign that assisted with passage of a new smoking ordinance in the county’s largest municipality.

The report, which included roughly 19 months of research, concluded that Smoke Free Florence misused grant monies from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The monies were managed through the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and facilitated through the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and Circle Park Behavioral Center in Florence.

A separate report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office confirmed funds were improperly used, but only had DHEC repay $247.79 in funds deemed misused and required some staff members to attend additional ethics training.

Dan Epstein, CoA executive director, said that isn’t enough, not by a long shot.

“Ultimately, what needs to be happening on behalf of the taxpayers is (that) Florence County, South Carolina, can never receive another federal dollar ever again until it shows it has proof of concepts for ensuring that federal funds aren’t misused,” he said.

Epstein and the CoA report point to documentation – personal emails and meeting minutes for the most part – that it obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests that show DHEC staff lobbying members of the Florence City Council to support a smoking ordinance. It shows that they attempted to manipulate meeting minutes to, Epstein said, mask their involvement in influencing the passage of the ordinance.

At the heart of the CoA report lie a series of emails among Smoke Free coalition volunteers and DHEC employees attempting to sway the votes of two Florence city councilmen, Glynn Willis and Buddy Brand, to support the ordinance. One email from Lori Phillips, a DHEC employee, recounts a conversation between herself and Florence City Councilwoman Octavia Williams-Blake – a Democrat and the smoking ordinance’s chief proponent – in which she said possible political ramifications and re-election implications for the two Republican councilmembers was keeping them from supporting the measure.

“I asked Octavia what we could do to help make up Glynn and Buddy’s minds,” Phillips wrote in the email. “She said that the arguments about this being non-Republican hit home with them and they are about getting re-elected. She said they need to know that a large section of the residents in the City of Florence want this. I shared that we will have poll results to back this up.”

Other emails discuss political strategy and show Phillips, as well as other DHEC employees, strategizing ways to convince Willis and Brand. The two councilmen later faced criticism from the Florence County’s Republican Party for their eventual support of the ordinance.

What’s more, the report show that Phillips, as well as another DHEC consultant, Ian Hamilton, advocated minutes of Smoke Free Florence meetings be changed and that certain details about DHEC’s involvement be removed. Officials with Circle Park Behavioral Center, who served as a fiscal agent to disperse the grant funds from DHEC to implement the coalition program itself, confirmed that they had issued a complaint to DHEC regarding this incident. They said that the meeting minutes were not altered.

Anonymous said...

Williams-Blake said she wasn’t surprised that a group like CoA had filed a report related to the smoking ordinance. The source of much controversy communitywide, stemming mostly from conservative activists claiming the move violated civil liberties, Florence’s smoking ordinance debate was always a hot-button issue.

With regards to her interaction with Phillips and other members of the coalition, Williams-Blake acknowledged that she was contacted by the group several times to discuss the ordinance.

“It was always sort of talking about where we were at in the process of voting or did I think it was going to pass,” she said.

Shortly after the CoA report was issued, the CDC launched its own investigation into Florence County and others named in the report. They concluded that lobbying had in fact occurred in violation of the CDC’s lobbying guidelines, resulting in DHEC refunding the $247.79 related to “planning activities,” according a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Staff members were also required to receive additional training on lobbying restrictions under the CDC’s guidelines.

“At the time of the event discussed, DHEC responded to the CDC’s inquiry, and DHEC agreed to follow CDC’s recommended remedies,” a statement issued by DHEC said. “CDC requested two remedies, both of which were completed, with follow-up sent to CDC in June of 2011. Furthermore, DHEC prohibits lobbying activity by employees in their official capacity.”

A CoA spokesperson said the CDC’s actions “missed the mark” and that harsher action should be taken.

As of Friday, Florence County is still receiving some federal dollars for select grants but other federal dollars are run through the state, according to County Administrator K.G. “Rusty” Smith Jr.

Anonymous said...

More Bad News for Tobacco Control
July 13, 2012

There may be “inappropriate lobbying activities” by groups that received the grants, Levinson wrote to Thomas Friedan, director of CDC. Federal law prohibits grantees from using money to lobby, whether at the federal, state or local level, Levinson warned.
The grants included $7 million to Jefferson County, Alabama for activities like promoting “the passage of a tobacco excise tax by the Alabama state legislature”; $1 million to Delaware’s governor’s office for anti-smoking work that included seeking “sponsorship of a bill that increases excise tax on other tobacco products”; and $560,000 to Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services for working toward higher tobacco taxes.

Those who wore the smokefree t-shirts to lobby the Evansville city council for a ban and those who showed up to push it from smoekfree coalitions no doubt were recipients of this same grant money and they are guilty of a federal crime! Lobbying..Perhaps a few federal indictments in Evansville are forth comming.

According to IRS rules "no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation... An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.",,id=163392,00.html

Anonymous said...

The activities to be reported include those which are listed in 18 U.S.C § 1913 and include: any advertisement, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device (such as emails, websites, videos, audio, or other electronic communications), intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or an official of any government (including local and state governments), to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation, law, ratification, policy, or appropriation. The information should be documented and provided in a word-searchable format that includes the name of the awardee, total amount of the award, date the award was granted, the stated purpose of the award, a list of all activities in the aforementioned list that the awardee carried out with federal funds, and an indication of whether or not the desired outcomes in state or local policy or legislative changes took place."

Read whats happening in St louis,its not looking pretty for the St louis health dept:


Cronies Putting Politics to Work

Posted by Communications Staff in Blog, Highlights on April 16, 2013 3:15 pm / 1 comment

The Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program is a grant program administered by the CDC for education on tobacco use and obesity prevention. All grant recipients are notified that it is illegal to use the funds for lobbying, but a CoA investigation has uncovered seven new instances where your federal tax dollars were used to push for higher taxes and new ordinances. Our investigation shows how the CDC failed to conduct proper oversight of the CPPW program. While the CDC was made aware of the Florence County, SC violation, CoA uncovered seven additional communities in risk of violating federal law and HHS guidelines.

Read more in our Press Release or see the full report here.
Florence County, SC

$6 million for tobacco control

Illegal Lobbying

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and the Smoke Free Florence (SFF) coalition used the grant money to lobby in support of a smoke-free ordinance.
This email from a DHEC employee describes lobbying two members of the county commission (Glynn and Buddy): Buddyemail

Anonymous said...


CPPW staff at DHEC attempted to cover-up the lobbying by altering the meeting minutes.
“DHEC would like to go through the past meeting minutes to “massage” them and take out the details.”
“He said that it is not unethical because they are not looking to “twist” things that were written, just remove the details.”

Pima County, AZ

$15.8 million for obesity prevention

The Pima County Health Department (PCHD) used taxpayer dollars to contract with the University of Arizona to lead policy workshops and develop neighborhood plans in support of zoning codes, regulations, and ordinances.

Out in the Open

The sub-contract for the University of Arizona College Of Architecture clearly states that the grantee will be “engaging public officials.”

scope of work
Jefferson County, AL

$13.3 million for tobacco control and obesity prevention

CPPW funds paid 80% of the salary for a “Director of Advocacy” with the following duties and responsibilities:

govt relations
Miami-Dade County, FL

$14.7 million for obesity prevention

The Miami-Dade County Health Department (MDCHD) used taxpayer funds to hire the Health Council of South Florida to provide a legislative agenda for CPPW-funded policy work.

Health Council
Mobile County, AL

$2.4 million for obesity prevention

CPPW funds paid the salary of an “outreach coordinator” who worked with the TFMC to “educate decision makers about the benefit of 100% percent smoke-free policy, increasing the unit price of tobacco products, and reducing tobacco advertising.

Los Angeles County, CA

$32.1 million for tobacco control and obesity prevention

LA Public Health used CPPW funds to hire a “Legislated Policy Project Coordinator” who managed teams of policy liaisons, community organizers and community representatives

Santa Clara County, CA

$6.9 million for tobacco control

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department (Santa Clara Health) used tax dollars to hire a tobacco retail license coordinator to lobby for a workplace smoking ordinance and also used CPPW funds to support a state-wide tobacco tax increase.

DeKalb County, GA

$3.2 million for tobacco control and obesity prevention

The DeKalb County Board of Health (DCBH) used CPPW funds to support the adoption of a strengthened county CIAO and partnered with the Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention (GA Alliance) to train coalition partners and finance a media campaign in support of state cigarette tax increase.

Anonymous said...

Maine CDC officials say they were told to destroy documents

By Sun Journal and BDN staff, Special to the BDN

Posted March 14, 2014, at 11:22 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Center for Disease Control officials at the heart of a document-shredding probe told lawmakers Friday morning that they were ordered to destroy documents as a method of “version control.”

CDC Division Director Deborah Wigand told members of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee that CDC workers were asked to destroy documents related to the distribution of funds in the Healthy Maine Partnership program.

In response to questions from committee members, she said that senior program manager Andrew Finch told her that he was asked to destroy documents and was uncomfortable with that.

She said she told Finch to do what he was comfortable doing.

Wigand repeatedly denied remembering that she was asked to destroy documents. She also denied asking anyone to destroy documents.

Wigand also said she didn’t think destroying the documents was an attempt at concealment but “version control.”

Wigand testified that Deputy Director Christine Zukas gave the order to destroy documents.

Finch testified that Zukas asked him to “purge my files for all the working documents.”

CDC staff were answering questions in open session after the Government Oversight Committee voted 7-3 Friday to keep the questioning in open session.

The committee subpoenaed Zukas, Wigand, Finch, CDC Director Sheila Pinette and Office of Minority Health and Health Equity Director Lisa Sockabasin to appear before it and answer questions under oath after the five officials declined an earlier invitation.

The oversight committee is the only legislative committee that can subpoena witnesses. If CDC officials had refused to appear, the committee could have gone to Superior Court to compel them to obey.

Sharon Leahy-Lind, the former CDC division director whose document-shredding allegations led to the investigation, also was subpoenaed to appear Friday. She was the only one who did not ask to testify behind closed doors.

Anonymous said...

It appears Big Pharma created companies then sold them to create Largess Non-profits with the proceeds of the sale as here with Interact for health in Cinncinatti Ohio. Of this Im fairly sure especially with this group which use to be an HMO then sold in 1999 to create a non-profit dumping ground to other so called non-profits to do the dirty work and they even tell them how to do it openly thru another leftwing legal resource group!

Right here Interact breaks IRS laws on direct lobbying as they are telling a recipient to use the grant to do lobbying for a statewide smoking ban!

One of the largest grants, for $100,000, was awarded to the Northern Kentucky Health Department. It intends to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to advocate for a statewide ban on smoking in public places. One of its goals is to reduce secondhand smoke in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties.

501(c)(3)s cannot support or oppose a specific bill, or tell their members to do the same.

You absolutely can, it just falls under the 1976 definition of lobbying. Understanding what constitutes lobbying under the 1976 law is not difficult. In general, you are lobbying when you state your position on specific legislation to legislators or other government employees who participate in the formulation of legislation, or urge your members to do so (direct lobbying). In addition, you are lobbying when you state your position on legislation to the general public and ask the general public to contact legislators or other government employees who participate in the formulation of legislation (grassroots lobbying).

Anonymous said...

Here's where tobacco-free zones will be created in Greater Cincinnati

The nonprofit group Interact for Health has awarded more than $300,000 in grants to help fund the efforts of six Cincinnati-area organizations that hope to create tobacco-free zones that could prohibit not only smoking but also chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes.

One of the largest grants, for $100,000, was awarded to the Northern Kentucky Health Department. It intends to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to advocate for a statewide ban on smoking in public places. One of its goals is to reduce secondhand smoke in Boone, Campbell, Grant and Kenton counties.

“If we really want to make an impact on the health of everyone in our community, tobacco-free environments are critical,” said Ann Barnum, senior program officer at Interact for Health (formerly the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati). “Tobacco-free environments positively affect those who use tobacco products and those who are exposed to secondhand smoke,” which can result in health issues such as heart disease, lung disease and sudden infant death syndrome among nonsmokers.

A grant of $100,000 was also awarded to Community First Solutions of Hamilton, a group of nonprofits that plans to implement tobacco-free environments at all of its campuses in Butler County. Those include Colonial, Community Behavioral Health, Community First Pharmacy and Partners in Prime. Services provided by Community First Solutions include senior living communities, Meals on Wheels, and help with mental health and behavioral issues.

Grants were also awarded to:
The Center for Chemical Addictions Treatment: $43,000 to develop and implement a plan for a tobacco-free campus for clients and staff at its facility in Cincinnati.

Gateway Community and Technical College: $40,500 to implement a tobacco-free policy on all Gateway campuses across Northern Kentucky.
Talbert House: $16,400 to develop a tobacco-free comprehensive plan for staff and clients at all of its facilities. The Cincinnati-based group helps children, adults and families coping with substance abuse, mental health issues or involvement in the legal system.
Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio Inc.: $15,000 to plan for tobacco-free efforts in Warren and Clinton counties that target behavioral health clients, pregnant women, youths and those living in poverty.

Anonymous said...

Interact is just one of likely hundreds of Pharma made non-profits to spread the wealth around to keep the prohibitionists going.

Interact for Health gives out high dollar grants to grantees that I would gather from this on their website must be willing to do INTERACTs dirty work by using their grant to push anti-smoking lobbying for them..............

Many nonprofits work under the belief that they cannot partake in lobbying or election activities. This could be true for some, but for the most part, nonprofits can participate in both activities within the IRS guidelines. Because this is an election year, this topic is very timely.

If your organization would like more information about this topic, a unique opportunity is available next week. On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Abby Levine from the Alliance for Justice will provide local nonprofits with information and advice about their legal rights to advocate and lobby.

For more information, go to To register, call Lorraine Kawecki at 513-458-6680.

Capacity Building