Bush administration drastically cuts penalties sought for in tobacco trial from $130 billion to $10 billion

Friday, June 17, 2005

Tobacco field

Bush appointee Robert McCallum overrode Justice Department lawyers who had been handling the government's tobacco racketeering trial for the past 5 years. McCallum ordered the lawyers to reduce the penalties sought at the close of the nine-month trial from $130 billion to $10 billion, angering some of the trial lawyers to the point where it is reported they threatened to quit their jobs.

"Everyone is asking, 'Why now?' " said an anonymous Justice Department employee afraid of retaliation. "Why would you throw the case down the toilet at the very last hour, after five years?"

Congressional Democrats oppose the slashing of the penalties for the tobacco industry, and have asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales not to enter into a settlement based on "the unreasonably weak demands made by the government."

The New York Times pointed out that McCallum was a Skull and Bones 'brother' of President Bush. Bush has appointed a number of Skull and Bones club members to government positions since he became President, including SEC head and former Philip Morris executive William Donaldson. Bush strategist Karl Rove was a Phillip Morris lobbyist before Bush asked him to work on his 2000 campaign for the presidency.