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draft settlement

Wisconsin May Opt Out Of Tobacco Proposal

The Capital Times (Madison, WI) November 13, 1998 Page 1A

State may opt out of tobacco lawsuit By Mike Ivey

Wisconsin is considering opting out of a pending legal settlement with cigarette makers, a gamble that the state can do better by pursuing its own lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

It has been widely speculated that Wisconsin, Maryland, Connecticut and others may spurn the settlement.

"I know we've been identified as one of the states (opting out) but I don't think any decision has been made," said Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Shari Eggleson, who has been heading the case for AG Jim Doyle's office.

Already the settlement has been criticized by anti-smoking groups.

"The agreement is short on disclosure, short on money, and short on health protections," said local anti-smoking advocate Ira Sharenow.

Sharenow said the tobacco industry has been pushing for a settlement, hand-picked the AGs who were negotiated with, and is now pushing the deal through quickly.

"This document is so complicated there will be no chance for any kind of review," he said. "But if it's good for tobacco you can be sure it's bad for the public."

Eggleson said Wisconsin would take a close look at the agreement before making a decision and would be consulting with the governor.

"I expect a lot of people will try to weigh in on this," she said.


Wisconsin may stay out of tobacco settlement. State could continue its lawsuit instead of sharing $200 billion deal

Milwaukee Journal By Amy Rinard

November 14, 1998

Madison -- Wisconsin may opt out of a $200 billion settlement with cigarette makers expected to be announced Monday and instead continue to pursue its own legal action against tobacco companies.

Jim Haney, a spokesman for Attorney General James Doyle, said Friday that state lawyers have not yet seen the settlement document and that no decision has been made about whether Wisconsin would accept the proposed agreement.

But he stressed that Doyle will insist on a strong public health component in any agreement accepted by the state and that Wisconsin is fully prepared to move forward with its own lawsuit against cigarette makers.

"Attorney General Doyle was one of the few attorneys general who was quite critical of the 1997 proposed agreement, and he has expressed his concerns this summer when these negotiations began because he had ongoing concerns that the public health components of any resolution should be as strong as they can be," Haney said.

Haney said the state has a strong case, has a team of top attorneys assigned to it and, having recently won two procedural battles in court, is fully prepared to go to trial.

"We're viewed as having one of the strongest cases in the country," Haney said.

With some details of the proposed settlement starting to leak out Friday, anti-smoking activists urged Doyle to reject the proposed agreement.

Bonnie Sumner of the Wisconsin Initiative on Smoking and Health said activists especially object to the one-week deadline set by the tobacco companies for the states to review the complicated agreement and decide whether to accept or reject it.

"What would be the point of it unless it's to hide something?" Sumner asked.

She also is concerned that the public health provisions of the proposal would be weak and that tobacco companies simply wanted the states to take the money and run.

"History shows us that anything the tobacco industry agrees to is bad for people," she said. "They don't want to try all these lawsuits everywhere. They want to get this behind them and get on with the business of killing people."

A spokeswoman for the Tobacco Free Wisconsin Coalition, a group of public health and education organizations, said it was critical that there be enough time to fully review the proposed settlement.

"We're sort of wondering what kind of hidden land mines are in this thing," said coalition spokeswoman Moira Harrington.