Ashcroft Says Federal Tobacco Lawsuit Will Proceed
Attorney General John Ashcroft "denied yesterday that he was planning to drop the government's lawsuit" against the tobacco industry, but said that he would not request any additional funding beyond the $1.8 million the Bush administration has budgeted, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Speaking before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, Ashcroft added that he had made no decision about reassigning Justice Department lawyers working on the suit (Holland, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/27). "The Department of Justice is proceeding with the case, and I support the department's position. I have not made any indication about any reassignment of attorneys; I have not made a decision about the case," he said (Washington, Boston Globe, 4/27). Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Ashcroft might remove some of the attorneys working on the case because of performance concerns. On Wednesday, the Post had reported on a leaked internal memo, in which tobacco litigation team members warned Ashcroft that they might have to abandon the case unless they received a "dramatic" increase in funding -- from $1.8 million to $57.6 million (California Healthline, 4/26). Yesterday, Ashcroft said he would "stick to $1.8 million, the same amount requested by former Attorney General Janet Reno for 2001 and 2002 (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/27). Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) criticized Ashcroft's decision, calling the $1.8 million figure "woefully inadequate" and "effectively ... the end of the lawsuit" (Boston Globe, 4/27). However, Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) gave the attorney general his support, saying the Justice Department's tobacco litigation team is "incompetent if they think it takes [$57 million] to make a case" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.