Thomas Bliley Jr., tobacco ally who exposed industry deceptions, dies at 91 – NehalBlog

Thomas Bliley Jr., a former mayor of Richmond who was elected to the U.S. Home of Representatives as a fierce Republican ally of the tobacco trade however later helped drive the discharge of inner firm paperwork on well being dangers that led to historic authorized settlements, died Nov. 16 at his dwelling. dwelling in Henrico County, Virginia. He was 91 years outdated.

Demise was announcement by Bliley’s Funeral Properties, a Richmond-based enterprise operated by Mr. Bliley’s household. No trigger was given.

Throughout twenty years in Congress, from 1981 to 2001, Mr. Bliley constructed a picture of an old school presence, sporting his trademark bow ties, displaying courteous manners and in search of methods to work with Democrats. But he stood agency as an unwavering defender of the tobacco giants, a big financial drive in his district and a dependable marketing campaign contributor.

Mr. Bliley earned the nickname “Philip Morris Congressman” and for years displayed a collage of the tobacco large’s manufacturers in his congressional workplace. “I will be damned in the event that they need to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness,” Mr. Bliley mentioned. said in 1994, to defend cigarette firm executives throughout congressional hearings on research linking nicotine to dependancy and illness.

When Mr. Bliley assumed the chairmanship of the Home Well being and Setting Subcommittee In 1995, considered one of his first acts was to carry the smoking ban – a specific assault on fellow Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Democrat of California), an ardent enemy of the tobacco trade. Mr. Bliley took a puff from his pipe.

A professional-tobacco agenda was additionally anticipated, with Mr. Bliley heading the highly effective Home Commerce Committee after Republicans took management of the Home. GOP wave within the 1994 elections. For a time, tobacco points took a again seat.

Mr. Bliley and his committee have been immersed within the particulars of the passage of the Telecommunications Act in 1996, which opened up competitors in phone service and cable tv. “I wish to break up the monopolies,” Mr. Bliley mentioned, at the same time as critics mentioned some features of the adjustments weakened competitors.

Mr. Bliley even waded into the early tradition wars stoked by the incendiary Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Mr. Bliley denounced Earth Day as a “liberal-leaning political occasion geared toward Election Day.”

In the meantime, in Minnesota, state Legal professional Common Hubert H. Humphrey III and Blue Cross-Blue Defend of Minnesota have been embroiled in a battle state of affairs. trial towards tobacco corporations looking for to recoup the prices of smoking-related diseases. Humphrey had demanded an enormous quantity of paperwork from the businesses. The paperwork have been a part of the recordsdata of tobacco firm Liggett & Myers, which broke ranks with the trade by settling health-related claims and waiving attorney-client privilege to permit disclosure.

Nobody predicted Mr. Bliley’s subsequent strikes. In 1997, he subpoenaed tobacco corporations for the disclosure of paperwork deemed exempt from skilled secrecy.

“If the tobacco trade is participating in felony or fraudulent exercise, then Congress has the correct, the obligation, to know that earlier than enacting laws granting the trade any type of immunity from prosecution,” Mr. Bliley mentioned.

Then, in a shock revelation, the cache of 864 paperwork was job on the Commerce Committee web site in December 1997.

Among the many revelations have been a 1968 technique by the tobacco firm Brown & Williamson on tips on how to counter medical analysis into tobacco as a carcinogen, and a 1967 letter between tobacco attorneys about the advantages, for public picture, of utilizing a health care provider to advertise smoking. (In 1998, Minnesota started receiving thousands and thousands of further pages of inner communications from cigarette producers.)

A look at the archives that exposed Big Tobacco

Some longtime tobacco trade allies have denounced Mr. Bliley as a renegade. Somewhat, his plan was to realize affect in future settlement negotiations. Mr. Bliley was reportedly angered at being excluded by Philip Morris throughout discussions with lawmakers over a proposed cope with tobacco corporations to pay $368.5 billion to states over 25 years.

The discharge of the paperwork, Mr. Bliley’s aides mentioned, gave him extra credibility with anti-tobacco teams and gave him affect throughout continued negotiations with Huge Tobacco whereas the proposed settlement plan was within the works. ‘useless finish.

“If solely Nixon might go to China, possibly solely Tom Bliley might get the tobacco trade to make the compromises that may end in a deal in Congress,” mentioned Larry Sabato, a authorities professor on the College of Virginia, to the Washington Put up on the time.

A variety agreement in 1998, referred to as the Grasp Settlement Settlement, was concluded between 46 states and 4 tobacco corporations, together with Philip Morris. The deal ended most tobacco promoting, blocked the tobacco trade’s outreach to younger folks, and generated an annual circulate of billions of {dollars}. to states, together with Virginia. (Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas have separate agreements with the tobacco trade.)

‘Frankly, I used to be shocked by what I learn’ in RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. paperwork about efforts to focus on teen people who smoke, Mr. Bliley said tobacco trade executives at a listening to on Capitol Hill. These revelations, he mentioned, “have shaken my confidence that your corporations care in regards to the reality.”

The paperwork subpoenaed by Mr. Bliley have been additionally a part of the Justice Division’s 1999 lawsuit towards the tobacco trade. In 2006, U.S. District Choose Gladys Kessler ruled that tobacco corporations violated civil racketeering legal guidelines by conspiring to mislead the general public about well being risks. She ordered corporations to take away advertising and marketing labels reminiscent of “low tar” and “delicate” however mentioned earlier courtroom rulings had prevented further fines.

Thomas Jerome Bliley Jr. was born on January 28, 1932 in Chesterfield County, Virginia. His mother and father have been concerned within the household mortuary enterprise, based within the 1870s.

Mr. Bliley earned a level in political science from Georgetown College in 1952, then served three years as a Navy lieutenant. He later labored on the funeral dwelling, together with as president of the corporate.

He was elected to the Richmond Metropolis Council as a Democrat in 1968 and appointed mayor two years later. On the time, the place was not popularly elected. He served till 1977, as the town’s demographics shifted and black residents gained a higher political voice.

Mr. Bliley switched to the Republican Social gathering for his profitable marketing campaign for the Home of Representatives in 1980. In Congress, he was an early proponent of honoring civil rights chief Martin Luther King Jr. federal holidaywhich was promulgated in 1983.

In 2000, Mr. Bliley joined with Consultant Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) to win approval for a memorial to 14 black troopers preventing for the Union in a battle of September 1864 in New Market Heights. Mr. Bliley additionally helped push for adjustments in Richmond metropolis authorities, which paved the best way for municipal elections in 2004. won by former Governor Doug Wilder.

Survivors embody his spouse of 66 years, the previous Mary Virginia Kelley; his daughter Mary Vaughn Bliley Utter; 5 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A son, Thomas Jerome Bliley III, died in 2020.

Whereas adept at political maneuvering in Congress, Mr. Bliley has stored a decrease profile outdoors the Capitol. He typically stored his feedback to reporters quick and to the purpose. A religious Roman Catholic, he mentioned being invited to Sunday political exhibits prevented him from attending mass. once requested whether or not he would contemplate showing on ABC’s late-night present “Nightline.”

“You understand,” he replied, “I’m going to mattress method earlier than they file.”

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