More tobacco money for Connecticut

John O'Brien May 21, 2007, 2:00pm

HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Thursday expressed his pleasure with what his office called an "unbudgeted $27 million windfall."

The extra money is provided by tobacco companies under the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and will be provided annually for 10 years.

"This money marks an extraordinary moment for potential public health progress," Blumenthal said. "Our state must seize this historic opportunity to make Connecticut as much a leader in smoking prevention and cessation as we were in tobacco litigation."

The extra payments were allocated to states based on their roles in the litigation that took place in the 1990s. Connecticut received the fifth highest share, though much of the work was performed by trial lawyers who negotiated on behalf of the state.

In the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, the Competitive Enterprise Institute says trial lawyers received $14 billion nationally in attorneys' fees under a $246 billion-plus settlement. The organization also says Blumenthal steered $65 million in fees to his own allies and the associates of former Gov. John Rowland, later convicted of corruption in an unrelated matter.

It adds that Blumenthal went "through the motions" of soliciting letters from firms interested in representing the state in the lawsuit. Of the four he selected, one was his former firm, another's partner was married to a partner in the first firm and a managing partner in the third served as counsel to Rowland.

The attorneys general of 46 states and six territories argued that tobacco put a strain on the states' health care budgets. The extra money is not included in the Governor's nor the Appropriation Committee's budgets, Blumenthal's office said.

He added that he wants to see the money spent on fighting tobacco. A release says Connecticut ranks 36th among all states in spending settlement dollars on tobacco prevention, cessation and education programs.

Many attorneys general were upset when two of the three largest tobacco companies withheld a percentage from their yearly settlement payment. The companies claimed they adjusted their payments to coincide a loss of profit.

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