• 22.12.2012 Berryville Bust Part Of $33M Cigarettes Sting

    A Federal Grand Jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg has indicted dozens of individuals for conspiring to traffic in contraband cigarettes, money laundering and a variety of related charges.The defendants were charged by the grand jury in four separate indictments returned under seal on February 17, 2011, August 3, 2011 and October 6, 2011. Those indictments were unsealed earlier this week following the arrest and initial court appearances by the defendants.The charges are the result of a three-year investigation by the United...

  • 20.11.2012 Covenant Kicks The Habit

    Amy Olson-Yarbrough was tired of being a prisoner to tobacco."I decided I didn't want cigarettes to control my life any more," Olson-Yarbrough said. "When you're a smoker you have to figure out where you're going to be able to smoke cigarettes next, how long until my next cigarette, how am I going to hide it from my kids . . ."So, on Nov. 23, 2010, Olson-Yarbrough - a pack-a-day smoker who had been at it for close to two decades - quit smoking cigarettes.Now, Olson-Yarbrough can't stand anything about it."The smell of buy cigarettes really nauseates me," she said. "I'll never go back to...

  • 18.10.2012 No-smoking Policy For New Hires

    Should smokers who want to work for the county be forced to sign a pledge they will quit smoking cigarettes — and then be required to follow through before starting work?Should they pay more for their health-care coverage if they don’t keep the pledge, or decline to sign it?Is it discrimination for government not to consider smokers to fill open positions?The Muscatine County Board of Supervisors decided to have the county’s Health and Safety Committee study the issue, which was brought up by Sheriff Dave White at the Board’s regular meeting Monday.White told the Board he’s heard...

  • 10.09.2012 Court Upholds Big Award In Smoker's Case

    A state appeals court upheld $13.8 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris on Wednesday for the addiction and death of a 45-year cigarette smoker, saying the company's decades of concealment and lies about the dangers of its products were "extremely reprehensible."In a 2-1 ruling, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles affirmed a verdict by a Los Angeles County jury in the case of Betty Bullock of Newport Beach (Orange County). Bullock had started smoking cigarettes Marlboros in 1956, at age 17, and quit in 2001 after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, two years...

  • 09.09.2012 California Court Approves 16:1 Punitive Damage Award

    Corporate America has pushed hard for years to hold the line on punitive damages, with some successThe Supreme Court has ruled that excessively high punitive damage awards, designed to punish defendants for particularly egregious behavior, can violate the Due Process clause. And the California Supreme Court had held that punitive damages typically should not be more than nine to ten times the size of damages awarded to compensate injured parties.But in a smoking cigarettes case against Philip Morris, a California appellate court yesterday signed off on punitive damages that were 16 times...

Pawlenty Says He Just Started Earnest Campaigning In Iowa This Week

A cigarette fee was a mistake, but otherwise Tim Pawlenty believes his work as governor of Minnesota is the best record of all the Republican presidential candidates.

Pawlenty’s record leading Minnesota for eight years has drawn increasing scrutiny and criticism from some who say his budget practices are at least partially responsible for Minnesota’s current government shutdown and $5 billion deficit.

In contrasting himself with popular competitor and fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann, Pawlenty said she’s had only legislative experience, and “as to specific results that have been achieved, I’m not sure what they would be.”

The reason he’s lagging in the polls, Pawlenty told editors and reporters in a wide-ranging discussion with The Des Moines Register’s editorial board today, is that “this week is the first time that I’ve campaigned in earnest in Iowa.”

Pawlenty has made more campaign appearances here than any other candidate except former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Prominent Iowa Democrats like Attorney General Tom Miller are talking up Minnesota’s current budget problems as a strike against Pawlenty.

“What a disaster he has left the Minnesota economy and budget in,” Miller told a gathering of Democrats in Des Moines on tonight. “It’s something that hasn’t started in the last six months. It’s something that Tim Pawlenty left the state with.”

But Pawlenty countered several criticisms, including one that he sent the state’s money problems trickling down to local governments when he reduced state aid to deal with a budget crunch. His opponents argue that local governments were compelled to increase property taxes and trim essential services. Total statewide property taxes increased by about $2.7 billion, or 54 percent, from 2003 to 2009 while Pawlenty was in office, according to a review of Minnesota House Research Department documents by Minnesota Democratic party officials.

“I understand the indirect inference that they’re making, but to say I raised property taxes in Minnesota is technically and directly not accurate,” Pawlenty said.

Reasonable options for local governments were to reduce public employee pay and benefits, he said.

“They could have laid people off,” he said. “They could have held their health insurance and payroll flat.”

“It’s absolutely not accurate to say that I raised property taxes in Minnesota,” Pawlenty said. “It is accurate to say we cut cash aid to cities and counties, and they made the decision about whether they were going to in turn reduce spending or raise property taxes.”

Pawlenty’s argument is just the opposite from what Iowa Republicans have said about this state’s finances.

When the Democrat-controlled Iowa Legislature decreased state aid to school districts last year, Republicans blasted the Democrats, saying they were raising property taxes.

On the campaign trail, Pawlenty often trumpets being responsible for a 2005 government shutdown in Minnesota, saying it was an example of his strength in standing up against the Democratic Legislature. Part of the resolution for the stalemate was his proposal to collect an additional 75 cents a pack on cigarettes.

Pawlenty insists on calling the additional charge a “health impact fee,” not a tax.

“That issue was litigated in a court of law and as a matter of law, it was determined to be a fee,” he said.

Whatever the label, he now says, “It was a mistake when I did it. For this reason: I should’ve let that shutdown run longer. It turned out a couple months later we got a new forecast that showed the state had a surplus that exceeded whatever amount of money we were fussing about. It turned out we didn’t even need it.”

Asked about Bachmann, who in last month’s Des Moines Register Iowa Poll was sitting at 22 percent in Iowa among likely Republican caucusgoers versus his own 6 percent, Pawlenty said: “Each candidate brings some different strengths to the table, and mine include having been an executive of a large public enterprise in a difficult environment and actually getting things proposed and results to conclusion. I’m not sure what she would say in that regard. … She’s been in the legislative arena, as to specific results that have been achieved, I’m not sure what they would be.”

Pawlenty said he’s confident his poll numbers will rise.

Many of his earlier visits were for other candidates or causes or as part of a program with other speakers, he said.

However, Pawlenty, who was the subject of a New York Times article published online today about how he was “first in line to enter the Republican presidential race,” has conducted at least 10 solo events in May and June, Register records show.

Pawlenty’s campaign released a new video this evening with footage of Iowans (including a very brief snippet of an applauding state Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone and state Rep. Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada) titled “It begins here.”