If you were creating a Wikipedia entry for the term, "Hit Piece," you couldn't do much better than using today's New York Times offering about Senator Gillibrand's early work as a lawyer as a perfect example. They employed classic tactics. Simply put, they used quotes that do nothing but praise her dedication, drive and work ethic, to support quite a different meaning; framing that work as an ominous piece about her past.
As for their motives, one could conjecture that a bad case of sour grapes was the driving force behind it's front page placement. They were, after all, the paper of record for the pro-Caroline Kennedy movement to replace Senator Clinton.
As for the story's content, the Times decided to drag up some old news and recycle Sandy Treadwell's tobacco talking points about Senator Gillibrand's early work as a lawyer.
Breaking News!!!!! Lawyer works hard for their unsavory client!!!!
The article talks about how, as a young lawyer, Gillibrand worked hard and effectively for her firm's tobacco client. So, what we have is the portrait of a hard working lawyer who earned the respect of her colleagues and clients. In short, she did her job and seems to have done it well.
Let's put aside, for a moment, that everyone, even the bad guys (I'm no fan of big tobacco), has a right to good representation (it's the backbone of our judicial system) and look at whether this history has influenced her work as a representative.
The only way this might be an issue would be if there were no voting record to look at to see if there was some conflict between her early client's private interest and the public good....but in this case, there is a voting record. The short analysis is that Gillibrand has a 100% anti-tobacco voting record in Congress and the Senate, and as Bill Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said "What's important to us is how she votes." [Albany Times Union, 10/16/08]
Here's a more detailed account of that record:
- Gillibrand Co-Sponsored and Voted For a Bill to Regulate Tobacco Through the Food and Drug Administration. In 2008, Gillibrand voted in favor of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This bill seeks to remove the exemption that tobacco products have from basic health regulations that apply to other consumer products such as food and medicines. The bill would crack down on tobacco marketing and sales to kids, require larger, more effective health warnings on tobacco products, require tobacco companies to disclose the contents of tobacco products, changes to their products and research about the health effects of the products, ban candy-flavored cigarettes and prohibit terms that mislead consumers into believing that certain cigarettes are safer. [HR 1108, Vote #542, 7/30/08]
- Gillibrand Voted to Raise Taxes on Cigarettes. In 2007, Gillibrand voted for bill that would increase the tax on cigarettes by 61 cents to $1 per pack and raise taxes on other tobacco products to offset a $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The bill would reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program at nearly $60 billion over five years. The bill passed 265-142. [HR 3963, Vote #1009, 10/25/07]
- Gillibrand Voted to Override President's Veto and Raise Taxes on Cigarettes and Tobacco Products. In 2007, Gillibrand voted for an attempt to override President Bush's veto of the bill that would reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program at nearly $60 billion over five years, expanding the program by $35 billion. The bill failed 273-156. A two-thirds majority was required to override the veto. [HR 976, Vote #982, 10/18/07]
- In 2008, Gillibrand Voted to Override Bush SCHIP Veto. In January 2008, Gillibrand voted again to override the Bush veto of legislation to renew and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The bill would have overridden Bush's Dec. 12, 2007, veto, of the bill that would reauthorize the program at nearly $60 billion over five years, expanding the program by $35 billion. To offset the cost of the expansion, it would increase the tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 per pack, and raise taxes on other tobacco products. [Vote #22, 1/23/08]
- In the U.S. Senate, Gillibrand Voted to Raise Taxes on Cigarettes to Expand Children's Health Care. In 2009, Gillibrand voted for bill that would increase the tax on cigarettes by 61 cents to $1 per pack and raise taxes on other tobacco products to offset an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. [Vote # 31, HR 2. Public Law 111-3]
Classic Hit Piece. Case Closed.