Business Groups Decry Justice Dept. Tobacco Suit

The Justice Dept.'s announcement this week that it plans to file a massive lawsuit against the tobacco industry could set a precedent for similar assaults against other businesses, warn two of the nation's largest business organizations -- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Assn. of Manufacturers (NAM). "No business can feel secure in the U.S. when the enormous power of the Justice Dept. can be unleashed against them for the purpose of raising revenue and scoring political points," comments Chamber Executive Vice President Bruce Josten. "This is nothing more than taxation through litigation . . . a very dangerous precedent threatening all legal but politically unpopular businesses." Says Michael Baroody, NAM's Senior Vice President: "This lawsuit appears to be motivated mostly by a desire for revenue and changes in industry practices that could not be reached through the free market or the normal legislative or regulatory process. This could set a terrible precedent for other industries that may fall out of political favor with the federal government."

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