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Anti-Smoking Advocate Is Named to Health Post

January 14, 2009 – By ROBERT PEAR – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama said Tuesday that he had chosen the head of a leading anti-tobacco organization to be the No. 2 official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The prospective nominee, William V. Corr, is executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit group that seeks to reduce tobacco use among children and adults.

As a member of the Obama transition team, Mr. Corr has led efforts to review and evaluate the work of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr. Obama has selected Tom Daschle, a former Senate Democratic leader, to be secretary of health and human services. If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Corr would be the deputy secretary. From 1998 to 2000, Mr. Corr worked as chief counsel and policy director for Mr. Daschle, when Mr. Daschle was minority leader.

The new Congress is expected to move aggressively against the tobacco industry, by increasing federal regulation of cigarettes, raising taxes on tobacco products and approving an international tobacco control treaty.

As a senator, Mr. Obama, an intermittent smoker, was a co-sponsor of a bill that would have given the Food and Drug Administration broad authority to regulate “the manufacture, marketing, and distribution” of tobacco products, including cigarettes.

On its Web site, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says its goals are “to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.”

In reports filed with Congress, the campaign has listed Mr. Corr as a lobbyist and said it lobbied not only Congress, but also federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Trade Commission.

The anti-tobacco group reported lobbying expenses that totaled $2.4 million from 2003 to 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group that tracks the influence of money on politics and government policy.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama often criticized the influence of lobbyists in Washington. But some of his strongest allies here have worked as lobbyists for consumer groups, labor unions, environmental groups and civil rights organizations.

In the Clinton administration, Mr. Corr was chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he worked for Secretary Donna E. Shalala.

Before joining Mr. Daschle’s staff, Mr. Corr worked for two liberal Democrats known as tenacious investigators and consumer advocates: Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum of Ohio, who was chairman of the antitrust subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, and Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, who was chairman of the health subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mr. Waxman was the chief sponsor of a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House last year that would have empowered the F.D.A. to regulate tobacco products. The Senate did not act on the measure.

As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the new Congress, Mr. Waxman will play a major role in efforts to provide coverage to the 46 million people who have no health insurance.

Before coming to Washington, Mr. Corr worked at several community-run primary health care centers in Appalachia. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a law degree from Vanderbilt University.

“Reforming our health care system will be a top priority of my administration and key to putting our economy back on track,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday. “Under the leadership of Tom Daschle and Bill Corr, I am confident that my Department of Health and Human Services will bring people together to reach consensus on how to move forward with health care reform.”

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