Richard Silberman

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Rich Silberman was hired by Gray Robertson to become a spokesman on sick buildings for Healthy Buildings International (HBI). The company was the main sham air-testing company which made a fortune out of providing special services to the tobacco industry, both in churning out distorted measurements of indoor air quality (IAQ), and also in providing witness services to local ordinance hearings, legislative inquires, court cases and in media briefings.

The idea that buildings were sick -- known both as Sick Building Syndrome and Tight Building Syndrome were the inventions of tobacco industry lobbyists following a short, but newsworthy scare when a small number of veterans died from legionnaire's disease -- traced back to a poorly maintained water-tank air-conditioning system on a large conference venue. The tobacco industry and its paid coterie of sham air-testing companies used the opportunity to beat up the problems of air quality in buildings caused by plastics, synthetic carpeting, vapours from the early photocopying machines -- while ignoring the contribution of second-hand smoke. By paying the testing companies, the tobacco industry always had the figures to prove that smoke was never more than a trivial problem.

The main staff at ACVA and HBI in the USA were Gray Robertson, Peter Binnie, Simon Turner, Richard Silberman, Jeffrey Seckler, Miles Price, Reginald Simmons, Gregory Wulchin, Nicole Miles, Anne Robertson, Brenda Groves, Susan Voccio, and Dee Huss. This would only be a fraction of those hired over the years, and branches in other countries would have also had staff.

Healthy Buildings International (HBI)
Peter WH Binnie and Gray Robertson
Richard Silberman and Simon Turner
Jeffrey R Seckler and Reginald B. Simmons
Business Council on Indoor Air
The Legionnaire's disease scam
Sick Building Syndrome
ACVA/HBI (Doc Index)

Rich Silberman and Gray Robertson from HBI became fixtures in the Tobacco Institute's travelling media circus, which was circulated through the major regional centers in the USA, where they lobbied politicians, provided briefings to the media, offered themselves for interviewes on radio, and acted as witnesses for local ordinance hearings, etc. Usually the PR company Fleishman-Hillyard looked after these operations on a day-to-day basis. Silberman also appears to be a good speaker because he is the senior staff member sent to symposia and to do radio intereviews on Sick Building Syndrome.

Documents and Timelines

1992 June 2 Richard Silberman is identified here in this transcript as the spokesman for "Health Buildings Syndrome'" [Actually 'International'] (HBI) for an appearance on radio in Cincinnati to promote the idea that there was such as thing as [[Sick Building Syndrome[[ (SBS)

Apparently the symptoms of SBS are respiratory problems and lethargy, and the desire to take a day off work to recover. "...when they left the building at the end of the day, their syptoms subsided only to return again when they returned to work the next day." [2]

1991 Mar 15 Report on IAQ conference in Washington March 14-15. Silberman is not a speaker and the other speakers all appear to be legitimate. [3]

1992 Jul 15 Fleishman-Hillyard is billion Gray Robertson at HBI for "meals and refreshments for the Barry Frazier and HBI Group seminar and media tours. Also for air tickets for, Gray Robertson, D Handler, Richard Silberman etc doing media tours. Fleishman-Hillyard always billed HBI, then Robertson would bill the Tobacco Institute. []

1992 Jul 27 Gray Roberson is billing Mary Pottorff at Philip Morris for the services of Simon Turner and Richard Silberman in presenting the seminars in Boston and New York on July 21-22, 1992. Thes consulting fees were $1000 a day ($3,000) and expenses added another $2,000. [4]

1988 to 1993 Diana L Avedon at the Tobacco Institute ran a major media-tour operation called the Scientific Witness Teams. This operation circulated variable teams of TI staff spokespersons, contracted sham air-testing company staff, one or more Covington & Burling lawyers, and other more specialied tobacco lobbyists. They were used in two ways:

  1. As fire-fighters, to turn up in some town or region when problem about public or workplace smoking was arising, and do media interviews.
  2. To make regular media tours through various parts of the country to promote Tobacco Institute propaganda.

They were paid to visit major cities in each state, where the Regional Tobacco Institute staff would have arranged radio, TV or news coverage, and set up meetings with key officials at the local councils, counter air-ports (smoking bans) and meet with the editorial boards of media outlets. This is Diana Avedon's list of the key contractors on these group media-tours. It had the advantage of each participant getting to know the others, which introduced a collegial element to their shared message distortions.

1993 Jun 1   TI list of "Witness/Expert Appearances Scientific/Legal/Spokespersons."
Thomas Lauria
Assistant to the Tobacco Institute President,
Mike Buckley
lawyer-lobbyist with Covington & Burling,
Simon Turner
IAQ witness/executive of ACVA/HBI,
Gio Batta Gori
Corrupt science researcher at Nat. Cancer Institute
He ran the Tobacco Working Group for the industry until fired.
Bill Wordham
Tobacco Institute's Media spokesperson
Gray Robertson
Partner in ACVA then owner of HBI
Lifelong contractor for sham air-testing with TI
Peter Binnie
owner/partner of ACVA and HBI
He sold his share of HBI to Gray Robertson
Larry Holcomb
Ran sham air-testing company (airlines)
Holcomb Environmental Services
John C Fox
Lawyer lobbyist for TI via Pettit & Martin
Later also through Pillsbury Madison & Sutro
Richard Silberman
Healthy Buildings International (HBI)
spokesman on 'sick buildings'
Walter Merryman
TI Public Relations, then Issues Management
Later VP at the Tobacco Institute.
David Remes
legal strategist from the main law firm
Covington & Burling (C&B)
Frank Powell
National Energy Management Institute
(NEMI) organiser who worked for TI
Melinda L Sidak
C&B lawyer; strategist in science corruption
Worked on recruitment of scientists.
Rudy Cole
He ran restaurant front-group RSVP
He organised lobby against smoking bans.
Larry Halfen
Environmental Consultants; TI witness
An attached 1991 Witness List includes
Brennan Dawson
Media relations at the Tobacco Institute
Jeff Seckler
Exec. in charge of HBI's sham air testing
He later turned whistleblower.
Jim Goold
Lawyer sent on media tours by the Tobacco institute to train witnesses.
Joe Pedelty
worked for Holcomb Environmental Services
Did sham air-testing for TI
Jolly Ann Davidson
NASBE school/educational lobbyist,
ran "Helping Youth Decide" program for TI
Dick Wagner
GMU economics professor (Tollison aide)
Key in cash-for-comments network
Bernadette Davidson
lawyer and media lobbyist with John Fox
She was retained by TI as IAQ witness
Walter J Decker
Ran Toxicology Consultancy Services
Provide witness services for the TI
Also attached is a 1990 Witness List (page 35) includes
Bill Orzechowski
TI Director of Economic Issues
He was ex-US Chambers of Commerce
Mike Davis (Dallas Texas)
Prof of Econ. and Business Management
Witness for the Tobacco Institute.
Morris Coats
Prof Economics West Virginia.
Worked in cash-for-comments net.
The main long document has this 1989 witness list attached with the addition (to above)
Dwight Lee
economics professor and leader of
cash-for-comments economists network
David A Weeks
Boise Idaho physician, TI Witness
Partner of S James Kilpatrick in Per-Med Corp.
Alan Kassman
Ex tobacco industry scientist. Retrained
to provide legislative and media briefings.
Robert Tollison
GMU professor of economics who ran the
cash-for-comments economists network
Richard Wagner
Economics professor and TI witness.
Tollison's understudy in c-for-c network
Jack E Peterson
Industrial hygienist; ran Peterson Assoc.
Also worked for Dow Chemicals
Bestype Consulting Corporation
they ran TI's "Sick Building Syndrome"
and "Tight Building Syndrome" seminars.
Dennis A Vaughn
Lawyer-lobbyist for Tobacco Institute,
Associate of John Fox at P&M and PM & Sutro
The 1988 List includes most of above with the additions of:
Alan W Katzenstein
Biostatistician with Katzenstein Assoc.
Witness for Tobacco Institute,
David Brenton
Ran the Smokers Rights Alliance
His wife Sue had her focus on airline smoking.

[Numerous other documents detail the day-to-day organization of these groups spread over five or more years.]