Former attorney general proud of successful fight against tobacco companies

Andy Taggart, Fordice’s former chief of staff who is now in private practice, said he opposed the lawsuit because he felt that government shouldn’t create public policy through litigation.

“The worst of it is that all of those cases were settled, which basically means all the tobacco companies bought, at an exorbitant price, was a license to continue to do business all over the country,” Taggart said.

Moore, Taggart said, “is certainly capable of grandstanding, but I don’t think that’s what the tobacco litigation was about. He believed in the issue.”

Moore, 56, is still an activist behind the scenes, working with children’s causes. He’s on the board of The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and is involved with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. With his friend, former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus, he formed a nonprofit that has built daycare centers along the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast.

“I’m not as much a Big Tobacco nemesis as much as I am public advocate,” said Moore, who made a name for himself as a Gulf Coast district attorney who went after white-collar criminals before being elected attorney general.

When Republican Trent Lott decided last year to leave the U.S. Senate after holding the seat for 19 years, Moore’s name was among the first mentioned as a possible successor. He didn’t run.

“I have passed up a lot of opportunities to run for this or that. I continue to get requests to run for governor or run for senator,” Moore said. “I really am enjoying what I’m doing and enjoying being out of the limelight. You name the issue, I’m involved in it from a children’s standpoint. Who knows. You never say never.”

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley said Moore’s affability was a trait that served him well when he went after the tobacco industry. Easley, who was North Carolina’s attorney general when Moore was planning to file his lawsuit, said Moore paid him a visit in the 1990s.

“I was in the largest tobacco-producing state in the country,” Easley said. “He sat down and he explained to me how he felt about it and what he was thinking about doing,” Easley said.

Easley remembered how others responded to Moore during the lawsuit negotiations.

“He’s very disarming,” Easley said. “They thought they were going to meet Darth Vader, and then they met him and it’s a totally different personality. That made it easier for him. This guy is a true believer.”

A spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. declined to comment about Moore.

Moore’s anti-tobacco passion is still strong, and he’s connected to what could be another massive lawsuit against the industry. Moore said he’s a consultant in a lawsuit Nigeria has filed, which seeks about $40 billion in damages from foreign manufacturers. The plaintiffs allege the companies have illegally promoted underage smoking, which they deny.

Commercial Appeal