Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has come under (figurative!) fire from her new downstate constituency over her support of gun rights and 100 rating from the NRA. She's tried to smooth things over, by removing her name from a gun bill she co-sponsored and emphasized she's concerned just as concerned about gun violence as Senator Chuck Schumer. But now the NY Times brings up a case from her past as a young lawyer—and puts it on the front page: Representing Philip Morris against the Justice Department's attempt to get information on how the tobacco industry lied about the effects of smoking.
According to the NY Times, "Gillibrand plays down her work as a lawyer representing Philip Morris, saying she was a junior associate with little control over the cases she was handed and limited involvement in defending the tobacco maker. But a review of thousands of documents and interviews with dozens of lawyers and industry experts indicate that Ms. Gillibrand was involved in some of the most sensitive matters related to the defense of the tobacco giant as it confronted pivotal legal battles beginning in the mid-1990s." While she started at Manhattan law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell in 1991 (making her 24 or 25 at the time), she "eventually oversaw a team of associate lawyers working on Philip Morris cases, according to a colleague, and was a frequent point of contact between the firm and Philip Morris executives."
Gillibrand was never the lead lawyer on the case, but the colleague Vincent Chang, who "spoke glowingly" of her, said, “The client was always in her office. She was probably accorded more responsibility than the average associate by far.” He also said associates were allowed to decline working on the case. The Times notes, "After initially agreeing to be interviewed by The New York Times, the senator canceled through her spokesman, Matt Canter, who said that focusing on Philip Morris would not reflect the range of her work as a lawyer, which also included representing pro bono clients, including abused women and families contending with lead paint in their homes."
Politico's Glenn Thrush comments, "All you need now is a 'alcohol' angle — and the New York Democrat's got the whole ATF portfolio." He also points out "at least [her] people knew this was coming," noting that a 2005 memo on Gillibrand's campaign research on herself mentions the Philip Morris connection.