The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI). It’s a good name for a trial lawyer front-group that works to “encourage and support litigation against the food industry.” And as the Center for Consumer Freedom’s article in National Review Online points out, it’s even less trustworthy than you thought. We shine a bright light on PHAI’s executive director Ben Kelley, and detail his history of foisting false images on an unsuspecting public — all in the interest of massive settlements for his trial-lawyer sponsors.

In 1993, as president of a different trial lawyer front group, Kelley was instrumental in staging what the Los Angeles Times called “the biggest TV scam since the Quiz Scandals.” Unknown to viewers of Dateline NBC, model rocket engines were attached to the gas tank of a GM pickup truck and detonated by remote control, in order to ensure an explosion during a videotaped test collision. Following the Dateline episode, Kelley wrote a memo to his trial-lawyer sponsors, in which he proposed taping a second staged explosion that would be made “available for public dissemination and litigation use.”

Today’s National Review Online piece brings the story full circle:

NBC President Michael Gartner resigned over the Dateline debacle, but by then it was too late. A jury decided that GM should cough up $105 million in damages, even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that the trucks in question were actually safer than the average car on the road.

Ten years later, Kelley is once again using a trial-by-media approach to extract big bucks from American companies. Only this time, his crosshairs are focused on restaurants and food producers instead of automobile manufacturers. Let’s hope his efforts to manipulate public opinion won’t be as successful this time.