Six days ago Ben Kelley, the executive director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI), flexed his muscles and demanded that eight major food companies take responsibility for America’s love handles or be sued. And on the same day, the Center for Consumer Freedom publicly exposed Kelley’s involvement in “the biggest TV scam since the Quiz Scandals.” As of today, PHAI no longer has an executive director. Coincidence? Judge for yourself.

Here is what we know. On Wednesday, October 29, a PHAI press release quoted Ben Kelley, calling him the group’s executive director. National Review Online published our article the very same day. As of today (one week later), PHAI’s on-line staff directory includes the words “executive director” with no name underneath. Meanwhile, Kelley’s curriculum vitae (also posted on PHAI’s website) now declares that he wasexecutive director of PHAI from its founding in 2002 until late 2003,” and is now “director of the organization’s Motor Vehicle Hazards Archives Project.”

Kelley has apparently returned to his roots as a
PR hack for trial lawyers suing auto manufacturers
, and is no longer at the helm of the group whose June conference was “intended to encourage and support litigation against the food industry.”

Calls put in to PHAI indicate additional turmoil. The phone number listed on PHAI’s website connects to an unrelated Northeastern University office, whose receptionist claimed today to have “never heard of” PHAI.

A call to the number distributed with PHAI’s recent press release got us to Tara Makhmali, who works for the Tobacco Control Resource Center. The Tobacco Center — a litigation-focused “research” outfit — is run by PHAI’s Richard Daynard. Daynard is a law professor who cashed in on tobacco settlements and then sued other attorneys for a bigger share of the profits. Two of these trial lawyers (pots) called Daynard (kettle) “greedy.”

All of this leads to some interesting questions: Has PHAI finally discovered (thanks to our National Review Online piece) that Ben Kelley wasn’t what he seemed? With Kelley out of the picture, just who is running PHAI? And is anyone really shocked that “tobacco control” functionaries are fielding phone calls for PHAI, a trial-lawyer front group from day one?