The beautiful and talented Dana Bate is living the American dream - her second populist chick-lit novel is currently arriving in bookstores across Britain and the United States.
But never judge a book by its cover. Behind her gleaming smile and professional friendliness hides a very American nightmare.
Dana is frantically publicising the latest in her oeuvre, A Second Bite At the Apple or The Stall of Second Chances, travelling across the US in December and a setting out on a “UK blog tour” which leads us right up to Christmas.
She is proud of a positive review from Booklist which states: “In smart and crisp prose, Bate tells a winning story about food, love, and second chances, with recipes appended. Great fun.” RT Book Reviews says it is “full of humour and lots of genuine heart.”
Dana’s first book was called The Secret Supper Club and told the story of a wonderfully successful and intelligent businesswoman who harboured the dark fantasy of being the perfect housewife making cupcakes.
Dana herself studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University before becoming an award winning PBS Nightly Business reporter and producer. Then she began writing pastry-puff stocking fillers.
The perfect housewife in her first book gave up her job at a deadly dull Washington think tank. And lo and behold, Dana is married to Roger Bate, a man who has long worked for hardline free market think tanks in Washington.
Roger Bate and British Climate Denial
Indeed, Dana’s actual life is considerably more intriguing than her pulp fiction. Does this brilliant and charismatic reporter actually know how her husband has been making his money?
Is there a hidden meaning in the titles and themes of her books? Does her beloved Roger deserve a second bite of the apple? Are we being asked for our forgiveness?
Or should we forever remind Roger about the secret supper clubs he ran, advising tobacco and oil companies on how to convince the public that the science linking smoking to cancer and fossil fuel burning to climate change should be considered questionable?
Roger is the man who first introduced climate denial to Britain. Back in the early 1990s, Bate was given the job of attacking climate science by John Blundell, the head of the tobacco and oil funded Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).
Bate was asked to set up an Environment Unit at the IEA funded by polluting industries and set about this task with gusto. He wrote Global Warming: Apocalypse or Hot Air, the first publication in the UK to attack the then nascent science of global warming, with help from the US based and ExxonMobil funded Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Around this time, the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) was seriously concerned about the fact smoking was killing millions of people around the world and was looking at ways of curtailing our addiction.
The energetic and talented free market advocate went on to tour the offices of tobacco companies raising money, while simultaneously placing stories in British and American newspapers attacking the latest research showing that passive smoking was also dangerous. One was called, Is Nothing Worse Than Tobacco?
Vickie Curtis met Bate when she was a 27-years-old scientist working for BAT. She explained when I spoke to her that Bate approached the tobacco companies offering to spin the science, rather than the other way round.
After one meeting at the BAT offices she asked her senior colleague why they were meeting with this hyperactive yet slightly disconcerting think tank wonk. “When you are in the tobacco industry, you cannot chose your friends,” she was told.
Ties to Tobacco
Bate soon set up his own think tank, the European Science and Environmental Forum (ESEF) which again attacked both cancer and climate science. Two of the men who worked with him on this project - Dr John Emsley and Professor John Adams - deny ever being told about its tobacco funding.
ESEF had claimed that it “accepts funding only from charities, and the income it receives is from the sale of its publications.” Internal documents from British American Tobacco (BAT) show the tobacco company had earmarked £150,000 to support ESEF and connected organisations. The documents were only released after a legal case.
Dr John Emsley edited ESEF books. When I told him twenty years later about the evidence of BAT funding he exclaimed: “Well I never!” He added: “It was just a case of I rather liked the people - Roger and Julian - rather than what they were doing, if you know what I mean. It’s strange bedfellows.”
Professor John Adams of the University College London had contributed to ESEF publications. He told me he had refused direct BAT funding and had no idea the ESEF had accepted cash from the tobacco company. “For me [accepting BAT money] would have been an unacceptable reputational risk,” he said.
And the plot gets darker.
Bate wrote to Philip Morris in 1998 asking if the tobacco firm wanted to work with his malaria charity. Their “support” would “enable me to build contacts with politicians and scientist/thinkers from developing African countries….these representatives are particularly important in the UN/WHO process.”
In case his meaning was not entirely understood, he added: “I would like to propose that I work on projects for you on an ad hoc basis. In your work, influencing the WHO on their tobacco protocol, there are several areas where I can help.
“For example, contacts who may be appreciative of your efforts and arguments may develop via the malaria work and I could probably act as as a liaison between you and them.”
Bate concluded his letter by setting out his rate of £800 a day and explaining “the fax here is not private and hence mail correspondence is probably better.” God forbid this secret letter got into the wrong hands.
A Second Bite
All of this was of course a long time ago. Roger is now happily married to Dana and the couple have just had their first child. They have a large house in Philadelphia where she can pursue her dream of becoming a famous author.
Everyone deserves a second bite at the apple, right? Perhaps Bate has learned the error of his ways.
Well, currently Bate is working as a visiting scholar for the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank funded by the oil behemoth ExxonMobil and Koch Industries that attacks regulations designed to reduce smoking and fossil fuel emissions.
Perhaps our fabulous Dana Bate could use her creative imagination to cook up a tale with all the intrigue and devilment of a John le Carré novel.
The lead character could be an ambitious young free market ideologue. He sets up a health charity in order to funnel cash from the tobacco industry to corrupt African leaders. The money helps undermine international efforts to save millions upon millions of lives.
We could ask. Dana, who is on Twitter, said when promoting her latest book: “There is nothing I love more than hearing from readers”.
Photo: Kensington Publishing