by David R. Guarino

Gov. Mitt Romney’s former consulting firm worked hand-in-hand with Big Tobacco – the industry that stands to lose most from a statewide smoking ban Romney has so far refused to endorse, records show.

Bain & Company, the firm Romney spent 11 years with – and two years running – before he entered politics, had at least three contracts with cigarette-maker Philip Morris U.S.A. during Romney’s tenure as CEO, tobacco industry documents show.

The documents, obtained by the Herald, show Bain & Company also worked with Philip Morris on at least three other projects – including efforts to better distribute and profit from tobacco sales.

Patrick Reynolds, grandson of the RJ Reynolds founder who now runs the California-based Foundation for a Tobaccofree Earth, said the ties come as no surprise.

“The power of the special interests, of the big corporations, in the federal government and many of the states has become obscene,” he said. “Those things are damning for the governor.”

Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said the firm’s past work with the tobacco giants wouldn’t play a role in Romney’s decision to sign or veto the bill.

“It’s absurd to suggest that the governor’s decision on any issue would be influenced by anything other than what’s in the best interests of the people of Massachusetts,” Feddeman said.

Romney worked with Bain & Company from 1978 to 1984, leaving to form his venture capital firm, Bain Capital. He returned to Bain & Company as interim CEO from 1990 to 1993, said Bain spokeswoman Cheryl Krauss.

In Oct. 1990, Bain & Company worked with Philip Morris on its “Value Managed Relationship” program “generating purchasing synergy savings,” a memo shows.

An April 12, 1991, Philip Morris memo mentions a “pricing analysis” Bain & Company was working on. Research by Bain & Company was cited in a 1993 speech by a Philip Morris executive.

Bain worked on a late 1993 study on cigarette distribution in central Asia and produced a 1991 field analysis on retail sales calls for Philip Morris.

Sources close to Romney said his 2003 inaugural celebration, funded by business donations, did not accept tobacco donations – and said Romney turned down a $10,000 donation offered by Philip Morris.

Spokespersons for Philip Morris and Brown & Williamson couldn’t be reached for comment.

Romney severed all official ties to the company before running for governor, but still has several relationships with Bain executives and has used the consulting firm to help him develop policy.

The governor yesterday continued to evade direct answers on the bill, saying his chief of staff will review the bill with proponents and opponents. “I just want to hear from them, ask some questions, and then I’ll make a decision from there,” Romney said.

Elisabeth J. Beardsley contributed to this report.

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