Not so long ago, the tobacco industry used cartoon characters, babies, doctors and even Santa Claus to promote its cancerous products to generations of Americans who would later die of tobacco-related diseases. Today, tobacco-related disease is still the number one cause of preventible death in Montana, killing more people than homicide, suicide, car crashes, opioids, illegal drugs, and AIDs combined.
These days, its a lot harder to find a credible spokesperson to shill for an industry known to cause cancer, heart disease, and emphysema, so we must forgive Marlboro and Camel if they have to settle for folks who aren’t the most credible.
Some Montana newspapers have published the writings of – Stephanie Lair, listed as a “managing partner” in “The Guardian Group LLC” who is claiming that a 33% increase in the tobacco tax to pay for health care in Montana is somehow unconstitutional. This is a ridiculous claim, since as the Missoulian editorial board points out:
Montanans passed a previous tax on tobacco by initiative in 2004. The Montana Tobacco Sales Tax Initiative, I-149, increased tobacco taxes by 140 percent, to $1.70 per pack of cigarettes. The money raised by this tax was allocated in much the same way as the current initiative proposes: to health services, veterans’ care and the general fund. And it was passed by more than 64 percent of voters. It wasn’t unconstitutional then, and it isn’t unconstitutional now.
It turns out, the Guardian Group LLC consists entirely of Bozeman residents Stephanie Lair, her husband Mike Lair, and a member of the Montana Libertarian Party. None of the three are lawyers. Rather, the trio are marijuana activists involved with a handful of “businesses” the nature of which is not entirely clear.
It’s not going to surprise anyone that libertarian types hate taxes, even ones like I-185 that you don’t even pay if you don’t use tobacco. And after word went out earlier this summer that big tobacco was looking to invest in the marijuana industry, it’s not surprising that some in the marijuana industry are eager to sell out to one of the worlds two remaining tobacco mega corporations, Altria (Phillip-Morris) and R.J. Reynolds. (Or to find ways to cozy up to the industry in hopes of finding ways profit from such transactions.)
Besides “managing partner” of TheGuardian.group, Lair is the “CEO” of MyPirl.Com a consumer complaints site which boasts “Find your Settlement Check Today!!!!” and “PIRL IS THE ONLY SITE RUN BY A GROUP OF PROFESSIONAL RESEARCH PARALEGALS.”
Stephanie Daniel Lair & Mike Lair run www.SysDisrupt.com which apparently “provides risk/loss management to the Marijuana Industry nation-wide”. Like MyPirl, no one listed as involved with SystDisrupt.com appears to be a lawyer either, although the services it provides are described as “We have been involved in hundreds of litigations to date: large billion dollar matters, all the way down to hundred thousand dollar ones–and occasionally the eighty thousand dollar one.”
Other Lair companies appear to have no public face, including: “The One Percent Corporation” which actually appears to have been involuntarily dissolved, and an SDL Motorsports LLC, of which no evidence of existance could be found.
Anyone who visits these legal-support themed sites will not notice some effort appears to have been taken to shroud them in a vague, back ally legalese.
Lair notes that she once “contributed to pro bono work” and even “contributed to press releases” for a group “working on a first amendment case.” The Guardian group calls itself a “firm” and lists “past cases” as if they were attorneys. Yet the nature of their involvement remains murky.
A google search of Guardian Group partner Mike Lair, of Bozeman, brings up both local and national articles about a Mike Lair, of Bozeman, who was convicted of wire fraud after that involved defrauding several law firms and was sentenced to prison. after he:
“held himself out as an executive of consumerdefense.com, Inc., also known as “CDI,” an organization that purported to do research and investigations pertaining to consumer complaints,”
To be sure, it is simply not possible to tell whether Bozemanite Mike Lair of the pseudo-legal sites TheGuardian.Group, Sysdisrupt.com, MyPirl, et al who is married Stephanie Lair is the same Bozeman Mike Lair that the New York Times and others reported was sent to prison for fraud for pseudo-legal schemes.
A New York Times article on the Lair crimes does include an interview with a Stephanie Lair of Bozeman, but the article describes Stephanie Lair as Mike Lair’s neice.
It could easily be the case that the Stephanie and Mike Lair of Bozeman in the NY Times article are two completely different sets people with the same names, living in the same town. There could easily be two Mike Lair’s of Bozeman, one who is married to Stephanie Lair, and one who is the uncle of Stephanie Lair, both of Bozeman, and it could be just an an odd coincidence that both men are the same age and wear “a thick goatee.”
- On sysdisrupt.com [screenshot] The business partner and husband Mike Lair says he was in high school in 1976, which means he’s around 56-58 today.
- The Mike Lair, who appears in the New York Times article that interviews a “niece” Stephanie Lair was “46 and wears a thick goatee” in 2007 when the article was written, which means he is 56-58 today.