Paul D. Thacker is a Lab Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and consults for nonprofits, foundations, and congressional offices. Thacker began his career as a journalist writing complex stories involving science and medicine intersecting with government regulations and corporate influence. He then spent several years on the Senate Finance Committee as a staffer in the Oversight and Investigations shop for Senator Charles Grassley.
Thacker moved to Washington, D.C. in 2005 to take a job as an editor at the science journal Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T). He has written for Science, JAMA, Salon, The New Republic, Discover, Popular Science, Slate, and Mother Jones.
In 2006, he uncovered documents proving that Fox News Science Columnist, Steven J. Milloy, was on the payroll of the tobacco industry. In his article for The New Republic “Smoked Out: Pundit for Hire,” Thacker wrote that Milloy had authored several columns critical of scientists whose research found that tobacco smoke was dangerous. Milloy later left Fox News.
While an editor at the science journal ES&T, Thacker wrote several stories that garnered national attention. Based on extensive reporting, he wrote “Hidden Ties,” an article that exposed the PR firms, industry lawyers, and political operatives behind President Bush’s Healthy Forests Legislation. After he discovered a letter to DuPont in an EPA docket, he wrote about the Weinberg Group, a science for hire firm in Washington, D.C. This story later led to an investigation by Congressman John Dingell and a front-page story in the Washington Post.
His reporting on the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of climate change research by Dr. Michael Mann forced the newspaper to walk back a story, and exposed a science journal which had become a venue for climate change skeptic literature.
After Hurricane Katrina, he wrote a story for Salon that exposed political appointees within the Bush administration who were picking which scientists could speak to the press about hurricanes and climate change. Based on internal government emails, he wrote that these political appointees had no training in science.
In 2006, he was profiled on the PBS series Expose: America’s Investigative Reports.
In 2007, Thacker joined the Oversight and Investigations staff on the Finance Committee under Senator Charles Grassley. While on the Committee, he led a high profile investigation into conflicts of interest at medical schools, leading to several front page stories in the New York Times, well as coverage by The Wall Street Journal and other media. This work helped lead to passage of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. For over three years, he investigated the health effects of Avandia, the best selling diabetes drug sold by GlaxoSmithKline. The drug was later pulled from markets across the world.
Born in Los Angeles, Thacker spent most of his childhood in Texas. He currently lives in Washington, D.C., and enjoys cooking, reading, and catching up with friends.