in a smoke-filled room

in a smoke-filled room

In a secluded, private place away from the eyes and knowledge of the public. Usually refers to deals and policies made in business and politics, and often implies a degree of questionable ethics or scruples. What we're discovering now is that the heads of the studios decided in a smoke-filled room nearly 60 years ago to implement policies that would ensure no competitors would intrude on their lucrative market. People are becoming increasingly frustrated that our entire lives are dictated by a powerful few in smoke-filled rooms in Washington.
See also: room

in a smoke-filled room

(of political bargaining or decision-making) conducted privately by a small group of influential people rather than more openly or democratically.
This expression comes from a 1920 news report about the selection of the Republican presidential candidate: ‘[Warren] Harding of Ohio was chosen by a group of men in a smoke-filled room’.
See also: room
References in periodicals archive ?
I HAVE many memories of being in a smoke-filled room or pub, but on one of my trips back to Liverpool around five years ago I ended up in several pubs on a Saturday night.
That is a lasting memory of being in a smoke-filled room, not to mention what I and others would have breathed in.