Did HHS help hide Gruber’s status as paid shill? Update: “No comment” from Gruber

posted at 9:30 am on January 29, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

When MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber allowed himself to be quoted by numerous media outlets about his sunny analyses of ObamaCare, including a big push by Peter Orszag on his OMB site and in challenging reporters to use Gruber’s conclusions, Gruber never bothered to mention that he was receiving money through HHS to provide consultation on health-care reform.  After Gruber’s exposure, he claimed that few bothered to ask whether he received compensation from the administration and didn’t feel compelled to volunteer the information.  Now two members of the Senate have demanded that kind of disclosure from Gruber.

In a letter sent earlier this week and given to Hot Air by a source in Washington, Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) demand answers to a long series of questions, including why Gruber never revealed this conflict of interest on three occasions when he testified before Congress on health-care reform.  They first accuse Gruber of dishonesty:

We are writing in response to recent news reports that you received nearly $400,000 from HHS in exchange for providing technical assistance in evaluating various health care reform legislative proposals.  During this same time, you have been actively promoting and defending the Administration’s preferred health care reform policies both before Congress and in the media.  This includes your participation in the Finance Committee’s May 12, 2009, Roundtable Discussion entitled “Financing Comprehensive Health Care Reform”; the HELP Committee’s June 11, 2009 hearing entitled “Healthcare Reform”; and the HELP Committee’s Novembver 3, 2009 hearing entitled, “Increasing Health Costs Facing Small Businesses.”  On occasions such as these, it appears that you advanced the Administration’s agenda without disclosing the fact that you were receiving federal remuneration. …

When an academic leader comes before Congress to advocate a position, Congress should have confidence that the witness is both independent and objective and not being paid to assist the Administration in its efforts.  In this case, we are concerned that neither you nor the Department chose to inform Congress of your substantial ties in advance of, during, or any time after, your testimony before the Finance and HELP Committees.  In fact, the biography submitted for the Finance Committee’s Roundtable Discussion makes no mention of these ties or affiliations.

After this, Grassley and Enzi take aim at HHS and the Obama administration for failing to answer questions about outside consultants — answers that would have exposed Gruber as a shill long before being outed:

In July, Senator Enzi write to HHS Secretary Sebelius requesting among other information, a list of all outside consultants with the Department and copies of their agreements.  HHS was unresponsive to this request, which should have revealed your relationship with the Department.  Senator Enzi recently wrote again to reiterate this request to HHS Secretary Sebelius and to ask for additional information concerning your relationship with the Department.  Senator Grassley also wrote to Secretary Sebelis requesting that HHS require any individuals under contract with the Department to disclose that fact publicly prior to any testimony before Congress.  Additionally, Senator Grassley requested that HHS provide a complete list of individuals who are currently under contract, or have been under contract at any point last year, to assist the Department in any aspect of the health care reform process.

So much for increased transparency!  This is an angle that we hadn’t yet seen.  The Republicans on these panels must have had some suspicion that the White House was tossing ringers into these committee meetings and wanted a list of consultants from HHS to spot them.  HHS refused — and now one of those consultants got exposed anyway.

Hopefully Grassley and Enzi will stay on top of this development and find out if HHS or any of the other federal agencies in the Obama administration have more paid shills acting as independent voices supporting their agenda, especially on ObamaCare.

Update: Ben Smith at Politico jumps on this immediately, and gets a “no comment” from Gruber.


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My president is a liar.

Rational Thought on January 29, 2010 at 9:33 AM

“For an hour there I forgot he was corrupt.”

Akzed on January 29, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Every time I’ve been given the conflict of interest lecture at my job, I’ve been told that it is my responsibility to report it. It is not the job of the interviewers to uncover it.

MarkTheGreat on January 29, 2010 at 9:34 AM

The Republicans on these panels must have had some suspicion that the White House was tossing ringers into these committee meetings and wanted a list of consultants from HHS to spot them. HHS refused — and now one of those consultants got exposed anyway.

I wonder if there are more? I mean you don’t just send one spy out in case he/she gets exposed, you send a bunch hoping at least one scores.

Johnnyreb on January 29, 2010 at 9:35 AM

Everything about this administration is about dishonesty, secrecy, and deceit… I’ve never seen anything like this in my 56 years of life.

Keemo on January 29, 2010 at 9:36 AM

hopenchange, baby…hopenchange.

search4truth on January 29, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Let me be clear, real transparency is opaque.

Disturb the Universe on January 29, 2010 at 9:36 AM

“It’s only a crime if you get caught.”

-President Barack Hussein Obama

Bishop on January 29, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Seems like the Chicago way to do business is transported to DC. And the O has the audacity to say the people are “tired of the way Washington does business”?

You ARE Washington, Sparky!

manateespirit on January 29, 2010 at 9:38 AM

Everything about this administration is about dishonesty, secrecy, and deceit… I’ve never seen anything like this in my 56 years of life.

Keemo on January 29, 2010 at 9:36 AM

Maybe he’s looking to take Nixon’s place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Rod on January 29, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Akzed on January 29, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Nothing but net!

Jim708 on January 29, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Why am I not surprised….Just another corruptocrat in a corrupt Administration……
The Most Corrupt Administration in the history of this great nation??…..ugh….

hawkman on January 29, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Weird how quick the media picked up on the Bush era same thing. Wasn’t it Walter Williams who got bashed here.

tarpon on January 29, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Shwoosh.

Akzed on January 29, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Seems all liberal takeovers look like climategate. Duplicity, collusion, cover up.

ROCnPhilly on January 29, 2010 at 9:44 AM

Dear President Obama,

I have about as much experience in HHS matters as you do pretending to be the President of the United States. That said, if you can have Mr. Giethner send me $400,000, (in umarked bills), I will testify before congress that ObamaCare is the single greatest achievement effecting our lives, and those Greek Pillars around you are not crumbling.

Rovin on January 29, 2010 at 9:45 AM

Question, is it possible to file criminal charges against Sebelius or Gruber for this. If it can be proven that his testimony was bought and paid for, it seems that it would be illegal in some way.

conservnut on January 29, 2010 at 9:45 AM

It is transparent that this administration is fundamentally corrupt. Heads need to roll over this.

rbj on January 29, 2010 at 9:49 AM

Is there anyone in this administration that is clean?

search4truth on January 29, 2010 at 9:49 AM

Could we get Ken Starr to look into this?

Akzed on January 29, 2010 at 9:50 AM

They first accuse Gruber of dishonesty:

No, they state that there appears to be dishonesty. The list of questions is to determine whether there actually was dishonesty.

Both ends of the money conduit failed to disclose their relationships, even when asked to do so.

As every scientist knows, the hypothesis and the conclusions in any research may be related to the group providing the researchers money. That’s why peer review takes place and why scientists disclose their funding sources in their conclusions.

To do otherwise is to fully embrace the appearance of impropriety.

unclesmrgol on January 29, 2010 at 9:52 AM

Seems all liberal takeovers look like climategate. Duplicity, collusion, cover up.

ROCnPhilly on January 29, 2010 at 9:44 AM

Haven’t you heard, climate change is now officially legitimate according to Osama bin Laden:

AP – Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has called for the world to boycott American goods and the U.S. dollar, blaming the United States and other industrialized countries for global warming, according to a new audiotape released Friday

Al Gore could not be reached for comment, but “sources” say he’s in the sky heading for some region in Pakistan.

Rovin on January 29, 2010 at 9:53 AM

I’m shocked.

/Not

Key West Reader on January 29, 2010 at 9:56 AM

Does this make him a paid lobbyist?

la.rt.wngr on January 29, 2010 at 9:56 AM

Well-done!

H.H.S. has been shamelessly shilling for ObamaCare all along at their website, with its link at the homepage of HHS to another data mining operation at healthreform.gov where you can sign up to “state your support” for ObamaCare in a “letter” to the President.

Buy Danish on January 29, 2010 at 9:57 AM

Pay offs, bribery and threats… yep, that’s the Chicago recipe with a dash of Statism just thrown in for flavor.

Hobbes on January 29, 2010 at 9:58 AM

Haven’t you heard, climate change is now officially legitimate according to Osama bin Laden:

Rovin on January 29, 2010 at 9:53 AM

I had heard it, but thought it couldn’t possibly be true. But now, with all the smart people saying we’re responsible for all the terrible things happening to the climate and the earth, I’m finally ready to embrace communism.

If only Osama had been a denier…

/s

ROCnPhilly on January 29, 2010 at 10:02 AM

“It’s only a crime if you get caught.”

-President Barack Hussein Obama

Bishop on January 29, 2010 at 9:37 AM

I would take that one step further: “It’s only a crime if I say it is.”

Remember – he is a narcissistic sociopath. All things that serve him and his goals are acceptable, right, and true.

It’s the only thing that can explain all his actions, broken campaign promises, his blatant and ridiculous lies, and his complete lack of empathy.

Rod on January 29, 2010 at 10:02 AM

Way to go McGruber……

justonevictory on January 29, 2010 at 10:03 AM

But heaven help the blogger praising a product and not mentioning any remuneration!

Tom

marinetbryant on January 29, 2010 at 10:06 AM

“For an hour there I forgot he was corrupt.”

Akzed on January 29, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Funny. But…
The only problem with this is that for that hour he reminded us over and over how corrupt he is!

Christian Conservative on January 29, 2010 at 10:08 AM

Dishonesty from this Whitehouse is no longer unexpected nor unprecedented. It has become the norm. I fear for my country.

Crusader Rabbit on January 29, 2010 at 10:09 AM

No, they state that there appears to be dishonesty. The list of questions is to determine whether there actually was dishonesty.

unclesmrgol on January 29, 2010 at 9:52 AM

The perception of impropriety is just as damaging, even if there was no wrongdoing (and that is a big if in this case).

OT but I hope those excerpts are somebody’s fat fingering goofs and not the actual document. I would hope that Senators are not sending out letters citing dates in “Novembver” and statements like “In July, Senator Enzi write to HHS Secretary Sebelius requesting among other information…”

highhopes on January 29, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Obama lies all the time. If you think honest and ethical folks would be working with him you got another thing coming.

Like his SOTU speech, it is all lies.

jukin on January 29, 2010 at 10:17 AM

Thanks, Ben Smith.

petefrt on January 29, 2010 at 10:19 AM

Check out http://www.smallbusinessmajority.com and Mr Gruber

We conduct scientific research to illuminate key questions.
The best way to find out what small business owners want is to ask them.

Small Business Majority commissions surveys of randomly selected small business owners across the country. The surveys have shown that small businesses are overly burdened by healthcare costs, that they want comprehensive reform now and that they’re open to a variety of solutions.
The best way to find out how specific reform proposals will affect small business is to use reliable economic modeling.

Small Business Majority turned to MIT economist Dr. Jonathan Gruber to project the effects of three different healthcare reform scenarios on small business profits, jobs and wages. The analysis found that compared with no reform, the scenarios would dramatically improve the situation for small businesses—holding down healthcare cost increases, saving jobs, preserving wages and bolstering profits.
We work with policymakers to find practical solutions.
Legislators want to hear the opinions of their constituencies—with all the varied viewpoints they espouse. The polling we do of small business owners throughout their districts and states, along with our economic research, gives them the unbiased information they need to do their jobs. We’re frequently asked to provide a small business perspective that, until now, has struggled to be heard. A few examples:

Small Business Majority works with the White House to organize policy discussions that focus on small business issues.
We have testified before House and Senate committees considering healthcare reform legislation.
We work with other national business groups and legislative committees to ensure that proposed changes to the healthcare system are beneficial to small business.
We partner with business organizations in many states to communicate the specifics of healthcare reform to small business owners and the media.

Unbiased Mr Gruber? Are you telling small businesses the truth about healthcare? Did you tell or did smallbusinessmajority know that you worked for HHS?

journeyintothewhirlwind on January 29, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Good work Ed! Keep shining the light and exposing their untruths and fraudulent behavior.

conservative pilgrim on January 29, 2010 at 10:25 AM

The pervasive intrusion of government (via funding) into all levels of academia has grown to the point where unbiased researchers are rare. Witness the climate change fiasco.

GnuBreed on January 29, 2010 at 10:39 AM

I think politicians, and people who make a living dealing with/testifying for politicians should be like NASCAR drivers. They should have to wear the company logo of their “sponsor” on their suit jacket at all times. (Pantsuits, too)

DrAllecon on January 29, 2010 at 10:39 AM

I think politicians, and people who make a living dealing with/testifying for politicians should be like NASCAR drivers. They should have to wear the company logo of their “sponsor” on their suit jacket at all times. (Pantsuits, too)

DrAllecon on January 29, 2010 at 10:39 AM

I like this idea!

thomasaur on January 29, 2010 at 10:52 AM

If you think honest and ethical folks would be working with him you got another thing coming.

jukin on January 29, 2010 at 10:17 AM

You can take the Chicago thug out of the street but you can’t take the street out of the Chicago thug.

With the administration going into its second year, I suspect there will be some massive personnel changes coming in the next six months. Napolitano will be fired. Holder may be forced out. Gates will leave. Rahm Emanuel will be headed back to IL.

highhopes on January 29, 2010 at 10:54 AM

I’m sure Ellie Light and Mark Spivey can explain everything.

GarandFan on January 29, 2010 at 10:57 AM

Weird how quick the media picked up on the Bush era same thing. Wasn’t it Walter Williams who got bashed here.

tarpon on January 29, 2010 at 9:43 AM

It was Armstrong Williams.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 29, 2010 at 10:58 AM

I would also like to know excatly what Gruber did for $400,000 of my money. That’s a really big contract for an individual consultant. Given the level of dishonesty around this entire relationship, I have to wonder of some of that $400,000 wasn’t kicked back to Organizing for America or some other Obama political operation. These guys are just canny enough and corrupt enough to figure out how to use “consultants” to funnel hundreds of thousands fo dollars of taxpayers’ money into political operations to help agitate for their statist policy agenda. And with an obeisant Congress, there is no one but foxes watching the henhouse.

rockmom on January 29, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Paid shills, senate bribes, secret meetings. All happening right under Eric Holder’s nose.

TN Mom on January 29, 2010 at 11:13 AM

More than 130 small business owners from 24 states traveled to Washington, DC, on Nov. 3 to meet with top administration officials and their members of Congress about the need for healthcare reform. They were briefed by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and participated in a press conference on Capitol Hill with Senate leaders. Small Business Majority was one of several organizations that cosponsored the event.

and

and the HELP Committee’s Novembver 3, 2009 hearing entitled, “Increasing Health Costs Facing Small Businesses.” On occasions such as these, it appears that you advanced the Administration’s agenda without disclosing the fact that you were receiving federal remuneration

and

Small Business Majority turned to MIT economist Dr. Jonathan Gruber to project the effects of three different healthcare reform scenarios on small business profits, jobs and wages. The analysis found that compared with no reform, the scenarios would dramatically improve the situation for small businesses—holding down healthcare cost increases, saving jobs, preserving wages and bolstering profits.
We work with policymakers to find practical solutions.

So a government paid guy(with or without their knowledge IDK) goes to smallbusinessmajority and offers analysis that shows and convinces small business owners to support the government plan and then they go to DC to show the government the groundswell of support from small business owners about the WH plan.

Working every angle Mr Gruber? Pool shark.

journeyintothewhirlwind on January 29, 2010 at 11:30 AM

When does this stuff become illegal?
Good God, in the Bush administration (wish I truly miss) wasn’t there a ridiculous witch hunt with liberals gushing all over themselves about orange jumpsuits regarding that narcissitic couple the Wilsons?
We have had one year with this immature bunch of crooks barely walking on the side of legality is every area……….when the hell does this stuff cross the line and get investigated?

ORconservative on January 29, 2010 at 11:32 AM

I like this idea!

thomasaur on January 29, 2010 at 10:52 AM

It’s a fun little fantasy.

I can picture Crowder doing a bit where Senators are walking around…at first with just one or two small logos on like NEA and (to be fair and balanced) NRA, then slowly showing people with more and more patches until they’re covered practically head to toe with GLAD, ACORN, AGW etc patches.

Ah well, fun to dream about as we see yet one more thread of people being paid to push an agenda.

DrAllecon on January 29, 2010 at 11:34 AM

Small Business Majority was one of several organizations that cosponsored the event.
and

I wonder if someone could find out the names of the other organizations that sponsored this NOV 3 event and see if Mr Gruber also offered/paid to give analysis to their organizations?

journeyintothewhirlwind on January 29, 2010 at 11:36 AM

$400,000 dollars eh? That’s a hell of a lot of money from a government who’s broke, isn’t it? Sounds like bribe money to me. Say this for us, and we’ll give you this much moulah.

This damn administration is thee most corrupt this country has ever had. For all the villification that other Presidents have taken, for their machinations, yet Obama is still protected, and propped. I find it just disgusting that some would put ideology over principles, and over what’s right, and wrong. It’s just disgusting!!!

capejasmine on January 29, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Do any of these letters ever get answered? It seems to me that a couple of “strongly worded letters” were fired off to Holder’s office months ago regarding the Black Panther dismissal that has been ignored…I mean, are these guys actually looking for answers or are they just trying to look good and do a CYA in the process? Just wondering…

Cliveclone17 on January 29, 2010 at 12:43 PM

Akzed on January 29, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Excellent!

mwdiver on January 29, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Obama paid around 17 very old traffic tickets from Hawvud when he decided to run for office. That is how transparency should work. admit sooner or later you intend to fess up.

HHS Sebielious also cleaned up some tax fraud prior to being investigated.

seven on January 29, 2010 at 2:21 PM