Chamber of Commerce, creating its own reality

CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, CREATING ITS OWN REALITY…. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hasn’t had an especially good year. Its denials of global warming have been embarrassing; the group has lost some high-profile corporate members; its membership numbers have been exposed as exaggerated.

Now that the Chamber has been caught trying to finance a phony study on health care reform, the organization’s credibility is poised to reach new lows.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an assortment of national business groups opposed to President Obama’s health-care reform effort are collecting money to finance an economic study that could be used to portray the legislation as a job killer and threat to the nation’s economy, according to an e-mail solicitation from a top Chamber official.

The e-mail, written by the Chamber’s senior health policy manager and obtained by The Washington Post, proposes spending $50,000 to hire a “respected economist” to study the impact of health-care legislation, which is expected to come to the Senate floor this week, would have on jobs and the economy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Maybe,” you’ll be tempted to argue, “the Chamber and its allies simply wanted to do a legitimate economic study. How do we know the report would be rigged to bolster a preconceived anti-reform narrative?”

The answer, of course, is that the Chamber’s memo already points to the agreed-upon conclusion of the economic review that does not yet exist. From its email: “The economist will then circulate a sign-on letter to hundreds of other economists saying that the bill will kill jobs and hurt the economy. We will then be able to use this open letter to produce advertisements, and as a powerful lobbying and grass-roots document.”

The Chamber’s James Gelfand, who wrote the memo, said the proposal for the trumped-up economic study was “suggested by our Congressional allies.” It was unclear as to who those “allies” are, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that congressional Republicans asked the Chamber of Commerce to help kill health care reform with this spurious study.

It’s not exactly a plan that screams “credible, independent analysis.”

If this seems vaguely familiar, it was only a month ago that a dubious study by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) was released, in the hopes of derailing the health care reform effort. It wasn’t long before it was exposed as something of a political sham.

White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said the email is “proof positive that the opponents of health reform will not let the facts get in the way of their efforts to defend to the status quo that has been so profitable for the insurance companies.”

The AHIP fiasco inspired reform proponents to redouble their efforts against the conservative anti-reform scam. With any luck, the Chamber’s mess will do the same.