We’ve known for a while that Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care law helped create the framework for the White House’s policy on the same issue. Indeed, the so-called “RomneyCare” law is practically indistinguishable from the Affordable Care Act, including the controversial individual mandate. We’ve also known that Romney’s own advisers helped President Obama’s team directly.

What’s new is the degree to which Romney is annoying those who helped Romney turn his plan into reality. MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, an economist who specializes in health care policy, played a key role in helping shape the reform effort in Massachusetts. He’s not at all pleased with what he’s hearing from Romney now.

He credited Mitt Romney for not totally disavowing the Massachusetts bill during his presidential campaign, but said Romney’s attempt to distinguish between Obama’s bill and his own is disingenuous.

“The problem is there is no way to say that,” Gruber said. “Because they’re the same f***ing bill. He just can’t have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it’s the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he’s just lying. The only big difference is he didn’t have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes.” [emphasis added]

Romney might want to be more careful on stuff like this. He’s already earned a reputation for being a cowardly flip-flopper, who’s afraid to lead, and who’ll say anything to anyone to advance his ambitions.

But if Romney develops a reputation as a liar, too, questions about his character will become more acute. Two weeks ago, the former governor got caught lying about his tax plan; yesterday he got caught lying about an Obama quote; and now a respected MIT economist and former Romney adviser is on record saying Romney is lying about health care.

Once a politician loses his integrity, it’s awfully tough to get it back.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.