The Chamber of Commerce, an ardent foe of health-care reform, is raising money to fund an economic study on the impact of the legislation on the economy. Unsurprisingly, the Chamber anticipates that the study will find that reform will “kill jobs.”
James Gelfand, the Chamber’s senior health policy manager, wrote an email to allies that suggested spending $50,000 to hire a “respected economist” to put together the report. The email was obtained by the Washington Post.
Gelfand then wrote:
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.
Gelfand added that the idea for the report was “suggested by our Congressional allies.”
And he said that the Chamber has already collected $30,000 for the effort, including $5000 each from the National Association of Manufacturers, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, the International Franchise Association, and the Independent Electrical Contractors Association.
Karen Kerrigan, the president of the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council, confirmed to TPMmuckraker that her group had contributed $5000, after being approached by the Chamber. She said the effort appeared to be in its initial stages.
“What we’ve been hearing from our members and the business community is that the legislation and its various components would lead to job losses, and potentially anemic job growth,” she said. “So what we hoped to get out of this was to quantify that.”
Asked whether the SBEC would support releasing the study even if it found that the impact on job growth was more positive than expected, Kerrigan gave a tentative yes, adding, “I feel we would learn something from the study.”
Chamber exec Randy Johnson — who did not immediately respond to TPMmuckraker’s request for comment — gave a similar answer to the Post, saying a positive finding would help to educate the business groups.
Johnson denied that Gelfand’s email prejudged the result of the report. “It’s not saying that we would tell the economist how it should come out,” he told the Post. “Perhaps it wasn’t artfully phrased. It’s based on what we think the economist will come out with. It doesn’t mean we know what the economist will come out with.”
But Johnson at a meeting with allies earlier this year, Johnson was “far more candid” about the goal of such studies the Post reported in a follow-up today. There, he referred to a recently released report, put out by a business coalition, which found that the Employee Free Choice Act would lead to job losses.
“We spent a lot of money to come up with this study,” said Johnson at the meeting. “It’s not what these economic studies say — it’s the cover they give to members who are going to be with us.”
Johnson also noted at the meeting that “the unions had ordered up their own studies,” as the Post put it, “and this was the business community’s counter.”
And the health insurance industry last month released its own study, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, finding that the health-care reform bill would increase the cost of insurance. But the White House and its allies quickly pointed out that the study simply ignored the bill’s cost-saving measures.
So in other words, we can stop pretending that these studies are anything other than politically motivated PR efforts designed to help advance the pre-existing agenda of the groups that commissioned them.
It’ll be worth remembering that when the Chamber starts touting its latest effort on health-care reform.