The Chatty Cathy Principle

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The Chatty Cathy Principle seems like a good name for an idea that has taken root in Washington: If you are willing to spend enough money, you can get pretty much anybody to say pretty much whatever you want them to. Yesterday, we learned how the drug industry, which has been spending $609,000 a day to lobby Congress to get its way on health care reform, has been scripting members of Congress. And in today’s Washington Post, Michael Shear tells us that the Chamber of Commerce is attempting to carry the Chatty Cathy Principle forward into the academic world. Here’s how:

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.

Step two, according to the e-mail, appears to assume the outcome of the economic review: “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.”

Nice. And no surprise that, according to the Chamber’s email, this idea was the brainchild of “our congressional allies.” Let’s see if any “respected economist” is that badly in need of $50,000.