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Chamber seeks ‘respected economist’ to back predetermined conclusion

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The US Chamber of Commerce, one of the leading opponents of both health care reform and climate change legislation, is soliciting for donations to hire a “respected economist” to study how health care legislation will affect jobs and the economy — but the chamber apparently already knows what the results will be.

An email sent from the chamber to supporters last week, and obtained by the Washington Post, states that the group — which bills itself as the US’s largest business advocacy organization — needs $50,000 to hire an economist to study the impact of the proposed health care reform legislation on jobs and the economy as a whole.

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Then, the email states, “the economist will … 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.”

While it’s no secret that special-interest groups commission studies designed to give them their desired political results, it’s rare that the tactic would be executed so publicly as to solicit donations for the plan.

Last month, America’s Health Insurance Plans, a political pressure group composed of health care insurance companies, released a study by accounting firm firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that warned of a 111-percent spike in health insurance rates over the next 10 years if health care reform is enacted into law.

That study was quickly attacked as a “threat” by insurance companies against the public, and was largely seen as having backfired. PricewaterhouseCoopers ended up distancing itself from the study, and admitting it had left out key elements of health reform in its analysis.

The planned study from the Chamber of Commerce “smells very political,” said Chris Jennings, a former health care adviser in the Clinton administration, to the Washington Post. “Obviously, the memo suggests both the analysis and its use is preordained.”

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After news of the email broke Monday morning, the Chamber appeared to soften its stance that the study would inevitably result in a negative assessment of the job market’s prospects.

“It is highly likely that this bill will increase costs for business and cost jobs,” wrote Brad Peck at the chamber’s ChamberPost blog. “If it shows the opposite, so be it.”

The Associated Press reported last month that the chamber spent close to $35 million in just the third quarter of 2009 alone lobbying against the Obama administration on health care, climate change and financial regulation, making it the top spender among groups lobbying on the health care issue.

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