PEEK

Bombshell: Opinions of Supposed Health Care "Expert" Directed by Special Interests Since 1994

Turns out former New York Lt. Gov and supposed health care "analyst" Betsy McCaughey, (R), has been been pandering to special interests for years.

And I here I thought former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey (R), whose propensity for misinformation is practically limitless, couldn't possibly appear any less credible. I stand corrected.

McCaughey, of course, has been a leading conservative opponent of health care reform in 2009, frequently straying from the truth (and reality) to trash Democratic proposals. She's also known for playing a similarly destructive role in 1994, when McCaughey positioned herself as "a scrupulous, impartial, independent scholar who, after leafing through the endless pages of the Clinton health proposals, had been shocked by what she found."

What we don't know until very recently is that McCaughey, when she wrote her infamous 1994 New Republic article that contributed to reform's defeat, she was working in secret with corporate interests who were lobbying against the Clinton plan.

Writing for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson reports on documents obtained from a Philip Morris lobbyist

[W]hat has not been reported until now is that McCaughey's writing was influenced by Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, as part of a secret campaign to scuttle Clinton's health care reform. (The measure would have been funded by a huge increase in tobacco taxes.) In an internal company memo from March 1994, the tobacco giant detailed its strategy to derail Hillarycare through an alliance with conservative think tanks, front groups and media outlets. Integral to the company's strategy, the memo observed, was an effort to "work on the development of favorable pieces" with "friendly contacts in the media." The memo, prepared by a Philip Morris executive, mentions only one author by name:

"Worked off-the-record with Manhattan and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part expose in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan."

Media Matters added, "This latest disclosure, combined with a previously exposed conflict of interest, should destroy any remaining credibility she has with the media as an expert in health care reform acting in the public interest."

Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."
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