Firedoglake has been researching the relationship of MIT economist Jonathan Gruber with the Obama administration with regard to health care reform. You’ll find posts by emptywheel, dday and Jon Walker about the apparent conflicts of interest on Gruber’s part, that of the Obama administration and the media covering health care reform.
We’re still looking at the money – yes, follow the money, as Deep Throat once said – paid out to Gruber by the government. OUR MONEY, our tax dollars, paid out to Gruber under three administrations. You can view the numbers at this link, at which you’ll find a published spreadsheet with all information compiled from USASpending.gov and NIH websites (links to sources at the end of this post).
But there are more questions after looking at the data; perhaps the answers are innocuous and amount to nothing, but it would certainly be nice to have some answers.
What permits Gruber to be offered “non-compete” contracts?
What does it mean that a substantive number of the contracts offered to Gruber were let under classification, “Available only for groups such as disabled persons, prisoners, and regulated utilities”?
Why does Gruber have two business identities documented by two DUNS numbers, one of which is a nonprofit entity?
Why are the 2009 contracts for HHS paid to the nonprofit?
Why are there so many fields with “invalid” content or no content where one would reasonably expect some information?
Why are the contracts for Department of Justice, Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services all published under USASpending.gov, but the contracts for National Institute of Health not in the same location?
Why are is the content reported different between that in USASpending.gov and NIH? These two different sites do not supply content for the same fields and make for challenging comparison.
Are there other contracts to other governmental agencies which don’t appear in either of these two locations?
Are there other entities by which Gruber was contracted which we have not uncovered in either USASpending.gov or NIH databases?
If you have some background in combing through government contracts, any feedback you can offer would be great. Again, some of these questions may be very innocuous and have equally harmless answers. But having worked with auditors, I’ve seen little tiny questions turn into really big fur balls because they couldn’t be answered. Let’s audit our tax dollar expenditures here and see if we have anything else to be concerned about besides buying a “friendly” economist who’s failed to report potential conflicts of interest.
And if you see something which should be tweaked/changed/corrected in the published spreadsheet, please let us know.