BRET BAIER, SPECIAL REPORT: In Brisbane, President Obama tried hard to downplay Jonathan Gruber's role in the formation of his health care bill. Gruber, who was not only paid by HHS, but eventually made millions from other federal agencies and states has talked often about his time dealing directly with President Obama.
JONATHAN GRUBER: We had a meeting in the oval office with several experts including myself.
BRET BAIER: After all that, President Obama issued a challenge to reporters in Australia:
BARACK OBAMA: I would advise every press outlet here, go back and pull-up every clip, every story, and I think it's fair to say that there was not a provision in the health care law that was not extensively debated and was fully transparent.
BRET BAIER: Looking back, even in 2010, the process was considered anything but transparent. In fact, as James Rosen noted, the founder of liberal firedoglake.com Jane Hampshire wrote in March of 2010 about Gruber, She called his contract with HHS "troubling" -- lamenting the "lack of disclosure on the part of the White House, the Senate, the DNC and other Democratic leaders, who distributed Gruber's work and cited it as independent validation of their proposals orchestrating the appearance of broad consensus, when in fact it was all part of the same effort."
An effort that started picking up steam soon after Gruber's $400,000 HHS contract went into effect in 2009. Before long, Gruber was being cited everywhere, on Capitol Hill...
SEN. JOHN KERRY: According to Gruber, who has been our guide on a lot of this, it's somewhere in the vicinity of an $8 billion cost.
BRET BAIER: ...and in the press. In 2009, Gruber released his House health care analysis, which was picked up by Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein under the blog title: "Massachusetts provides evidence that healthcare reform lowers insurance premiums: MIT health economist John Gruber sends along a paper looking at premiums under the new House plan."
The White House blog then quickly linked to Klein's post, and praised Gruber's, "objective analysis." Which then made its way back up to Capitol Hill. And still no mention that Gruber was working for HHS.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: I don't know if you have seen Jonathan Gruber's of MIT's analysis, in comparison to the status quo vs. what will happen in our bill.
BRET BAIER: Two weeks later, Gruber's analysis of the Senate version of the health care bill, that was picked up by The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein in a piece called: "A milestone in the health care journey." In it, Gruber is quoted sourced this way: "Gruber is a leading health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is consulted by politicians in both parties."
Nothing about his HHS contract or any other consulting with the administration or Congress on the bill. In the piece, Gruber is quoted stating, "they really make the best effort anyone has ever made, everything is in here, I can't think of anything I would do that they are not doing in the bill. You couldn't have done better than than they are doing."
Firedoglake's Jane Hampshire wrote: "the DNC sent out that Brownstein column in its entirety." One of some 71 e-mails the party sent out touting Gruber's work.
Mike Allen of Politico had this post in his "Playbook" the next day under the heading: "Obama makes Ron Brownstein's post required reading for the west wing." Saying all senior staff and anybody involved or covering health care should see the piece. Allen's post was in turn cited by the White House blog and soon Gruber was being celebrated on the Senate floor.
SEN. HARRY REID: Jonathan Gruber is one of the most respected economists in the world said in today's Washington Post, here's a quote -- "here's a bill that reduces the deficit, covers 30 million people, 30 million more people and has a promise of lowering premiums.
BRET BAIER: That op-ed Gruber wrote in the Washington Post laid out his analysis of the cost of the bill, and here's how he was identified at the end: "the writer is a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."
And so it went, for months, Hampshire wrote that Gruber's score sheet for the bill ended up looking very similar to the Congressional the budget office's official scoring. Adding, quote, "now that it is known that Jonathan Gruber was a White House consultant--for decades to come should be made publicly available.
BARACK OBAMA: The reason that I think this conversation ends up being a little frustrating is because the focus entirely is on Washington procession and, yes, I have said it, that is an ugly process.
BRET BAIER: This is one sixth of the U.S. economy.
OBAMA: And Bret, let me tell you something, the fact of the matter is that for the vast majority of the people, their health care is not going to change.
BRET BAIER: You guarantee that they're not going to -- they're going to be able to keep their doctors.
BARACK OBAMA: You've got to let me finish my answers.
BRET BAIER: But sir, I know you don't like the filibuster.
BARACK OBAMA: The notion that this is not transparent, that nobody knows what's in the bill. Everybody know what is in bill. I sat for seven hours--
BRET BAIER: Mr. President, you couldn't tell me what the special deals are--
BARACK OBAMA: I just told you.
BRET BAIER: Is Connecticut in?
BARACK OBAMA: Connecticut? What are you specifically referring to?
BRET BAIER: $100 million for the hospital. Is Montana in for the asbestos program? This is people, this is real money, people are worried about this stuff.
BARACK OBAMA: As I said before, the final provisions are going to be posted for many days before this thing passes.
BRET BAIER: That was three days before the house voted on the health care bill that eventually became law, that was March 17, 2010.