When it was revealed in January 2005 that conservative radio host and commentator Armstrong Williams was paid $240,000 by the Bush administration Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind program on his radio show, the Times ran multiple disapproving accounts  of the payouts.
Columnist Frank Rich  had a field day, and Paul Krugman excoriated Armstrong in a column on similar practices by disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, "Tankers on the Take ."
The point is that there really isn't much difference between Mr. Abramoff's paying Mr. Ferrara to praise the sweatshops of the Marianas and the Department of Education's paying Armstrong Williams to praise No Child Left Behind. In both cases, the ultimate paymaster was the Republican political machine. And inquiring minds want to know: Who else is on the take? Or has the culture of corruption spread so far that the question is, Who isn't?
What a difference a new administration makes. Jonathan Gruber is an MIT health care economist who's been all over the place, including the Times, lauding Obama-care. Times economics writer David Leonhardt has cited him at least four times, according to Tom Maguire , and the Times on Thursday ran a second editor's note admitting that several previous news articles had quoted Gruber.
What few people knew: While acting as an independent spokesman who supported Obama's health reforms, Gruber was also being well paid by the Obama administration's Health and Human Services as a consultant on the health care proposal, to the tune of $400,000.
The Times has yet to report a story on the controversy.
Columnist Krugman was not happy with the news, but his disappointment lay not with Gruber, who he absolved of blame, but a left-wing blogger whose influential Huffington Post story lambasted Gruber's lack of disclosure while tracing his influence on the debate.
Krugman wrote on his "Conscience of a Conservative " blog Monday morning:
Oy. I sort of missed the controversy over Jon Gruber and his contract with HHS. For those who haven't been following this, Gruber - who is one of the three or four top health care economists in the nation - turns out to have a large research grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, for modeling the consequences of various reform plans. This has led some people, mainly Marcy Wheeler at Firedoglake, to question Gruber's objectivity.
The truth is that this is no big deal. Gruber's grant is from HHS, not the West Wing; it's basically the same kind of thing as, say, an epidemiologist receiving a grant from the National Institutes of Health. You wouldn't ordinarily say that this tarnishes the epidemiologist's credentials as an independent analyst on infectious diseases, unless you want to say that nobody receiving a research grant can be considered independent.
After admitting that Gruber should "have made a fuller disclosure," Krugman warned the lefty Firedoglake to get with the Democratic program.
What the folks at Firedoglake should ask themselves is this: do you really want to become just like the right-wingers with their endless supply of fake scandals?