Anybody with the slightest interest in politics or universal healthcare will find a piece called "The Lie Factory," in the current edition of the New Yorker fascinating. Writer Jill Lepore describes how a former California newsman named Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, a former reporter for The Oregonian created the field of political consulting through their firm, Campaigns, Inc in 1933.
"No single development has altered the workings of American democracy in the last century so much as political consulting, an industry unknown before Campaigns, Inc," Lepore writes. "In the middle decades of the twentieth century, political consultants replaced party bosses as the wielders of political power gained not by votes but by money."
Among their largest achievements was a battle that still echoes today. Beginning in 1949, Whitaker and Baxter destroyed then-President Harry Truman's plan for national healthcare for the benefit of their client, the American Medical Association.
"Whitaker and Baxterâs campaign against Harry Trumanâs national-health-insurance proposal cost the A.M.A. nearly five million dollars, and it took more than three years. But they turned the Presidentâs sensible, popular, and urgently needed legislative reform into a bogeyman so scary that, even today, millions of Americans are still scared," Lepore writes. "Truman was furious. As to what in his plan could possibly be construed as âsocialized medicine,â he told the press in 1952, he didnât know what in the Sam Hill that could be. He had one more thing to say: there was 'nothing in this bill that came any closer to socialism than the payments the American Medical Association makes to the advertising firm of Whitaker and Baxter to misrepresent my health program.'"