WASHINGTON -- Academic economists at major universities throughout the United States are earning extra income serving as consultants to the Federal Reserve, a practice that congressional critics say is muffling independent criticism of the Fed's rate-setting policies.

According to government records reviewed by The Bond Buyer, the Federal Reserve Board and 11 of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks hired 209 consultants -- virtually all of them university professors -- in the period from Jan. 1, 1991, through June 30, 1993.

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