It all depends on what your definition of “lobbying” is, when it comes to Newt Gingrich’s post-speaker activities on the Hill
January 25, 2012
In Monday’s debate, Mitt Romney charged Gingrich with “influence-peddling.” But Gingrich insists that he was merely working as a historian when he collected $1.6 million from Freddie Mac over a six-year period. Which, in some version of reality, could be true. Broadly speaking, a historian who is hired to dig ditches is still a historian.
But, strictly speaking, Gingrich did sign a contract with the mortgage giant at a time when Republicans wanted to end its special status as a government-backed private entity. And he was a cheerleader for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, according to political action committee donors who heard him speak in 2007, before he became a critic insisting that others who backed the mortgage companies should be jailed.
Under pressure from the Romney campaign, Gingrich’s consulting firm released a copy of one year of its contract with Freddie Mac, which leaves another five years unaccounted for and only shows earnings of $300,000. That leaves a significant time gap and a chunk of change, but the operative question is whether Gingrich acted as a lobbyist for the company. The question is crucial to the issue of character because the American people and congressmen deserve to know whether someone is being paid to advocate for a position.
A lobbyist for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae whose tenure overlapped with Gingrich’s told me on background that both signed the same contract. This person immediately registered as a lobbyist and said that Gingrich was clearly exerting his influence, though he may have been able to maintain a legal, if not entirely ethical, distance from the definition of lobbying.
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