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Not Just Freddie Mac: Newt Gingrich’s Long History of Influence Peddling for His Corporate Clients
Caught flatfooted in the CNBC debate when a moderator asked about his past work for Freddie Mac, Newt Gingrich has since twisted and turned, making up every excuse under the sun to obscure his post-politician career as a K Street operator. Despite the revelation that he was paid at least $1.6 million by the troubled mortgage giant to do far more than give "history" lessons, the former Speaker has stubbornly stuck to his guns. On Laura Ingraham radio show yesterday, Gingrich, again attempting to spin his work for Freddie Mac, claimed that his firm literally does "no lobbying":
GINGRICH: We do no lobbying. We look at what they do. We offer them advice. We help them think through their problems, and they’ve got lots of different problems depending on what kind of company there are.
To help clear the record, ThinkProgress has compiled a short history of Gingrich’s influence peddling:
– Helping To Secure Health IT Earmarks For GE, Microsoft, IBM: Gingrich headed a for-profit health care consulting firm that engages in activities identical in nature to lobbying. As Business Week reported, firms like GE have hired Gingrich to figure out "on how to grab some of the $19.6 billion in federal stimulus money" on healthcare IT grants. A follow-up ThinkProgress investigation found that Gingrich had been paid to bring health IT lobbyists together with lawmakers like Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
– The Ethanol Lobby’s "Consulting" Contract With Gingrich: Growth Industry, the trade association for the ethanol energy lobby, provided a $312,500 contract to Gingrich’s consulting firm in 2009, according to a report by iWatch News. An association publication conceded that Gingrich was paid for "strategy and communication issues." The retainer allowed the lobby group, then pressing for further government subsidies, to use Gingrich to "speak positively on ethanol related topics to media."
– Gingrich Lobbied To Deregulate Insurers, While Accepting Hundreds Of Thousands From Health Insurance Corporations: Through his for-profit healthcare consulting firm, Gingrich accepted up to $200,000 in annual fees from insurers like WellPoint and UnitedHealth. As ThinkProgress reported, Gingrich not only pushed anti-health reform conspiracies like the infamous "death panel" smear, but he also crafted model legislation that formed the basis of GOP deregulatory proposals for health insurers. In March 2009, Gingrich met with Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and other members of the GOP Doctors Caucus to help write conservative health reform alternative legislation. "Gingrich provided us with great insight as we work to craft health care solutions for the 21st Century," proclaimed Gingrey after the meeting. Gingrich also wrote healthcare legislation introduced by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA), and "consulted" with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on health reform legislation that would deregulate the insurance industry. During this blitz of what many would consider lobbying-like activity, the BlueCross & BlueShield Association and AHIP, the umbrella lobbying group for the health insurance industry, paid Gingrich fees as well.
– "Sharing Resources" With The Oil Industry’s Top Lobbyists: In February of last year, ThinkProgress spoke to a public relations executive close to the oil industry who said that Gingrich’s political attack group, called ASWF, had been "sharing resources, coordinating efforts" with the American Petroleum Institute (API), the main oil lobby association. In an interview later with ThinkProgress, Gingrich confirmed that he had been working closely with API.
– Gingrich Sells His "Strategic Advice" To Lobbying Giants Like The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce: James Oliphant reported on the latest controversy over Gingrich’s lobbying for Freddie Mac, noting that Gingrich’s firm has also been paid by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the mega-corporate lobbying coalition, for "strategic advice."
Gingrich may defend his unregistered lobbying by claiming that he does not meet the legal threshold in terms of legislator contact. However, news reports have painted a picture of Gingrich as constantly in communication with lawmakers and other public officials. According to the New York Times, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) has been known to discuss strategy on a "regular basis" with Gingrich. The Hill reported that Gingrich attended whip meetings with the GOP caucus to "educate" rank and file Republican lawmakers on the health reform debate. And as a separate piece from the Times noted, Gingrich fires off what have become known as "Newtgrams" — personal e-mails and messages with tactical advice — frequently to Republican legislators in both the House and Senate.
ThinkProgress once asked Gingrich why he never registered as a lobbyist, despite his clear history of pressing Congress on behalf of his clients. Gingrich defended his actions by stating that his lobbying is not technically lobbying because it "benefits the country at large."