Gingrich’s Response To The Freddie Mac Stuff

Now that Newt Gingrich is moving up into frontrunner status courtesy of his recent boomlet in the polls, he’s catching the inevitable media beatdown that accompanies any kind of success for a 2012 GOP contender not named Mitt Romney.

Gingrich’s staff, however, seems to be quite a bit more on the ball than Herman Cain’s staff was in answering the attacks coming his way. And that’s interesting, considering that six months or so ago Gingrich had his whole staff hit the road on him and had to start over with practically zero money to make hires.

Cain had the ridiculous sexual harassment claims, which are pretty easily disproven but have nevertheless left a scar thanks to the herky-jerky way his campaign handled them.

Gingrich has a number of things, but the most current one today is the fact that he took a $300,000 consulting fee from Freddie Mac, ostensibly to drum up Republican support for that entity’s agenda in the middle part of the last decade. He says what he did for that money was to give Freddie a bunch of advice they didn’t end up taking, and Freddie’s people say that’s not the case.

Naturally, we’ll never get to the bottom of it. It’s not in Freddie’s interest to admit they wasted 300K on advice they didn’t take before they helped take the economy off a cliff – particularly given that Gingrich has been calling for Freddie (and Fannie) to be broken up and sold off to the private sector. And Gingrich isn’t likely to say he did under-the-table lobbying for Freddie, which is what the Freddie people kinda-sorta say they paid him for.

But while Cain’s people said his travails were due to racism (which has a little bit of legitimacy, though the GOP electorate is largely sick of hearing about that stuff) and then tried to blame the whole thing on Rick Perry doing dirty campaign tricks, Gingrich’s campaign is taking a different tack. Gingrich’s media guy R.C. Hammond put this out today…

  1. Newt Gingrich welcomes scrutiny of his record in public office and as a small businessman.  Gingrich believes that properly vetting the potential next president is absolutely necessary in a free society and that a properly vetted nominee for the Republican Party will better be able to defeat President Obama and lead our country in rebuilding the America we love. 
  2. Gingrich has never lobbied for Freddie Mac, or any client, nor has anyone in any of the organizations he founded after leaving office as part of their work with them. Gingrich made a decision after resigning that he would never be a lobbyist so that nobody would ever question the genuine nature of his advice and perspectives. This prohibition against lobbying was made very clear to all Gingrich Group clients and strict internal protocals were developed to prevent lobbying. Today’s Bloomberg article confirms that Gingrich and his firm did no lobbying for Freddie Mac.
  3. Nor did Gingrich, as part of his contract, advocate against pending legislation affecting Freddie Mac, as Gingrich was accused of doing by the moderator at the CNBC debate in Michigan.  This, too, was confirmed by the Bloomberg News article this morning.
  4. Freddie Mac was a small part of the client and revenue base of The Gingrich Group and Gingrich’s various small businesses.  The Gingrich Group offered strategic advice to a wide variety of clients about a wide variety of issues, including IBM, Microsoft, The US Chamber of Commerce and more. Gingrich Group fees were comparable to that of many consulting firms.
  5. Gingrich is broadly favorable of the concept of Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) but believes the financial crisis shows that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be broken up and their smaller successors be moved off of government guarantees and into the free market.
  6. Gingrich also is in favor of efforts to increase home ownership in America but as a conservative believes it has to be within a context of learning how to budget and save in a responsible way, the opposite of the lending practices that led to the financial crisis. 
Will everything in Hammond’s talking points hold up? We’ll see. But the point is, this is how you handle a media poopstorm – you do it with substance and clarity. Even if you’re BS’ing, which we’re not saying Gingrich’s camp is doing.
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