With Newt Gingrich surging in the polls, his political opponents and the national media are now working overtime to highlight the former Speaker’s past statements, positions, and personal failings. Dredging up a candidate’s past is part of the vetting process, but it’s the new things that we are learning about Gingrich that are potentially damaging to his campaign for president, not his well documented past.
In recent weeks, some of Gingrich’s business dealings have come to light. In 2007 and 2008, The Gingrich Group was paid between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in fees from mortgage company Freddie Mac. Freddie Mac is a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) that free market conservatives have criticized, especially since the housing market crashed.
It was also reported that healthcare companies paid a Gingrich-led entity more than $37 million dollars. Gingrich insists that he’s not a lobbyist, which is technically true. However, cashing in on his celebrity and connections has made Gingrich a wealthy man. His post-congress business ventures have also created political liabilities for the Republican frontrunner.
Gingrich has defended the payments to his various political entities by saying that all he was offering was “strategic advice.” That may be the case, but it seems a little outlandish to think that Freddie Mac paid him $1.6 million to “give advice on precisely what they didn’t do.”
It’s not the advice that Gingrich gave to various businesses and other entities that will cause him trouble, it’s the notion that he was a for-hire pitchman. The last thing that voters want is a president who can be bought or influenced when it comes to major policy decisions.
While Gingrich has already been heavily scrutinized over his support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (T.A.R.P.), it’s the explanation he gave for changing his mind that may cause more troubles for him. At a conservative forum in May of 2010, Gingrich admitted that he changed his mind on T.A.R.P. after a few high profile businessmen bent his ear.
Gingrich informed a crowd in Davenport, Iowa that, “I was very biased against it [T.A.R.P.] and had opposed it all the previous week. I had a number of very, very successful businessmen who called me and said that you need to understand, this system is on the edge of total meltdown. These were people who weren’t politicians. They weren’t liberals. Some of them were very right wing. But they said this is a true crisis. This is like having a heart attack, this is a true crisis.”
Gingrich also admitted that as a student of history, the fact that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of the Treasury both agreed that the global financial system was on the edge of total failure also caused him to go from opposing T.A.R.P. to favoring its passage.
Gingrich’s support of T.A.R.P. is nothing new, but as questions arise over his relationships with various companies and industry leaders, one has to wonder how much his business relationships had to do with him changing his mind on the controversial program.
Below is the video of Gingrich discussing T.A.R.P. He was asked about the impact that the T.A.R.P. vote would have on incumbents. The questioner was reacting to Republican Senator Bob Bennett losing his bid for re-election in a Republican convention in Utah.
Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com
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