Party Blasts Gingrich Fund-Raising
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 1999; Page A21
Though out of the public eye since being driven from office three months ago, former House speaker Newt Gingrich is busily raising money, spreading his ideas and positioning himself as a political godfather to like-minded Republican candidates.
But as so often been the case during his career, Gingrich's fund-raising efforts are proving controversial. This time, however, the protests are coming from fellow Republicans: His recent request for the National Republican Congressional Committee's mailing list has triggered angry comments from some House members, who fear his efforts may sap funds from the party's campaign to maintain a House majority in 2000. "There's only so much money out there," said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a frequent critic of Gingrich. "People get tapped out. Let's make sure our first priority is not personal gratification of somebody. Let's make sure it's going to people who need it in tight races."
Gingrich allies dismissed such complaints, saying the former speaker's effort will complement the party's campaign. According to several Gingrich advisers, the former speaker hopes to use his Friends of Newt Gingrich political action committee to promote candidates who support privatized Social Security accounts, limiting taxes to 25 percent of a citizen's total income, and an internationalist foreign policy.
Lobbyists and other Gingrich friends are hoping to raise $1 million at a $1,000-a-person "Salute to Newt" dinner in Washington April 4. The event will be part-tribute, part-charity bash, with some of the proceeds going to Gingrich's PAC and the rest benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, a charity the speaker championed while in office.
"Over the course of the next two years you will see Newt Gingrich act as a teacher, not just for the Republican Party, but for all common-sense, hard-working, everyday Americans," said former Gingrich spokeswoman Christina Martin. "The curriculum is pretty well formed already: Social Security, lower and limited taxes, America's role in the world, and a new outlook on health and health care. Think of it as mentoring for the new millennium."
But Gingrich's efforts to develop a new mentoring role have already raised hackles among some of his former colleagues. On Jan. 13, Gingrich asked through an intermediary for "a tape, or tapes, containing the names, addresses and donor histories of all NRCC donors who made one or more contributions to the NRCC in response to direct mail packages . . . signed by Mr. Gingrich."
Many of Gingrich's allies note that his signature helped attract the donors the Republican Party has on file, and politicians sometimes demand the lists generated by their personalized appeals. But once a campaign has ended, organizations usually reserve such databases for their own purposes.
"Most political organizations regard those things as proprietary," said former representative Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.), Gingrich's closest friend from the House. "That would be a very unusual exchange."
Party officials have yet to turn over the list. "He and his team left the NRCC with a debt of $3 million," said a House GOP leader who asked not to be identified. "Until we pay that off it's a little presumptuous for him to come in and raid our lists."
Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord said the former speaker can appeal to rank-and-file Republicans without the party's help. "We asked for the list. They said no. We said fine, we're moving on. End of story," Gaylord said. "We don't need it."
Some Republicans said it is unfair to restrain Gingrich, who raised $10 million for House candidates and an additional $50 million for the party between 1997 and 1998, from collecting money now for his own particular causes.
"I don't think we're in such desperate straits that we need to worry about competing fundraisers," said Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), an active party fund-raiser. "Our coffers were stuffed thanks to him, and now is not the time to be belittling his efforts for charity."
Several of the dinner's organizers, which features Mary Tyler Moore and is being co-chaired by lobbyists including Walker and former Republican representative Vin Weber (Minn.), said they deliberately scheduled the event to follow major fund-raisers, including the party's Leadership 2000 dinner, in order to avoid any conflict.
"There was no sense allowing the one to interfere with the other," Walker said, adding that donors would buy tickets to the Gingrich tribute for entirely different reasons. "People are going to respond to the Newt dinner out of a sense of wanting to honor him for his years of speakership."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company