The Washington Post

Gingrich’s D.C. record: His Achilles’ heel?

Just before the debate, Newt Gingrich released one contract with Freddie Mac for one of his years as an “historian,” as he likes to put it. But the contract reflects that he reported to the head lobbyist, in fact a registered lobbyist, Craig Thomas. Moreover, the contract is remarkably vague as to what he actually did for Freddie. ( The contract specifies that he was supposed to invoice Freddie with a description of services, but we haven’t seen any of those. They would be illuminating.) The contract says that he should provide services of the quality of other firms providing comparable service in Washington, D.C. (Since there are no “historian” firms, one can imagine the reference is to other K Street influence peddlers.)

What is most telling is what is not provided — contracts for other years of service, invoices or other documents that would reflect what he really did, and any support for the tale that his value was as an “historian.”

No wonder Mitt Romney pounced both in the debate and in a new ad. In the debate he repeatedly made the point that Gingrich got paid for singing Freddie’s tune while Floridians and other Americans got pummeled in the housing crisis. His ad piles on with references to his speakership as well:

Notice the quick segment at the end in which Gingrich refers to future plans with Marianne. That would be the wife on whom he was cheating with his current wife, Callista.

In the debate last night, Gingrich tried out a few excuses. He attempted to make his departure from the speakership seem voluntary. But Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) had him dead to rites last night; he was sanctioned for ethics violations and his colleagues did show him the door. He then tried exaggerating his own achievements during his four years as speaker, claiming credit for creating 11 million jobs. (He has not attempted to explain the government shutdown fiasco, for which he was directly responsible.)

On Freddie he again trotted out the excuse that Freddie and Fannie Mae are like “telephone cooperatives, rural electric cooperatives, federal credit unions.” This is poppycock, as Politifact points out:

We find no support for that and do find major differences in how they are created and operate compared with GSEs. Congress created Freddie Mac, as it does every GSE, by passing a specific law to bring it into being. Freddie Mac has stockholders and a direct line of credit with the U.S. Treasury. The term, Government Sponsored Enterprise, applies only to a handful of financial entities listed in the federal budget.

None of those characteristics apply to credit unions and electric cooperatives. Once again, we rate Gingrich’s statement Pants On Fire.

It remains to be seen how successfully both Romney and Rick Santorum will be in painting Gingrich as an ethically challenged creature of Washington. They certainly have a lot of material to work with. Moreover, when Gingrich tries to wiggle out of his own record he shows his worst qualities — self-aggrandizing ( he created 11 million jobs) delusional (a “historian” for Freddie) and dishonest (Freddie’s just like a credit union!). Rather than running ads with the accusations, perhaps Gingrich’s opponents should run ones with his excuses; they are as revealing and damning as anything others have said about him.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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