Newt Gingrich’s consulting firm earned $1.65 million for about 51 / 2 years of consulting work at Freddie Mac, an arrangement that was overseen by the lobbying office of the mortgage giant, according to new documents released late Tuesday.
But a contract that kicked off the relationship, signed in July 1999, also said that “nothing herein is or shall be construed as an agreement to provide lobbying services of any kind or engage in lobbying activities.”
The new records appear to bolster Gingrich’s contention that he did not engage in any formal lobbying activities on behalf of Freddie Mac, a government-backed company that has drawn the ire of many conservatives for its underwriting policies before the housing crisis.
But the contract, along with another agreement from 2006 released earlier this week, also make clear that Gingrich’s consulting firm, called the Gingrich Group, reported directly to Freddie Mac’s public policy and lobbying office in the course of its work.
The first $25,000-a-month contract with Freddie Mac began in mid-1999 and was renewed through 2002, according to Gingrich Group spokeswoman Susan L. Meyers. The consulting agrement was revived in 2006, at the same monthly rate, and continued through 2007, Meyers said.
The initial 1999 contract provides more detail than the 2006 agreement, which was released Monday, about the kind of work that Gingrich and his firm were expected to carry out, including helping “to strategize on approaches to Freddie Mac business opportunities and challenges” and serving “as advisor to Freddie Mac in the areas of strategic planning and public policy.”
Gingrich — who regularly buttonholed former House colleagues on behalf of pet issues or companies — has insisted he never acted as a lobbyist while running his lucrative post-congressional empire, which brought in an estimated $150 million since 1999.
The former House speaker has come under sharp attack from GOP rival Mitt Romney, who accused Gingrich of “influence peddling” in his work for Freddie Mac and dozens of other firms. Romney is focusing on Gingrich’s consulting career as he tries to regain the advantage in the GOP presidential race before next week’s crucial primary in Florida.
Gingrich has offered varying explanations for his ties to the mortgage company, initially claiming he was hired as a “historian” and later characterizing himself as a strategic adviser. Gingrich and his supporters have repeatedly denied that he acted as a lobbyist for Freddie Mac or any other client.
“There is no place in the contract that provides for lobbying,” Gingrich said during a debate Monday in Tampa, referring to the Freddie Mac agreement.