The Washington Post

Gingrich campaign paid off some debts, still owes $600,000

Newt Gingrich’s campaign remains roughly $600,000 in debt, two months after it reported deep debts and a long list of creditors, newly released campaign spending records show.

Fundraising by the former House speaker’s campaign has stepped up markedly since then and Gingrich just last month cut by half the $1.2 million owed in October 2010. Still, several outstanding creditors remain.

At the end of last year, he owed a total of $1.19 million — nearly a half-million dollars of that to InfoCision, an Ohio-based telemarketing firm that specializes in fundraising for conservative political, Christian and nonprofit groups. Two months earlier, Gingrich owed roughly the same amount to another key vendor, Moby Dick Airlines , which provides charter flights for the candidate and his top aides to travel across the country for campaign stops.

Gingrich’s campaign has made a big dent in that debt: InfoCision officials said late last month that the campaign paid off its $471,000 bill in full.

Gingrich also reported paying a sizable amount to himself and his companies, which his spokesman said amounted to reimbursements for campaign expenses.

The campaign paid $67,000 to Gingrich Productions, led by his wife, Callista Gingrich, for “web hosting” and “e-mail hosting.” The Gingrich campaign paid the candidate $47,000 for a political donor list, and $206,000 in reimbursement for assorted travel and food expenses that Gingrich covered for himself and his staff.

Gingrich campaign adviser R.C. Hammond said the campaign repaid Gingrich for what he spent on campaign-related food, lodging and travel for himself and staff.

“Gingrich Productions was reimbursed for Web site and e-mail hosting — no profit was made,” Hammond said.

Hammond said the good news is that the campaign is paying off several debts as it raises significantly more money.

“I can report that cash flow dramatically improved over the past six months, debts were paid off and continue to be paid off.”

Since October, Gingrich’s campaign has reported paying more than $100,000 to Moby Dick Airlines, chipping his $451,000 bill to $351,000 at the close of the year, the new records show. He also paid off the full $203,000 of the remaining bill to his Atlanta law firm, McKenna Long, and another $89,000 to High Tech Win, the campaign’s Web site development firm, the records show.

Roy Oakley, president of Moby Dick Airlines, said the campaign’s schedule of repayment is “going smoothly so far.” He estimates that the campaign has now paid all but $300,000 of the outstanding bill.

Oakley said Gingrich promised he would personally repay the airline operator if the Gingrich campaign shuts down.

“When campaigns are over, they’re over and that’s it,” Oakley said. “In this case, I have his personal guarantee that he will repay it whether the campaign is going or not.”

Gingrich’s presidential aspirations have taken a roller coaster ride since he first announced his candidacy in May 2011. He stumbled soon after when the news media reported that he had a $500,000 line of credit with Tiffany.

The bulk of his campaign staff resigned in June. By early fall, Gingrich had already racked up serious debts with lavish spending on private jets and luxury hotels, but at the time was largely dismissed as an unlikely Republican nominee for president.

Gingrich then surged in the polls in late November and upset forecasts by winning the South Carolina primary last month. He placed second in Florida’s primary.

As Gingrich’s poll numbers have risen, so has his fundraising. While he raised just $800,000 in the third quarter of 2011, he brought in $9.8 million in the fourth quarter, according to records. His campaign has reported that he raised $5.5 million in January.

InfoCision and Moby Dick have been mainstays of Gingrich’s political operation, as House speaker, businessman and author who operated a major political action committee and now as a presidential candidate. In the 2010 election cycle, he paid InfoCision more than $12 million to raise money for his political action committee, American Solutions.

One notable creditor still on the unpaid list: the consulting company Norway Hill. The New Hampshire firm is led by Dave Carney, who jumped from being Gingrich’s political adviser in June 2011 to begin advising longtime friend and then-presidential candidate Rick Perry. The Texas governor has since dropped out of the presidential race.

Staff writer T.W. Farnam contributed to this report.

Carol Leonnig covers federal agencies with a focus on government accountability.

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