New details are trickling out about Newt Gingrich’s role at Freddie Mac, and the latest reports continue to contradict his claim that he objected to the mortgage giant’s business model while serving as an advisor.
Last November, Gingrich’s campaign said that “on numerous occasions in meetings with Freddie Mac, Speaker Gingrich advised that a business model that involved lending money to people with bad credit and no money down was unsustainable and a bubble, and that it was dangerous to buy securities made up of these mortgages.”
But according to Politico, his activities weren’t just confined to advising and lobbying on behalf of Freddie Mac. He also rallied an audience of Freddie Mac political action committee donors in 2007:
New details from Newt Gingrich’s $35,000-a-year contract with Freddie Mac show that the Republican hopeful wasn’t just a boardroom consultant, but served as a high-profile booster for the beleaguered organization. He even gave a rallying speech to dozens of the group’s political action committee donors in the spring of 2007.
Shortly after the “rah, rah” speech, as one source described it, Gingrich gave an interview for the Freddie Mac website, where he supported the group’s model at length. The interview is no longer on Freddie’s site.
If Gingich was supposedly the internal critic of Freddie Mac, what was he doing giving speeches to the group’s PAC donors? The story doesn’t add up. Of course it’s possible that Gingrich brought up his concerns at some meetings, but he gave no public indication that he was trying to reform the group at the time. Everything that’s been released has shown the opposite – him praising Freddie Mac’s business model and trying to boost the group’s reputation.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported more details about the lobbying expert who Gingrich says advised him back in 2000:
“He hired me to give him advice on state and federal lobbying requirements,” [lobbying expert] Thomas Susman said.
“The subject matter,” he added, “was simply to advise him and his associates in his business what the lobbying laws were because he did not want to have to cross the line to register as a lobbyist in any of those jurisdictions.”
Which sounds like confirmation that Gingrich hired an expert to avoid crossing the 20 percent threshold that would require him to officially register as a lobbyist.
The drip-drip-drip will likely keep this issue in the news for awhile, but it remains to be seen if Romney can make the controversy stick to Gingrich. He’s certainly been trying, and today his campaign sent surrogate Rep. Connie Mack to a Gingrich rally to raise the issue. But at least one of Romney’s attacks could end up backfiring. His campaign sent an email out to supporters today promising a “$1.6 million reward” – the fee Gingrich collected from Freddie Mac – for any information on Newt’s lobbying documents. It’s clearly supposed to be a joke, but it’s also yet another reminder of Romney’s $10,000-bet faux pas and his substantial wealth.