Reminding Newt of his lobbying past

In last night’s debate, Newt Gingrich went after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which is a pretty standard Republican talking point. It did, however, offer co-moderator John Harwood an opportunity to remind the disgraced former House Speaker that Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $300,000 in 2006. The candidate replied:

“I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice.

And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, ‘We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that’s what the government wants us to do,’ as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.”

So, let’s see. Freddie Mac needed a “historian,” so it paid $300,000 to a disgraced former House Speaker, who proceeded to tell them he didn’t like their business model.

That sounds plausible, right? Well, actually no, it doesn’t.

In fact, as Benjy Sarlin reported, there’s ample reason to believe Gingrich’s account just isn’t true.

The Associated Press reported in 2008 that Gingrich was paid $300,000 in 2006 as a consultant to help battle efforts to regulate the housing giant. Per the AP, Newt “talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model.”

In other words, Gingrich’s version of events was largely the opposite of what appears to have happened.

There’s ample talk in the media about how every Republican presidential hopeful gets to take a turn as the non-Romney candidate, and Gingrich is poised to enjoy his day in the spotlight. Some recent polling even shows him edging past Rick Perry into third place.

But there’s a limit to how far this boomlet can be expected to last — Gingrich’s past is simply too extensive, and too ugly, to allow him to thrive.