Gingrich’s lobbying work draws new scrutiny

If Newt Gingrich wants to be a top-tier candidate, he’s going to have to expect top-tier scrutiny. And given his recent history, that’s likely a campaign-killer for the disgraced former House Speaker.

During a debate last week, after Gingrich spent some time railing against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, John Harwood reminded the Republican candidate that he was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac five years ago. Gingrich insisted that he’s “never done any lobbying,” but was paid for his advice “as a historian.” He added that he told Freddie Mac officials that their business model was creating a “bubble” that was “insane.”

There was ample evidence that Gingrich was simply lying. A week later, a closer look makes his claims look even more dishonest.

Former Freddie Mac officials familiar with the consulting work Gingrich was hired to perform for the company in 2006 tell a different story. They say the former House speaker was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.

If Gingrich concluded that the company’s business model was at risk and that the housing market was a “bubble,” as he said during the debate, he didn’t share those concerns with Richard Syron, Freddie Mac’s chief executive officer at the time, a person familiar with the company’s internal discussions said.

The Gingrich campaign told Bloomberg the candidate’s dubious story is true, but a confidentiality agreement prohibits any additional details.

What an odd response. Last week, Gingrich was not only willing to tell a national television audience he was paid extremely well to offer his advice, but he offered details about the kind of advice he offered behind closed doors. Now Gingrich’s work is confidential?

Regardless, the available information makes it clear that Gingrich’s version of events is at odds with reality.

Amid the growing number of Republican experts on Freddie Mac’s payroll in 2006, Gingrich was expected to identify potentially supportive party members on Capitol Hill. He wasn’t on retainer to lobby lawmakers.

Freddie Mac officials expected Gingrich to provide written material that could be circulated among conservatives on Capitol Hill and in outside organizations, said two former company executives familiar with Gingrich’s role at the firm.

And executives looked to him to help them find innovative ways to address the problems confronting Freddie Mac, said an official familiar with the company’s internal dynamics.

I believe those in the biz refer to this as building a lobbying strategy. Freddie Mac didn’t need a “historian,” it needed a former congressional leader to help with regulations and legislation.

What Gingrich said last week just wasn’t true. That happens a lot with this guy.