If you were like me, I felt sorry for Perry last night when he couldn’t remember the third government agency he’d shut down and as you’d expect, that gaff has been all over the blogosphere today. But I spent most of my free time today pondering another odd moment in the debate where Newt was questioned about his involvement with Freddie Mac.
The key exchange is pasted below from the transcript of the debate.
HARWOOD: Since — since you mentioned Fannie and Freddie, Speaker Gingrich, 30 seconds to you, your firm was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac in 2006. What did you do for that money?
GINGRICH: Were you asking me?
GINGRICH: I offer them advice on precisely what they didn’t do.
Look — look, this is not — this is not…
HARWOOD: Were you not trying to help Freddie Mac fend off the effort by the Bush administration…
GINGRICH: No. No, I do — I have never…
HARWOOD: … and the — to curb Freddie Mac.
GINGRICH: I have — I assume I get a second question. 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.
GINGRICH: It turned out, unfortunately, I was right and the people who were doing exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann talked about were wrong. And I think it’s a good case for breaking up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and getting much smaller institutions back into the private sector to be competitive and to be responsible for their behavior.
I could tell Gingrich wasn’t comfortable with that question and his involvement with Freddie Mac (who, along with Fannie Mae, helped precipitate the housing bubble that burst in 2008) was unknown to me until last night.
A quick Google search revealed an article from CNSNews in 2008 that clearly linked Gingrich with Freddie Mac. From the article (emphasis mine):
“Internal Freddie Mac budget records show $11.7 million was paid to 52 outside lobbyists and consultants in 2006. Power brokers such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were recruited with six-figure contracts.”
“Gingrich talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model.”
It didn’t sound like Gingrich was pointing out Freddie Mac’s flaws and I doubt they’d pay someone over $100,000 just to hear how wrong their business model was.
This relationship with Freddie Mac was not good news for Newt’s presidential hopes and he must have realized that too since he has already issued a clarifying post on his campaign website.
This is not the first time Gingrich had to walk back a past mistake – we all remember this big one that he is still paying for.
I love listening to Gingrich in a debate format and I’d bet my life savings he’d destroy Obama in a national debate but his past continues to haunt him and more of this will come to light as he rises in the polls. As Perry falters, the lion’s share of those supporters will go to Gingrich or Cain but as Gingrich gets closer to front runner status, more of those skeletons will come out of his RINO closet.
Maybe Newt has changed and these are just mistakes he made in the past and he has now seen the “Conservative Light”. I think he is 1,000 times better than the Socialist we have in the White House right now so if it came down to Gingrich or Obama I think he could win in a national vote. But is he the best choice for the Republican nomination? Are there more skeletons to come out? Will Conservatives embrace him with his RINO past? We’ll know in a couple of months.