Gingrich’s campaign said today they will release all the documents they legally can of his contract with the once-beleaguered housing giant. Gingrich continued to staunchly deny reports that he ever lobbied for the group, but he skirted questions about the financial payouts he received from Freddie Mac for his contracting work.
Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that the former House speaker made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consultation fees in a nine-year span. Sources told Bloomberg that in 2006, Gingrich 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.”
Gingrich says he never lobbied on behalf of Freddie Mac and that he simply offered “strategic advice over a long period of time.”
“I was approached to give strategic advice. I was glad to offer strategic advice and we did it for a number of companies and Gingrich Group was very successful,” he said today at a fundraising breakfast in Iowa.
Speaking on the radio program the “Mark Levin Show” Wednesday Gingrich said that he did not have to take any clients whose views and actions did not coincide with his own.
“We said flatly from day one we will do no lobbying of any kind, and I will not take any client who has a position I don’t agree with,” Gingrich said.
When asked about his compensation, the former congressman said he couldn’t verify the specific amount. Gingrich later said on the “Mark Levin Show” that “they paid a fee which is a relatively standard Washington fee for that kind of advice,” and that “they pay pretty reasonably.”
A Freddie Mac spokesman confirmed to ABC News that Gingrich was a consultant for the group, not a lobbyist, but would not disclose his financial payout or details of his contract.
Even though it may not have been defined as such, the reports have many wondering whether Gingrich’s work came close to lobbying.
In a climate where Americans are disgruntled with Washington, it has also given ammunition to Gingrich’s opponents to paint him as Washington insider. Rep. Michele Bachmann made the first swing, attacking Gingrich for taking money from Freddie Mac, which most Republicans advocate shutting down.
The report has also raised questions about his credibility. Gingrich said during the CNBC debate last week that he told Freddie Mac that giving loans to people who have no credit history or a viable financial record is a bubble and “is insane.” Speaking on the “Mark Levin Show” Wednesday he said that he advised the company to restructure their business.
“I spent a fair amount of time trying to suggest a totally different model, where if you wanted to expand the number of people owning homes, you need to expand the number of people capable of owning homes,” Gingrich said. “You don’t just give people a house, because they have no idea what they’re doing.”
But sources told Bloomberg that Gingrich neither predicted the housing bubble nor did he raise concerns about Freddie Mac’s business model.
The former House speaker said today that he provides the same advice in public that he does in private. But soon after his contract with Freddie Mac ended, Gingrich turned on the organization.
He has blamed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for distorting the home loan market, and Democrats for having close ties with lobbyists at Freddie Mac. But he’s avoided mentioning his own connection to the government-backed lender.
“If you want to put people in jail… You ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. And let’s look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment, and the politicians who put this country in trouble,” Gingrich said during the Washington Post/Bloomberg GOP debate on Oct. 11. “In Barney Frank’s case, go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at Freddie Mac.”
Gingrich now supports disbanding both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and wants to get “much smaller institutions back into the private sector to be competitive and to be responsible for their behavior.”
When asked today how he will have the discipline to confront the new scrutiny, Gingrich blasted the “elite media” and expressed confidence that he will easily jump this hurdle.
“I’ve confronted the scrutiny… in an even-keeled way,” he said today at a forum held by Politico in Des Moines, Iowa. “If I blow up and do something utterly stupid, they [GOP voters] will go, I wonder who the next candidate is. … Everybody will dig up everything they can dig up and that’s fine they should. Everyone will, they didn’t do this on Obama, but then after all, the elite media wasn’t exactly eager to learn much about him when he was running.”
ABC News’ Elicia Dover contributed to this report.