Newt Gingrich has tried to calm the grumbling over his consulting work for Freddie Mac by giving the appearance of transparency while flipping the issue around on his chief rival, Mitt Romney.
The Gingrich Group, the consulting firm that the eponymous former House speaker started, released another contract with Freddie Mac Tuesday night as Romney’s campaign continued to insist that Gingrich is hiding something. The documents show that Gingrich was hired in 1999 to work for Mitchell Delk, who was the mortgage giant’s top lobbyist.
Gingrich, listed as a “Contractor” in the agreement, was to advise Freddie Mac on “strategic planning and public policy.” In bold type, the contract says that “nothing herein is or shall be construed as an agreement to provide lobbying services of any kind or engage in lobbying activities.”
Still, Romney and others have characterized Gingrich’s role with Freddie Mac as that of a lobbyist, meeting with elected officials to sway them on legislation. Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $1.6 million between 1999 and 2007.
Gingrich today tried to deflect the barbs tying him to the toxic mortgage giant by drawing attention to the stock that Romney held in Fannie Mae and in Freddie Mac. “The question has to be, if Romney is such a great manager, how come he didn’t do anything as a stockholder about these two companies?” Gingrich said on Fox News.
It’s unclear whether more documents will be released by the Gingrich Group, which also goes by the name Center for Health Transformation. Asked whether more papers were coming, a spokeswoman for the group, Susan Meyers, said, “I don’t know.”
“I’m so tired of this,” she added.
If the nagging Freddie Mac spat is resolved, Gingrich still might have to weather turbulence over the ethics investigation into his conduct in the 1990s.
The Romney campaign has reignited that flame after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN Tuesday that Gingrich has no chance of being president because of his past. “That will never happen,” she said. “There is something I know. The Republicans, if they choose to nominate him, that’s their prerogative.”
Romney jumped on the comment.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’m saying that all of the records that were part of the ethics investigation, all of the transcripts, all of the records have to be made public,” Romney said on Fox this morning. “Not just the final white-washed report, but the full record. … We need to understand why that is, and those records need to be released because you know that if Nancy Pelosi knows those things right now, she will hand them to Barack Obama’s campaign if Speaker Gingrich were our nominee.”
Few people know what, if anything, remains in the private records of the 1997 ethics report that concluded that Gingrich had wrongly used a tax-exempt college course to further a political agenda. But the report was made public, and people familiar with the process told ABC News that it’s unlikely that a damaging tidbit could emerge if it even existed.
“He thinks that there’s a report,” a former Republican member of Congress who worked on the report said of Romney. “But when you have a hearing like that … the final report is made public. And the final report is public, and all the testimony and discussion is on the record and public.”