Like I wrote yesterday, the biggest benefit of the GOP’s never-ending primary season is that every time one of the remaining candidates attacks another, we rediscover how right these guys are about each other. (It turns out, Newt has his own ties to vulture capitalism.) Newt’s attack on Romney’s record relies heavily on the truth. That’s because Newt learned an important lesson from Romney’s attacks against him in Iowa: The truth hurts.
Romney wasn’t the only candidate to attack Gingrich in Iowa. Ron Paul and Rick Perry got their licks in too, though Gingrich seemed most stung by Romney’s attack ads. Newt’s 37 years as a Washington player — in and out of office — made it easy for his opponents to launch viscous attacks on him, all while telling nothing but the truth.
Take the charges from the anti-Newt ads, and a post like this practically writes itself.
"… fined $300,000 for ethics violations"
One Romney attack ad said that Gingrich was "fined $300,000 for ethics violations." That’s because he was.
The House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reprimand House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and order him to pay an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House’s 208-year history it has disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing.
The ethics case and its resolution leave Gingrich with little leeway for future personal controversies, House Republicans said. Exactly one month before yesterday’s vote, Gingrich admitted that he brought discredit to the House and broke its rules by failing to ensure that financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.
"Newt has done some things that have embarrassed House Republicans and embarrassed the House," said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.). "If [the voters] see more of that, they will question our judgment."
House Democrats are likely to continue to press other ethics charges against Gingrich and the Internal Revenue Service is looking into matters related to the case that came to an end yesterday.
The 395 to 28 vote closes a tumultuous chapter that began Sept. 7, 1994, when former representative Ben Jones (D-Ga.), then running against Gingrich, filed an ethics complaint against the then-GOP whip. The complaint took on greater significance when the Republicans took control of the House for the first time in four decades, propelling Gingrich into the speaker’s chair.
(Washington Post, Wednesday, January 22 1997)
"…took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac"
The same Romney ad said that Gingrich took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac. That’s because he did.
Newt Gingrich made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with mortgage company Freddie Mac, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.
The total amount is significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about during a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9 sponsored by CNBC, and more than was disclosed in the middle of congressional investigations into the housing industry collapse.
Gingrich’s business relationship with Freddie Mac spanned a period of eight years. When asked at the debate what he did to earn a $300,000 payment in 2006, the former speaker said he “offered them advice on precisely what they didn’t do,” and warned the company that its lending practices were “insane.” Former Freddie Mac executives who worked with Gingrich dispute that account.
A special edition of NPR’s "Frontline" (I know, I just lost any conservative readers that have stayed with me thus far) chronicles Gingrich’s career from his first congressional campaign in 1974 to 1998 to step down as Speaker and retire from Congress.
- 1999: Founded the Gingrich Group, a consulting company
- 2000: Founded Gingrich Communications, to promote his public appearances, speeches, web presence, etc.
- 2001: 2010: Consulted for Freddie Mac
- 2003: Renamed the Gingrich Group the Center for Health Transformation
- 2005: Together with Hillary Rodham Clinton (!) announced the proposal of the 21st Century Health Information Act
- 2005: Co-chaired task force for UN reform, which aimed to produce a plan for the U.S. to help strengthen the UN (!)
- 2007: Founded 527 group American Solutions for Winning the Future
- 2007: Created Gingrich Productions, "a performance and production company featuring the work of Newt and Callista Gingrich" headed by wife Callista Gingrich "
- 2009: Founded charity Renewing American Leadership, which paid $220,000 to Gingrich Communications over two years, and shared names of donors with Gingrich.
- 2008 – 2011: Gingrich productions produced three films — one on energy, one on Ronald Reagan, and one on the threat of "radical Islam" — all in conjunction with the conservative group Citizens’ United
- 2011: Sold interest in Gingrich Group/Center for Health Transformation. Closed Gingrich Communications.
That pretty much brings us up to date, and makes it clear that Newt never left. He has spent his entire career in politics. Newt has spent the last 37 years running for office, serving in office, working in Washington as a lobbyist, or other wise cashing in on his status as a former congressman and Speaker.
Put another way, if Newt’s political career were a person born in 1974, he or she would be old enough to run for president by now.
"Rose to wealth through Congress"
Newt’s lifetime in politics has paid off handsomely for him, too. Paul’s ad claims Gingrich "rose to wealth through Congress." That’s because he did.
In 1979, an impoverished Georgia college professor named Newt Gingrich became a Member of Congress and proceeded to make himself a very rich man.
Fifteen years after coming to Congress, Gingrich was earning more than 60 times the income he reported in the year before his swearing-in. After he left the House, Gingrich leveraged his status as a former Speaker and leading Republican thinker to rise to the ranks of the truly wealthy.
The man who entered Congress three decades ago with essentially no personal assets beyond a modest home in Carrollton, Ga., would now rank among the 50 richest Members of Congress if he were to return to the House.
The story of the rise in Gingrich’s fortunes is told in the financial disclosure forms he filed with the House in each of the 20 years he served in Congress and capped with the disclosure form he filed this summer as a candidate for president. His campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
(Roll Call, December 2, 2011)
In 1977, Newt needed money. He couldn’t pay his debts from two failed congressional campaigns, and had no hope of getting tenure at West Georgia College. He earned just over $10,000 a year. In 1978 he wons his first congressional race. He had no assets or investments, and had one liability — a debt to the People’s Bank of Carrollton, valued at $15,000 to $50,000. By the time he became speaker, in 1995, his income was around $675,000.
According to Businessweek, "Since he left Congress in 1999, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has built a network of businesses and nonprofit ventures that have brought in more than $100 million from clients and donors." Wikipedia fills in some details on that figure, and repeats the Businessweek report of Newt’s Net worth according to his July 2011 financial statements: $6.7 million (at least).
Newt became a millionare through selling his influence, status and connections. He lives like one, too — from his $250,000 to $500,000 Tiffany’s tab to $2.2 million in spent on "private jets and executive chauffeur services" over the past two years. Not bad for a guy who started out as a broke, untenured academic.
"Both sides of a long list of issues"
Paul’s ad accuses Gingrich of being on "both sides of a long list of issues," and Romney’s ads accuse Gingrich of flip-flopping on a number of issues. That’s because he has.
There’s something very odd about the sudden emergence of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as the GOP’s leading "not Romney" candidate. No, not that he’s a twice-divorced admitted adulterer gaining traction in a party dominated by God-fearing social conservatives. It’s that one of the most common gripes about Mitt Romney — if not the most common one — is that he lacks core values, and chooses positions based on political expediency, not sincere beliefs. The anti-Romney, you might expect, would be someone of pronounced consistency. Asked recently by Fox News why conservatives should prefer him over Romney, Gingrich tried to play up that image. "First of all, I have a lifetime record of being a consistent conservative," he said. Except that … he doesn’t. Through the years, Gingrich has demonstrated a willingness to cravenly flip-flop in ways that might make Romney blush. Here are some of the most notable examples…
One can hardly blame Romney for essentially saying "It takes one to know one."
"Too much baggage"
One of Romney’s attack ads says Gingrich has "too much baggage" to be the GOP’s pick to take on Obama in 2012. I’ve only sorted through a few pieces of that luggage here — without even getting to Newt’s "unmentionables" — but that charge rings as true as Newt’s charges against Romney, and just about everything else these guys have to say about each other.
Like I said at the begriming, the truth hurts. And it’s ugly, too.