Gingrich defends money he earned from Freddie Mac

McClatchy Tribune


Newt Gingrich, who has built his now resurgent presidential candidacy in part around criticism of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, found himself Wednesday defending the $1.6 million he reportedly earned while under contract to Freddie Mac.

Reporters in Iowa asked Gingrich about a Bloomberg News report that his consulting firm took in much more from Freddie Mac than previously reported.

The former House speaker said he didn’t know how much the federally backed mortgage company had paid him but that he welcomed the inquiry into his private-sector work.

“Everybody will dig up everything they can dig up,” said Gingrich, according to The New York Times. “That’s fine; they should.”

He said his Gingrich Group offered “strategic advice for a lot of different companies” but that he had done no lobbying.

GOP rival Michele Bachmann accused Gingrich of “shilling” for the company.

Gingrich was asked at a GOP debate last week what work he had done to secure a $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac.

“I offered them advice on precisely what they didn’t do,” he replied. “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.”

A Bloomberg story disputed Gingrich’s account, saying that those familiar with Gingrich’s work recalled no warnings about the company’s business model — and that instead, his job was to rally support for Freddie Mac among Republicans in Washington.

Gingrich’s campaign said Wednesday that Gingrich had not worked as a lobbyist or as an advocate for specific legislation involving Freddie Mac.

His consulting firm offered strategic advice to a “wide variety of clients about a wide variety of issues,” the campaign said in a statement, “including IBM, Microsoft, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more.”

It said the fees paid to the firm were “comparable to that of many consulting firms.”

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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