Romney to Florida: Say, shouldn’t Gingrich give back the Freddie Mac money already?

posted at 11:10 am on January 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

People say they like Newt Gingrich because he fights even if he doesn’t always win, which reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s assessment of Ulysses Grant as commander of the Union army in the Civil War.  (Say, this historian stuff is catching, isn’t it?) Mitt Romney wants to show people that he can fight with a little passion, too.  In a press avail in Florida, Romney went back on the attack against Gingrich, demanding once again that the former Speaker put his money where his mouth used to be on Freddie Mac (via Greg Hengler):

He said, in a debate actually, that people who profited from the failed model of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae ought to give back their money. Well, the Speaker made 1.7 million dollars in his enterprises from providing services to Freddie Mac. He ought to give it back.

At this late date, it’s hard to remember what came first: the Freddie or the Bain.  It was Newt’s attack on Bain, but not by much, as Romney immediately went after Gingrich on the contract with Freddie and Gingrich’s Tiffany credit line.  Neither attack should put either candidate in a very good light with conservatives; both play on the kind of class warfare that Republicans usually deride, and which Democrats use much more effectively in any case.  It’s a measure of the hardball that both will play in Florida, which both need to put together an argument for long-term support in the primaries.

Romney is also on the attack on Gingrich’s record as Speaker, calling his record a “disgrace” and not an example of “successful leadership”:

Mitt Romney landed here Sunday with a simple message: Newt Gingrich is a failure and a fraud. And a disgrace. And a hapless showman.

Standing under a brilliant orange Florida sunset, Romney delivered his longest sustained critique of the South Carolina primary winner to date — ticking through a list as if he were reading off Gingrich’s Wikipedia page, and undercutting each item as he got to it.

“Speaker Gingrich has also been a leader,” the former Massachusetts governor said. “He was a leader for four years as speaker of the House. And at the end of four years, it was proven that he was a failed leader and he had to resign in disgrace. I don’t know whether you knew that, he actually resigned after four years, in disgrace.

Romney continued: “He was investigated over an ethics panel and had to make a payment associated with that and then his fellow Republicans, 88 percent of his Republicans voted to reprimand Speaker Gingrich. He has not had a record of successful leadership.”

Then Romney got into Gingrich’s post-congressional career.

“Over the last 15 years since he left the House, he talks about great bold movements and ideas,” he told the crowd of several hundred people gathered at a building materials company here. “Well, what’s he been doing for 15 years? He’s been working as a lobbyist, yeah, he’s been working as a lobbyist and selling influence around Washington.”

Well, no one can accuse Romney of not demonstrating an attack offense on the campaign trail.

Gingrich learned faster than Romney on the need to quickly defuse a meme.  Earlier today, the winner of South Carolina says he wants to have his contract with Freddie Mac fully released so that voters can judge for themselves what he did for the GSE:

Newt Gingrich said on Monday that he has requested the release of his consulting contract with Freddie Mac, adding that it would be “very helpful” if the release came before next week’s Florida primary contest.

Asked if he will release the consulting contract between his former company, the Center for Health Transformation, and Freddie Mac, Gingrich told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos: “We asked them to work out releasing it. They have a number of confidentiality agreements. I’m very comfortable with it being released.”

“I think it would be very helpful,” Gingrich said, when asked if he would like the release to occur before the primary.

Presumably, Freddie Mac won’t have an issue with it, since the amount of Gingrich’s fees have already been revealed.  The confidentiality agreements probably have more to do with proprietary information that wouldn’t have to be released with the contract, and getting Gingrich’s approval for transparency should allow Freddie Mac to have those contracts in the hands of the media, perhaps early enough so that Florida voters can read them.  However, even if Freddie refuses or drags their heels, Gingrich has already checked Romney’s attack.  By volunteering his approval for release, Gingrich has sent the message that there isn’t anything in the contract that will embarrass him or Republicans, even if it does remind people that he performed some kind of work for Freddie Mac while it was setting itself up for a collapse.

As for returning the money, it won’t happen, nor should it, if Gingrich and his firm delivered the promised services for which he was to be compensated.  But perhaps Gingrich should have kept that in mind before shooting off his own mouth a couple of years ago about others like him who made money from relationships with Freddie Mac.


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