Second Freddie contract required Gingrich to meet with "major stakeholders" to discuss "business and public policy issues"

National Journal has a look at a second contract between Freddie Mac and Newt Gingrich, and it raises the same questions as the first.  Once again, Gingrich as a consultant reported to the senior VP of government relations at Freddie Mac (Mitchell Delk), the firm’s top lobbyist, and it required what most people would call “lobbying”:


The services provided by the contractors are as follows;

–Serve as adviser to Freddie Mac in the areas of strategic planning and public policy for Freddie Mac priority issues;

–Engage in discussions with Mitchell Delk and other senior officers of Freddie Mac relative to strategize on approaches to Freddie Mac business opportunities and challenges;

–Meet with major stakeholders of Freddie Mac to discuss business and public policy issues when such meetings can contribute to the achievement of Freddie Mac business goals;

–Contribute to Freddie Mac corporate planning and business goals subject to the direction and the request of the Freddie Mac Project Manager

National Journal offers this take on the contract:

Newt Gingrich insists that he was not a lobbyist for Freddie Mac and a second contract released Tuesday night spells out that fact. But it also makes clear that Gingrich was a hired gun brought in to discuss “business and public policy issues” with “major stakeholders” (read: lawmakers and regulators.)

So, for the second day in a row, a contract released by Gingrich’s former consulting firm shows that while he may not have been a lobbyist by Washington’s definition, he was getting paid to be a political and policy heavy on the mortgage giant’s behalf. The contract paid The Gingrich Group $25,000 a month and ran between May 1999 and December 2000. And Gingrich answered to Freddie Mac’s senior vice president of government relations Mitchell Delk, himself a registered lobbyist.

Note, though, that the contract explicitly barred Gingrich or his firm from providing “lobbying services of any kind” or participating in any lobbying activities on behalf of Freddie Mac.  We have in essence a no-man’s-land between the legal definition of lobbying and the commonly-accepted lay definition, which is contacting “major stakeholders” to impact public policy.  Gingrich is correct in saying that he didn’t engage in lobbying in the legal sense, while Romney may well also be correct by calling this “influence peddling.”

My question is this: So what?  Lobbying has a legal definition, and no one has accused Gingrich of actually violating the laws governing the practice.  If Gingrich still could impact policy without breaking the law, why should he have refrained from doing so?  Lobbying in general is a constitutionally protected practice, specifically mentioned in the First Amendment.  If Gingrich could operate a successful business in the public-policy sphere, a lifelong interest of his and one in which he has great expertise, without breaking the law or specifically becoming a lobbyist, then we should be congratulating him for his efforts and success rather than demonizing a perfectly legal practice.  If we don’t like this practice, then we should change the laws, not convict someone for following them.

Of course, that’s the argument Gingrich should be making, not trying to claim that Freddie paid him $25,000 a month to provide history lessons.  His choice of clients is, in retrospect, difficult to defend, too.  That’s a process argument, though, and not a policy argument.  Just as we shouldn’t pillory Mitt Romney for his success in the essential but painful capitalist practice of creative destruction, neither should we pillory Gingrich for making an honest living in the public-policy sphere.  Of course, since Gingrich is continuing to attack Romney on this basis …

Newt Gingrich took a dig at Mitt Romney and his tax returns in an appearance at the Univision candidate forum in Miami.

When asked about Romney’s position on immigration, Gingrich said that deporting all undocumented immigrants is unrealistic.

“You have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and making $20 million for no work, to have some fantasy this far from reality,” Gingrich said.

Greg Sargent says that “it’s still pretty remarkable that he’s now flat-out endorsing the Democratic argument about Mitt Romney’s offshoring and his massive no-work profiting off investments[.]”  Well, yeah.  There seems to be a lot of that going on in the Republican race this cycle.


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