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GOP Congressman: Gingrich Lobbied Us To Vote Yes On Medicare Part D

Newt Gingrich has consistently claimed that his activities on behalf of clients in the years after he left Congress never included lobbying Congressman. Now, though, two people who were Members of Congress during the time Medicare Part D was being debated are disputing that claim:

Newt Gingrich personally urged members of Congress to vote for a controversial Medicare expansion bill in 2003, two Republicans who were in the room said this week.

Gingrich, who is running for president, has said he never lobbied members of Congress after he resigned as House speaker in 1998. But U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake and former congressman Butch Otter told The Des Moines Register this week that Gingrich helped persuade reluctant Republicans to vote for the Medicare prescription-drug program, which barely passed.

Flake and Otter, who have endorsed Mitt Romney for president, said about 30 Republican House members were holding out against the bill in the fall of 2003 because they feared the proposal would expand the federal deficit. Proponents brought in Gingrich, who addressed a private meeting of Republican House members, they recalled. “He told us, ‘If you can’t pass this bill, you don’t deserve to govern as Republicans,’ ” said Flake, who represents an Arizona district. “…If that’s not lobbying, I don’t know what is.”

Otter, who is now governor of Idaho, agreed. “I can’t define lobbying, but as a Supreme Court justice once said about pornography, I know it when I see it,” he said. “I felt we were being lobbied.”

Thanks to the fact that “lobbying” is a term that doesn’t really have a specific definition, though, Gingrich still seems to have wiggle room:

“It’s such a nebulous term. What is lobbying? Unfortunately, I think he gets a pass,” said Krumholz, a national expert on money in politics and efforts to influence Congress.

The nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based group is pushing for tighter reporting rules, so that anyone who lobbies elected officials would have to report his or her activities. Under current rules, [Center For Responsive Politics executive director Shelia] Krumholz said, people don’t have to register as lobbyists unless they spend at least 20 percent of their time lobbying or helping others do so and unless they make more than one contact with elected officials and certain staff members.

If Gingrich didn’t speak on behalf of someone who was employing him, Krumholz said, he generally would not have to declare himself a lobbyist in order to speak to House members about a bill. “But to the average person, of course he was lobbying,” she said.

Or, to borrow a phrase from one of Newt’s old friends:

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Fiona says:

    Of course Newt spent his time lobbying on behalf of the powerful interest groups who paid him. He may have been able to skirt around the legal definition of lobbying, but there’s no other reason so many people would pay him so much, save for his access to Congress critters and his willingness to “persuade” them to vote in the interest of his clients.

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  2. sam says:

    There’s this:

    Mr. Gingrich’s ideas and the interests of his clients are often intertwined. When President George W. Bush and some Congressional Republicans were seeking to block renewal of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in 2007, Mr. Gingrich met with his former conservative House colleagues, arguing that inaction could unfairly harm children. At the time his center was being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by major drug makers and insurers, groups that would have been harmed by a lapse in the program.

    When he urged Republicans to support the Bush administration’s expansion of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, he worked to ensure that it would cover new diabetes treatments sold by Novo Nordisk, a Danish drug company and a founding member of Mr. Gingrich’s center [Center for Health Transformation].[Source]

    In Newt’s defense (a diminished capacity defense, I hasten to add), I’m pretty sure that in his mind what he does is not lobbying. After all, he fancies himself an historian, that is, he thinks of himself as an intellectual simply offering the keeness of his insights to further the nation’s interests (something like Plato and Dion, to his way of thinking). He really believes, I think, that his activities are totally untainted by a grubby self-interest.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Heh.

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  4. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    New’t supporters in the primary, however, largely are displaced Palinbots, so this won’t have any real effect. Palinbots wouldn’t know lobbying from a lollipop and if you asked them what they thought about Medicare D they’d assume you were referring to a T.V. show.

    If Newt somehow made it to the general election he’d be crushed by Obama on several fronts before the discussion ever would get to the lobbying issue.

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