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: