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Newt Gingrich’s Freddie Mac Fib

During last night’s debate, Newt Gingrich was asked by John Harwood about his ties to Freddie Mac, and whether he had ever engaged in lobbying on behalf of the entity. Gingrich responded that he was paid $300,000 to be a “history adviser:”

HARWOOD: Since — since you mentioned Fannie and Freddie, Speaker Gingrich, 30 seconds to you, your firm was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac in 2006. What did you do for that money?

GINGRICH: Were you asking me?

HARWOOD: Yes.

GINGRICH: I offer them advice on precisely what they didn’t do.

(LAUGHTER)

Look — look, this is not — this is not…

HARWOOD: Were you not trying to help Freddie Mac fend off the effort by the Bush administration…

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: No. No, I do — I have never…

HARWOOD: … and the — to curb Freddie Mac.

GINGRICH: I have — I assume I get a second question. I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice.

And 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. This is impossible.

GINGRICH: It turned out, unfortunately, I was right and the people who were doing exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann talked about were wrong. And I think it’s a good case for breaking up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and getting much smaller institutions back into the private sector to be competitive and to be responsible for their behavior.

However, as this report from the Associated Press back in 2008 shows, that wasn’t entirely true, and Gingrich’s services for Freddie Mac involved more than giving history lectures:

The records obtained by the AP reflect growing concern within Freddie Mac over a chorus of criticism from Republicans worried that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae had grown too big. The two companies owned or guaranteed over $5 trillion in mortgages.

The Bush administration and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan were sounding the alarm about the potential threat to the nation’s financial health if the fortunes of the two mammoth companies turned sour. They did eventually, when they took on $1 trillion worth of sub-prime mortgages and when their traditional guarantee business deteriorated. Commercial banks regarded Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae as competitors and were anxious to pick up business that would result from scaling back the two companies.

Pushing back, Freddie Mac enlisted prominent conservatives, including Gingrich and former Justice Department official Viet Dinh, paying each $300,000 in 2006, according to internal records.

Gingrich talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model.

Dinh wrote a legal analysis of private property rights that viewed a hypothetical government-enforced sale of Freddie Mac assets as constitutionally suspect.

That’s a lot more than “history,” it sounds to me like Gingrich was paid to promote Freddie Mac’s interests in the face of Republican pressure. He may not have directly lobbied Members of Congress, although that’s worth looking into I would think, but he most certainly was part of their PR campaign designed to fend off additional government regulation. The idea that he was sitting there telling them what was wrong with their business model is totally fanciful.

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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. JeffG says:

    Gingrich talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model.

    Do you have any specific examples, or are you just relying on the AP characterization?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  2. Peter says:

    Of course the “History Adviser” story is BS.

    Can anyone in his right mind believe a financial institution would require such advice and fork out 300’000$ for it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  3. matt b says:

    Ok… so let me get this straight…

    Numerous conservative posters here have indicated that because Barack Obama served on a board with Bill Ayers, Obama should be either disqualified for the presidency or declared a domestic terrorist/anti-American.

    However, the fact that Newt Gingrich took money from and possibly lobbied against Federal oversight for Freddie/Fanny in the immediate days before the subprime crash is a non-starter issue…

    I don’t mean to defend the Weathermen, but it seems to me that if I follow what I understand to be drive-by conservative thought, Freddy/Franny=the devil. Likewise it seems hard to suggest that the Weathermen did more actual damage to the country than Fanny/Freddy.

    So am I missing something or does this seems like … oh… I dunno, blind partisanship rather than logical consistencies (which I thought were the hallmark of conservatism)?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

  4. Hey Norm says:

    So:
    Gingrich is a whore.
    Gingrich is a liar.
    Nothing new here.
    As Doug mentioned, I would like to see this story pursued, and Gingrich questioned regarding the results — assuming they indicate what the AP indicates they indicate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

  5. David M says:

    I’m really not sure how this can be ignored. To most the GOP, Fannie and Freddie pretty much caused the entire financial crisis, and here is one of their candidates lobbying for them. I know consistency isn’t one of their strong points, but this is just comical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  6. I couldn’t take anything he said about this seriously after this whopper:

    And 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. This is impossible.

    Does anyone believe that this is what was said?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  7. It is also perpetuation of the myth that the main culprit in the housing bubble was Freddie Me and Fannie Mac, which also makes his pronouncements rather dubious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  8. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I’d worry that he now believes that is what he really said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. chewinmule says:

    Fannie and Freddie got their “green lights” (promise of protection) from much higher up than Newt! Might I suggest the likes of the Massachusetts “organ grinder” Bawney and Connecticut Senator “Chris “DooD”. These were sub prime “players” if you get my drift. I could finance a campaign with the bonuses to Raines, et al. What timing with this AP story and Newt’s bump in the polls. Good Gawd people!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  10. Lizbuddie says:

    To be fair, we don’t know what counsel Newt privately gave Freddie or what, if anything, powers at Freddie did with that counsel. And while I wish there were no “Freddie,” such as it is, I do think it should be able to seek counsel. (Better counsel would be nice.)

    I tentatively accept the AP’s description of Newt’s writing and speaking about or on behalf of Freddie, as he was apparently hired to do, but I’d be interested in hearing/reading it for myself, before putting much significance to him having done so.

    Regardless, whether you call it “lobbying” or not, Newt was paid to advocate on behalf of Freddie. It is what it is. We shouldn’t get distracted by what to call it, as long as we are aware and informed.

    Now, if we could just get more normal people more interested in Fannie & Freddie, generally.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  11. Montanareddog says:

    Newt Gingrich’s Freddie Mac Fib

    A semantics dispute, maybe, but I think of a fib as more akin to a white lie.

    This is a stonking great black lie.

    $300K for “history” lessons from a GSE? The only problem this transparent fraud has with big government is that not enough of it sloshes into his own pockets.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  12. PartymanRandy says:

    I’m not some Gingrich fan boy, I really want to know the truth.

    But this article makes an allegation based on someone else’s allegation and there are absolutely no facts or specifics at all.

    Where is the evidence (meaning “not conjecture”) that Gingrich did more than he said he did and if that evidence is there, what was it that he did?

    Right now, it’s “Well, one time the AP made a non-specific claim”.

    I’ll probably just get called a right-wing nut or something, but I do have an open mind if someone has a case more compelling than saying “yeah right, lol”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  13. David M says:

    @PartymanRandy: Um, doesn’t really matter what the allegations are, Gingrich’s account doesn’t pass the smell test. There’s just no way he’s telling the truth here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Charles Sawyer says:

    Freddie Mac, pushing back on Bush administration and the Federal Reserve Chairman, who were sounding the alarm about the potential threat to the nation’s financial health if they turned sour, enlisted Gingrich. In 2006 they paid him $300,000 after he talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model. This is according to the 2008 AP report.

    If Gingrich truly had told them, “as a historian”, “this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.” How was he justified being paid $300,000. What kind of benefits were those?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. PartymanRandy says:

    @David M:

    Unfortunately, that’s not how allegations work. Random internet posters don’t get to concoct a “smell test” and decide if something is true or not. You can decide if YOU believe it or not, but in order for someone to actually be guilty of something, there has to be some actual evidence or facts.

    Again, I’m not saying I think he’s completely innocent, but I have seen 0 facts or evidence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. PartymanRandy says:

    @Charles Sawyer:

    Yes, we’ve established that a lot of people don’t believe him. Now we need something to back up the claims that he did something wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. mickfan says:

    You are too nice

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0