Yes, Newt Gingrich Lobbied Congress
Newt Gingrich has said for years that he was never a lobbyist in the years since he left Congress in 1998. While it’s true that, under the technicalities of the law, Gingrich has never been required to register as a lobbyist, Timothy Carney notes in a new Washington Examiner piece that Gingrich did indeed lobby his fellow Republicans to support things like Medicare Part D at the same time he took money from the pharmaceutical industry:
Three former Republican congressional staffers told me that Gingrich was calling around Capitol Hill and visiting Republican congressmen in 2003 in an effort to convince conservatives to support a bill expanding Medicare to include prescription-drug subsidies. Conservatives were understandably wary about expanding a Lyndon Johnson-created entitlement that had historically blown way past official budget estimates. Drug makers, on the other hand, were positively giddy about securing a new pipeline of government cash to pad their already breathtaking profit margins.
One former House staffer told me of a 2003 meeting hosted by Rep. Jack Kingston where Gingrich spoke. Kingston would regularly host “Theme Team” meetings with a few Republican congressmen and some of their staff. Just before the House vote, Gingrich was the special guest at this meeting, and he brought one message to the members: Pass the drug bill for the good of the Republican Party.
Conservatives were worried about the potential for cost overruns, and about the credibility of their limited-government arguments if they passed this new entitlement bill. “Every concern that members raised,” the former House staffer told me, “Gingrich would respond with a poll number.” Gingrich invoked the American Express motto “Don’t Leave Home Without It,” and told Republicans they could not afford to go home for recess without some Medicare drug bill — regardless of the content.
Two aides to other GOP members who had been resisting the bill told me their bosses were lobbied by Gingrich over the phone, sometimes citing politics, sometimes citing substance. And it worked. “Newt Gingrich moved votes on the prescription-drug bill,” one conservative staffer told me. “That’s for sure.”
Contemporaneous reporting confirms this: The Washington Post reported in 2003 that Gingrich addressed a closed-door meeting of conservative Republicans, pushing them to back the bill.
So Gingrich can be considered a non-lobbyist only by the same narrow definition of “lobbyist” President Obama uses: someone registered with the House and Senate under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. This is how Obama can claim to reject lobbyist contributions while taking money from vice presidents of government affairs and the like.
But that still doesn’t excuse Gingrich’s false statement that he has “never done lobbying.”
Indeed it doesn’t, unless you believe that Gingrich can rely on the hypertechnical requirements of the House’s lobbying disclosure rules — which generally only require one to register if they spend more than 20% of their time directly lobbying Members of Congress — to claim that he wasn’t lobbying Congress when the facts clearly demonstrate that he was. Does it matter? Only if you think the truth matters, and only if it matters to Republicans that Gingrich is being a hypocrite.