The PJ Tatler

Was Newt Gingrich a Lobbyist or Wasn't He?

Newt says no, he was never a lobbyist for anyone. Timothy Carney, at the DC Examiner, says yes, he was.

Gingrich stated last week on Fox News, “I do no lobbying of any kind. I never have. A very important point to make. I have never done lobbying of any kind.”

But the facts contradict that claim.

First of all, we know that Gingrich has been paid by drug companies and by the drug lobby, notably during the Medicare drug debate. A former employee of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, (the main industry lobby) told me Gingrich was being paid by someone in the industry at the time. A spokeswoman for Gingrich’s health care consulting firm, Center for Health Transformation, told me that drug companies have been CHT clients. PhRMA confirmed in a statement that they had paid Gingrich. Bloomberg News cited sources from leading drug companies Astra-Zeneca and Pfizer saying that those companies had also hired Gingrich.

So we know he was paid consultant for drug makers. That’s the first criterion for being a drug lobbyist.

Here’s the second criterion: While some consultants simply provide strategy or advice, Gingrich directly contacted lawmakers in an effort to win their votes.

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.

There’s more at the link. Conservative columnist George Will is also assailing Newt’s bona fides as a “historian.”

Gingrich took a lot of bashing this morning, but mostly from familiar sources (Paul Krugman later on in the program commented that Gingrich was merely “a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like,” which is accurate if not somewhat projecting on Krugman’s part). But from Will, the barbs seemed even sharper. “It is an amazingly efficient candidacy in that in embodies everything disagreeable about modern Washington,” he began, arguing that his “colorful personal life” was actually the better part of his record, since he still supported ethanol subsidies, the types of programs from which the Solyndra scandals blossomed, and shrugged away the Freddie Mac scandal with a claim that he was a “historian.” “He’s not a historian!” Will noted derisively.

The notion that Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $1.6 million for his historical acumen rather than his political connections does seem laughable. There are thousands of actual historians across America whose advice would have cost the taxpayer-backed entity far less than $1.6 million, but there was only one former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

And then there’s his ethanol problem

Update: Any time we publish anything negative about any GOP candidate, we get blowback along the lines of “Who cares?” or “Why are you using Democrat talking points?” or “You’re just a tool Obama/Axelrod/the DNC” or whatever. Some putting those points forward have legitimate questions or beefs; some are unable to accept criticism of their preferred candidates from our side or may be activists for one candidate or another; others are just hecklers. Personally, I don’t care much whether Gingrich was a lobbyist or not. Lobbying is a perfectly legal part of the political process. I do care if he lobbied against conservatism or lobbied to grow government, and I do care if he has lied about being a lobbyist. I care if he can be bought to advocate on behalf of causes that end up hurting the overall conservative cause.  I care if he is being honest with us. So should everyone. Whatever negative information comes out in the primary will be used against our nominee in the general election, ten-fold. It doesn’t do any of us any good to pretend otherwise, or to pretend that our candidates don’t have problems that we’ll have to address.