Now that Newt Gingrich’s candidacy is rising to the top, expect the brickbats to be aimed at his head. The first to fly is the charge that he was paid off by Freddie Mac to do its bidding while the company, in concert with Fannie Mae, flooded the world with funny money mortgages and brought on the global collapse of 2008.
According to Bloomberg News, Newt got between $1.6 and $1.8 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac over eight years — about $17,000 per month — a not-unusual fee these days.
Newt’s consulting agreement specified that he would not lobby, and the bylaws of his consulting firm bar lobbying by any of its employees. So if he didn’t lobby, what did he do to earn the money?
Bear in mind that Fannie and Freddie were paying off everybody they could find. Jim Johnson, Walter Mondale’s manager; Jamie Gorelick, Clinton’s deputy attorney general; Rahm Emanuel; and dozens of others made a mint in consulting fees. Newt was not unique.
Doubtless Freddie hired him to show that it was not an arm of the Democratic party and to buy some credibility on the right. Newt’s contract started after he left office, and no evidence exists to prove that he brought any concrete influence to bear on Freddie’s behalf.
But this scrutiny gives Newt an incredible opportunity. He can produce memos and emails that show that he warned Freddie about its mortgage policies. In one of the presidential debates, Newt said that he warned Freddie that it was creating a bubble that would burst and have enormous implications when it did.
If Newt can show that he sounded the alarm and had the wisdom and foresight to raise hell about the mortgages, he can put himself in rarified company. To be exact, he’d be in a class of his own. Nobody else had that kind of prescience.
This scandal can either hurt or help. If Newt used his contacts at Freddie to sound an alarm and change the Titanic’s course before it hit the iceberg, it would be a good credential for his candidacy.
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