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In last week’s CNBC debate, newly-minted top-tier Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich claimed he was hired by Fannie Mae to be a “historian,” and claimed that pointed out flaws in their “insane” business model.But an investigation by Bloomberg reveals that Gingrich was much more involved with the government-backed lender than he let on — and that he was hired to promote the company (and its business practices) to other conservatives.
“Former Freddie Mac officials familiar with the consulting work Gingrich was hired to perform for the company in 2006 tell a different story. They say the former House speaker was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.”
While not technically lobbying, he worked directly for Mitchell Delk, Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist, taking in at least $1.6 million from Freddie Mac from 1999 to 2008.
In the debate, Gingrich claimed he warned the company that it was causing a housing “bubble,” but Freddie Mac executives told Bloomberg he was never critical of its business model.
“Former Freddie Mac officials familiar with his work in 2006 say Gingrich was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.”
His close ties to Freddie Mac are likely to be a liability in the Republican primary — where voters are deeply sceptical of the government-backed lenders, and furious that the public had to bail them out for their bad business practices.
In statement on his campaign website, Gingrich admits to helping the company reach out to conservatives — more than he said he did in the debate — but does not disclose how much he made from his consulting work:
“Freddie Mac was interested in advice on how to reach out to more conservatives. The Gingrich Group stressed that Freddie Mac must be open to reform of their lending practices but that by stressing the historical success of public-private partnerships in achieving public goods at a minimum of taxpayer money and bureaucracy.”
After Gingrich left Freddie Mac’s payroll, Bloomberg notes that he quickly turned into one of its most vocal critics, writing in his 2011 book “To Save America” that the companies “are so thoroughly politicized and preside over such irresponsible lending policies that they need to be replaced with smaller, private companies operating without government guarantees, whose leaders focus on making a profit, not manipulating politicians.”
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