Newt Gingrich’s contract with Fannie Mae

(Washington, DC) Newt Gingrich released his contract with Fannie Mae just in time to argue about it with Mitt Romney. At the Florida debate, Romney said, “This contract proves you were not a historian. You were a consultant …. And you were hired by the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac.” Gingrich replied, “Gov. Romney has done consulting work for years … I’ve never suggested his consulting work was lobbying.”

The problem is not whether Newt Gingrich “consulted.” Consulting could mean anything, including historical research. The contract is fairly remarkable for not saying what his consultancy will entail. There are no deliverables, no scope of work, no deadlines, no metrics. I don’t know how common such vagueness is on K Street, but no organization I have ever dealt with would tolerate it. I can think of only two explanations:

  1. Fannie Mae and Newt Gingrich had an understanding about what he would do that they did not want to commit to paper. For instance, he was going to lobby but didn’t want to register as a federal lobbyist. Or …
  2. Gingrich was not going to do anything. Fannie Mae was simply willing to pay him $300,000 to keep him happy and friendly.

If Gingrich was selling the influence he had obtained as a public official, I think that’s fundamentally unethical. At a minimum, it should be disclosed. If he was selling something of intrinsic value, such as history or strategy, then I don’t see why it would be left unmentioned in the contract.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.