New York Times:
A Gingrich lawyer claims the companies that paid him $55 million got nothing in return
(Gingrich photo: Chris Keane/Reuters)
As his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has gained traction in recent weeks, Mr. Gingrich has said he expects increased scrutiny of his business activities since leaving Congress in 1999. Those activities, which primarily involve the Center for Health Transformation and his original consulting firm, the Gingrich Group, have made him wealthy. The consultancy and center earned a combined $55 million over the last 10 years, according to a Gingrich Group representative.
From the moment he entered private life, Mr. Gingrich seemed determined to avoid being tagged as a lobbyist, which can be a kiss of death for anyone contemplating a presidential run. An early consulting contract, with a plastics company in 2001, contained language that would become standard: He “does not provide lobbying services of any kind.”
“He made it very clear to us that he does not lobby, but that he could direct us to the right places in Washington and elsewhere,” said Paul Branagan, who was president of Millennium Plastics when it hired Mr. Gingrich for $7,500 a month plus stock options.
Okay, so maybe that doesn't meet a legal definition of lobbying, but companies don't pay you $55 million over 10 years just because they like the sound of your voice. As Branagan said, Gingrich was paid to open doors—and that's influence peddling, plain and simple.
Gingrich's defense—from one of his lawyers—is that he never took money to sell a position in which he did not already believe:
Randy Evans, a Georgia lawyer who has represented Mr. Gingrich since his days as House speaker, said none of Mr. Gingrich’s clients paid him to adopt a position that he did not already have.
“That matters a lot,” Mr. Evans said, “because there was never a point where we identified a client’s position first and decided, ‘O.K., that’s where we’re going.’ His vision always came first.”
Hmm. I wonder how much Newt Gingrich paid his lawyer to vouch for his honesty ...
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