Gingrich’s Wife Hired to Recruit Business for Trade Zone in Israel
House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s wife, who has no previous experience in trade promotion, has been hired at an undisclosed salary to help recruit businesses for a free-trade zone in Israel.
For the past few months, Marianne Gingrich has been quietly working as vice president for business development of the Israel Export Development Co. Ltd., whose investors include a number of American businessmen, such as CBS president Laurence A. Tisch, clothing magnate Sy Syms and real estate developer Robert V. Tishman.
Mrs. Gingrich, 43, is to make her first company trip to Israel on Wednesday. She declined to make any public comment about her job.
The IEDC is trying to win Israeli government approval to run the new free-trade zone, a private, high-tech business park where companies will be able to operate free of most taxes and government bureaucracy.
Her appointment seems likely to raise questions about whether the Speaker’s wife is being used to help the company gain the favor of the Israeli government, which is heavily dependent on U.S. foreign aid.
Since September, 1994, Mrs. Gingrich has been paid a full-time salary by IEDC--neither she nor the company will disclose the amount--and she is also to earn commissions on any business she recruits for the company. Mrs. Gingrich, who is employed by the company’s U.S.-based marketing unit, is IEDC’s only employee in Washington; the company maintains U.S. offices in New York and Miami.
“We were looking for someone with her kind of experience and her excitement,” said David Yerushalmi, chairman and CEO of the 2-year-old development company, which is based in Jerusalem and incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
Through most of her 14-year marriage to the Georgia congressman, Mrs. Gingrich has worked off and on in her husband’s reelection campaigns and related political ventures. In 1981, she was employed briefly in the personnel office of the U.S. Secret Service in Washington and before that worked as a county government planner in eastern Ohio.
For the past two years, IEDC has been the chief catalyst behind the creation of an Israeli free-trade zone. Formally called the Free Export Processing Zone, it has been a hotly debated idea in Israel, favored by those who see it as a potential boon to the nation’s economy, opposed by those who believe that it will hurt existing Israeli companies.
As they attempt to secure Israeli government approval to manage the zone, IEDC is trying to recruit multinational businesses, many of them Fortune 500 companies, for the park. As IEDC vice president, Mrs. Gingrich is approaching American companies, generally high-tech firms, trying to interest them in expanding into the Israeli free-trade zone.
In an effort to avoid possible conflicts with her husband’s official duties, Mrs. Gingrich has retained Jan Baran, the Washington lawyer who is also helping with her husband’s controversial book contract, to go over the terms of her IEDC work. Her job is to be structured so that her dealings are strictly “business to business” and do not include any dealings with the Israeli or U.S. governments, according to Baran.