The wife of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) is earning $2,500 a month plus commissions while working for an American company pushing for a free trade zone in Israel, the Speaker's spokesman said Monday.
"There's no relationship to U.S. government activity," Tony Blankley said, adding that he thought there was no conflict of interest for the Speaker.
Marianne Gingrich's job is "to seek commercial tenants" for the business park in Israel, Blankley said. "It's essentially a real estate job in a free trade zone"--a business area that would operate free of most taxes.
Marianne Gingrich was hired by the Israel Export Development Co. because she had experience in city planning and in architecture, Blankley said.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Marianne Gingrich was hired after her husband told Israeli officials that he supported the free trade zone.
The company's investors include prominent business executives such as CBS President Laurence Tisch, clothing magnate Sy Syms and real estate developer Robert V. Tishman, according to the Sun in Baltimore.
Marianne Gingrich got the job last September, when her husband was Republican whip and Democrats controlled the House.
Blankley said the hiring "has been checked out by an attorney and there's no remote conflict with any American laws or congressional ethical rules."
The spokesman said the Speaker has been "in favor of free trade wherever he can find it. He'd like to see a world of free trade. The advice he's given to the Israeli government is consistent with his policies of free trade."
David Yerushalmi, head of the Israel Export Development Co., said he hired Marianne Gingrich last September and promoted her this month to vice president of business development.
"She brings to the project an enormous understanding of urban planning and design," said Yerushalmi. "We hired Marianne on her ability (and) enthusiasm about Israel."
Yerushalmi will visit Israel beginning Thursday to meet with businessmen and tour the site of the planned zone.