Bachmann, Paul hit Gingrich for 'influence peddling'

Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul put front-runner Newt Gingrich on defense early into Thursday night's Republican presidential debate, attacking him for, as Bachmann put it, "influence peddling" when he received $1.6 million in consulting fees from mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

The exchange forced Gingrich to do something that's unlikely to endear him to the more conservative of Republican primary voters: He defended government programs and said he advocated for "more regulations" for the government-sponsored mortgage companies.

"There are  a lot of government-sponsored enterprises that are awfully important and do an awfully good job," Gingrich said, naming credit unions and programs like Habitat for Humanity.

But despite mounting a defense that acknowledged that Freddie Mac is a quasi-governmental entity, Gingrich insisted that his consulting work was purely private.

"I was a private citizen, engaged in a business like any other business," Gingrich said.

That irritated Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

"He has a different definition of the private sector than I have," Paul said, then went on to argue that government-sponsored enterprises are dangerous.

Gingrich accused Minnesota Congresswoman Bachmann of making "wild accusations" when she said, "We know he cashed paychecks from Freddie Mac; that's the best evidence you could have" that he was lobbying for the mortgage giant.

"I never lobbied under any circumstance," Gingrich said.

Bachmann fired back: "You don't need to be within the technical definition of a lobbyist to still be influence peddling."


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