Newt Gingrich appears to have a different definition of the word “historian” than, say, Webster’s.
Gingrich was asked last week at a Republican debate in Michigan about his $300,000 contract to work for mortgage giant Freddie Mac five years ago. Gingrich said he was a retained as a “historian” and that he warned executives there that reckless loans would lead to collapse.
“I offered them advice on precisely what they didn’t do,” he said at the debate. “My advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, ‘We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that’s what the government wants us to do.’ As I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.”
Bloomberg News looked into Gingrich’s claims and found no evidence that the former House speaker, then working as a private strategic consultant, ever warned the company that its business model was suspect. Instead, Gingrich was retained to try and gin up support for Freddie Mac among Republicans on Capitol Hill, although he was not hired to expressly lobby for the company. (Watch video below.)
Now surging in the polls, Gingrich has been virulent in his criticism of Freddie Mac and sister company Fannie Mae, along with Democrats in Congress he said played a key role in the collapse of the housing market, including Rep. Barney Frank and former Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut. At one point, Gingrich said the two ought to be in jail.
But according to Bloomberg News, Gingrich participated in “brainstorming sessions” with Freddie Mac executives and spoke to donors to the company’s political action committee at an event in 2007. Gingrich was retained by Fannie Mae, as well, in 1999.
A spokesman for Gingrich, R.C. Hammond, said Bloomberg’s report provided an “incomplete” picture but would not divulge details of the candidate’s arrangement with Freddie Mac, citing a confidentiality agreement.