Newt Gingrich slammed Democrats in 2008 as wholly owned subsidiaries of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Guess it takes one to know one.
As Republicans presidential nominee John McCain struggled to match his opponent in the polls, Newt Gingrich urged the Arizona Senator to reboot his campaign by relentlessly attacking Democrats for being too close to housing giant Freddie Mac. That would be the same Newt Gingrich who took a reported $1.6 million in “consulting fees” from Freddie Mac during an eight-year relationship that had ended only months earlier.
Gingrich was asked for his advice by the Washington Post, who published an October 15 feature entitled “What Could Change the Election?” His recommendation, in full:
McCain has to focus on the Reid-Pelosi-Obama machine and the threats they pose to most Americans: Nancy Pelosi’s call for “harsh measures”; the Democrats’ proposal Monday to abolish 401(k) plans; the plan to strip Americans of the right to vote in a secret-ballot election before being coerced into joining a union; the tax increase on the investors who are needed to regrow the stock market and retirement plans, and their likely flight from American investments; the use of tax money to pay the liberal group ACORN, which is engaged in massive voter fraud in its registration drives in multiple states; the close ties Chris Dodd, Barack Obama and Barney Frank have to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; and the trillion-dollar spending increase in the Obama campaign promises. If McCain can make these facts stick, he can get back into the race.
It was a line he repeated on TV as well. On a FOX News panel only days earlier, he dismissed negatives stories about then-VP nominee Sarah Palin by contrasting them with Democrats’ ties to Freddie Mac.
“I think compared, for example, to Sen. Chris Dodd taking a below- market interest mortgage from Countrywide before it went broke, or compared to Chris Dodd and Barack Obama being the number one and two recipients of money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while they were going broke, I think it’s pretty hard to argue that a family feud is a big scandal,” he said.
In another FOX News interview that month, he called on Democrats who took donations from Freddie Mac to return them in light of the current crisis.
Gingrich also insisted in a September 2008 Bill O’Reilly appearance that any financial bailout include provisions that prevent Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae from lobbying Congress. As O’Reilly read a list of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae donations to Gingrich, he jumped in to once against rip into Democrats for accepting their money.
“I mean, [Chris Dodd] is a guy who’s totally in with all the people on Wall Street and all the people at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” Gingrich said. “And they have paid his campaigns. They have given him money. They have put in a position of power. And now he’s going to turn around and write a bill to give them money? There’s something profoundly wrong about the current system.”
Asked about his work with Freddie Mac at a debate this month, Gingrich claimed that he only offered his services as a “historian” and that he had warned executives of the impending subprime mortgage crisis. Freddie Mac officials disputed both claims and government watchdogs noted that politicians like Gingrich often deliberately structured “consultant” jobs to circumvent lobbying registration requirements.
Asked by The Huffington Post’s Jon Ward on Tuesday whether he warned Freddie Mac in 2006 of the subprime crisis, Gingrich said he could not recall the specifics.
“I have no idea what the dates were,” he said. “I offered strategic advice over a period of time. I did no lobbying of any kind. And I’m very happy to offer people strategic advice if they come and ask my advice.”
He added that he does support the idea of government-supported housing entities on principle but that he now believes the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should be privatized.
“I personally think there are circumstances where Government Sponsored Enterprises are legitimate,” Gingrich said. “You go back and look at the transcontinental railroad, you look at rural electric coops — there are a lot of ways to organize activity in this country. So I was quite happy to talk about the GSEs, which was the question. But once you got into a cycle where people were literally giving mortgages to people with no credit at all, you don’t have to be much of a historian to know that’s not sustainable.”
This isn’t the first time Gingrich has had problems with conflicting statements this year: he shifted positions on Libya a number of times while denying there was ever any inconsistency.
A spokesman for Gingrich did not immediately return an e-mail from TPM requesting clarification regarding the former Speaker’s advice to Freddie Mac.
Here’s the video of Newt’s debate performance when he claimed to have been an “historian” for Freddie Mac and to have predicted the crisis:
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.