A charity founded by Newt Gingrich paid Gingrich's for-profit company $220,000 over two years, ABC News reports. The non-profit, Renewing American Leadership, was meant to spur conversation about restoring Christian principles in Washington, and mostly did that through letters seeking donations. The list of people who responded to those letters with checks was given to Gingrich--something that would be very valuable to a potential presidential candidate building support early in the campaign. ReAL, as the non-profit is called, also paid full-price for Gingrich's books and DVDs. ABC News asked Gingrich for comment ahead of a speech in New Hampshire, but the candidate would only respond, "I'm not concerned about that. The American people aren't concerned about that. Try covering the speech."
"Newt Inc." as Gingrich's many organizations are called, has helped Gingrich stay in the public eye and his ideas in the public debate since he left office as Speaker of the House in the late 1990s. It has also made him rich: he bought a $1 million home in the suburbs of Washington, secured a $500,000 line of credit from Tiffany's, and, most recently, went on a two-week luxury cruise, the last of which cited as a reason for many of his campaign staff quitting en masse. Figuring out how all his organizations work together can be tricky, ABC News explains:
It is often difficult to tell where the work of one Gingrich entity ends and where the work of another begins. For instance, money raised by a political group he founded, American Solutions, paid for millions of dollars worth of charter jet flights Gingrich took to crisscross the country promoting the movies of his production company. He made paid public speeches that helped fill the accounts of his communications firm and promote the ideas developed by yet another business, a for-profit think tank called the Center for Health Transformation.
Gingrich's spokesman of 12 years--until last week--Rick Tyler, led ReAL, which paid Gingrich Communications $200,000 a year as compensation for Tyler's salary, ABC reports. Though it was Gingrich's name and face splashed all over ReAL's materials, Gingrich did not sit on the board. That meant Gingrich did not have to disclose payments made to his consulting firm by the non-profit. Tyler, who spent 20 hours a week working for the non-profit, said he never asked Gingrich to join the board because he didn't want to take up any more of his time. Before Tyler quit, he insisted that ReAL didn't pay for political activity and "did nothing to promote anyone's political career," he told ABC.
Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, told ABC, "The spirit of operating a non-profit organization is to work for the public good regardless of the politics that are involved... I believe it violates that spirit." Borochoff said of Gingrich's use of ReAL's donor list, "If in fact Mr. Gingrich is receiving [Renewing American Leadership's] list for free then this is an abuse of the American charitable organization system. Charitable organizations are not allowed to intervene in political campaigns. Generating and then giving away a list of donors, who support and share the views of a particular political candidate is a misuse of tax-subsidized, charitable resources."