Newt Gingrich says he never did any lobbying for Freddie Mac, and, as proof, he pointed out in Monday's debate that he spoke to a lobbying expert who explained exactly how he could walk up to the line without crossing it. That expert was Thomas Susman, Reuters' David Ingram reports, and he happens to literally be the guy who wrote the book on lobbying -- it's called The Lobbying Manual, "a leading legal text" on the subject, Ingram writes. We now have some details on what non-lobbying work Gingrich did for Freddie Mac.
In 2000, Gingrich hired Susman "simply to advise him and his associates in his business what the lobbying laws were because he did not want to have to cross the line to register as a lobbyist in any of those jurisdictions," Susman told Reuters. Susman, who's also the chief lobbyist for the American Bar Association, said he didn't remember why Gingrich didn't want to have to register, but "[former Sen. Bob] Dole was in the news a lot." Dole had become a lobbyist.
At Monday's debate, Mitt Romney accused Gingrich of being an influence peddler and a lobbyist. Gingrich's defense was amusingly transparent: 1. He hired an expert to make sure he never crossed the line into having to register because 2. He knew his opponents would attack him for it. "In fact, we brought in an expert on lobbying law and trained all of our staff. And that expert is prepared to testify that he was brought in to say here is the bright line between what you can do as a citizen and what you do as a lobbyist," Gingrich said. He also said he "stayed away from lobbying precisely because I thought this kind of defamatory and factually false charge would be made." That's right: He made sure his advice on pitching Freddie to lawmakers never went over the line into lobbying because he knew how much people hate lobbyists.
During the State of the Union address, Gingrich released two more of his contracts with Freddie, the third time, Politico's Maggie Haberman points out, that Gingrich has done a nighttime document dump during a big live news event. Associated Press' Brett J. Blackledge and Brian Bakst report that both contracts explicitly say he'd do no lobbying. The 1999 contract, for $25,000-a-month working under Freddie's chief lobbyist, said "nothing herein is or shall be construed as an agreement to provide lobbying services of any kind or engage in lobbying activities." It was renewed through 2002. There are more details in the second contract, for 2006 and 2007, the Associated Press reports:
The second contract released Tuesday night provides more detail on the work Gingrich was hired to perform, including "serve as advisor to Freddie Mac in the areas of strategic planning and public policy." It also called on Gingrich, who is mentioned by name in the second contract, to "engage in discussions" with Freddie Mac's chief lobbyist and senior officers "to strategize on approaches to Freddie Mac business opportunities and challenges."
Gingrich, who was hired to help the company reach out to Republicans, also was expected to "contribute to Freddie Mac corporate planning and business goals" and to "meet with major stakeholders of Freddie Mac."
So if Gingrich couldn't go over the line into lobbying, what was just under the line? He gave rousing speeches defending the organization to demoralized employees and donors in 2007, Politico's Anna Palmer reports. He gave an interview strongly supporting government sponsored enterprises, saying "if NASA were a GSE" -- as in, if NASA were as awesome as Freddie -- "we probably would be on Mars today."
We'll probably hear more about Gingrich's work for Freddie at Thursday's debate. In the meantime, the Romney campaign is airing ads attacking it in Nevada.