Newt Gingrich responded to a report from Bloomberg News today that he earned upward of $1.8 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac, the quasi-public home mortgage firm. Speaking with reporters outside a restaurant in this Des Moines suburb, Gingrich said he offered the firm, which has been in conservatorship since the 2008 financial crisis, "strategic advice" over a period of eight years through his private consulting firm the Gingrich Group.
"I’d give the same strategic advice in private as I would in public," Gingrich said. At the CNBC debate last week, the former speaker of the House was asked about a payment of $300,000 from Freddie Mac in 2006, and he responded that he had been brought in to consult as a "historian" and that he "offered them advice on precisely what they didn't do" in the run-up to the bursting of the home mortgage bubble in 2007 and 2008.
Here's more on Gingrich's business relationship with Freddie Mac, from Bloomberg:
Gingrich’s first contract with the mortgage lender was in 1999, five months after he resigned from Congress and as House speaker, according to a Freddie Mac press release.
His primary contact inside the organization was Mitchell Delk, Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist, and he was paid a self- renewing, monthly retainer of $25,000 to $30,000 between May 1999 until 2002, according to three people familiar with aspects of the business agreement....
“I spent about three hours with him talking about the substance of the issues and the politics of the issues, and he really got it,” said Delk, adding that the two discussed “what the benefits are to communities, what the benefits could be for Republicans and particularly their relationship with Hispanics.”
Gingrich spokesman R. C. Hammond said the campaign is working on collecting documents regarding the Gingrich Group's business with Freddie Mac. "We'll release everything we're legally allowed to release," Hammond said.
Gingrich also defended his support for expanding homeownership in America.
"If you can do it in a way that is financially sound, every American should be interested in expanding housing opportunities for people, whether they are African American or Latino or of any background," Gingrich said. "So, the idea that you’re thinking about how can we help people learn how to budget, how can we help people learn how to save…would strike me, to most people, as a good thing."