Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was paid between $1.6 and $1.8 million in consulting fees by Freddie Mac according to officials within the organization, Bloomberg reports.
What, exactly, Gingrich did for Freddie Mac during the eight years he worked with them is the subject of dispute. During the recent CNBC debate, Gingrich said he worked for the firm as a “historian” who warned them about the housing bubble and advised them that their lending practices were “insane.”
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have been blamed for sparking the subprime mortgage crisis by using their taxpayer backing to guarantee risky housing loans for private banks.
The Freddie Mac officials who talked to Bloomberg, however, say Gingrich never questioned their business model or their lending practices, and never brought up the bubble.
“What he did was provide counsel on public policy issues,” Mitchell Delk, Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist and Gingrich’s main contact in the organization, told Bloomberg. “There was no expectation that he would do any lobbying, and he did not do any lobbying.”
Gingrich, Delk said, consulted on a Freddie Mac program designed to expand home ownership, and began working with the mortgage company shortly after leaving office in 1999. “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,” Delk said, adding that the two talked about “what the benefits are to communities, what the benefits could be for Republicans and particularly their relationship with Hispanics.”
One idea of Gingrich’s that Freddie Mac shot down was a plan to work with the Boy Scouts of America to teach kids and teenagers the importance of saving money and having good credit so they would qualify to buy a home later in life.
When asked his involvement with Freddie Mac, the Gingrich campaign said Bloomberg’s sources got their facts wrong and that his role was limited to offering “strategic advice.” A campaign spokesman did not deny that Gingrich had held multiple contracts with the mortgage company.