Politics

New conservative group aims to train national candidates — and also retire Newt Gingrich’s debt

Patrick Howley Political Reporter

A newly announced political fundraising committee, composed in part from the remnants of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign, aims to train conservative candidates seeking national office, raise money for selected candidates, and pay off Gingrich’s staggering campaign debt.

The Committee for America is a joint fundraising committee of the American Legacy Political Action Committee (ALPAC) and Newt 2012, Gingrich’s failed presidential primary campaign.

“Money raised by the Committee for America will be allocated between Newt 2012 and The American Legacy PAC. The American Legacy PAC will use proceeds to fund federal candidates and provide online training material for conservative candidates. Newt 2012 will use proceeds to pay off debt obligations incurred during the 2012 Republican presidential primary campaign,” according to the organization’s newly revamped website, Newt.org.

Newt 2012 reportedly had $5 million in debt at the end of last year against $75,000 in cash. Gingrich, who said he running a “campaign of ideas” in opposition to Republican rival Mitt Romney’s well-funded operation, struggled after casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who gave more than $16 million to Gingrich’s Winning the Future super PAC, started to turn on the former Speaker in the early of spring of 2012, as Gingrich struggled to recover from his January 31 loss in the Florida primary.

Though the Committee for America plans to train conservative candidates, neither of its components, Newt 2012 nor ALPAC, has a track record of doing so.

ALPAC reportedly raised $500,000 last year and pumped more than $400,000 of that money into a telemarketing firm called InfoCision, which focuses on political and Christian-oriented fundraising. Gingrich’s own 527 organization American Solutions for Winning the Future also provided $7.9 million to InfoCision.

But Gingrich, a former college professor, has long shown an interest in educating his fellow conservatives. He conducted a series of workshops at the Republican National Convention last summer informally known as “Newt University,” after the Romney campaign denied him a speaking slot. He now teaches a recurring online course for Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company, called “Newt University,” devoting Monday’s lesson to the topic of driverless cars.

It is unclear how these recent venture will affect Gingrich’s rumored 2016 presidential hopes. The former speaker has kept bust since the November election, coming out in favor of gay marriage and making appearances on outlets like HuffPostLive. But despite his time as Speaker of the House, and the fact that he led Romney in national polls in late 2011 and won the South Carolina primary, Gingrich has never been able to shake the media’s characterization of him as a fatuous self-promoter.

Gingrich’s entrepreneurial self-branding has been complicating his political career ever since he was first elected House Speaker in 1995, when Democrats blasted his multi-million dollar book deal and pressed various ethics charges against him, resulting in an official House reprimand against him for claiming tax-exempt status to teach a college course.

He faced sharp media criticism during his presidential campaign for similar ventures. For example, Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney, who wrote in December 2011 that Gingrich’s campaign seemed like “the latest business venture by a politician…who has made millions exploiting conservatism and the Republican Party.”

Despite its links to a telemarketing firm and its stated goal of retiring Gingrich’s debt, the Committee for America nonetheless presents itself as a legitimate resource to help shape the future of the conservative movement.

“Much of the emerging ‘American Breakout’ will not be covered by the elite news media because it will not fit their definition of news. The really big stories will be happening quietly while most of the news media remains focused on the trivial, the scandalous, the conflict-ridden or the personality-driven ‘big story’ they believe audiences prefer,” according to Newt.org.

“The Committee for America and its partners will look at what is happening, the implications for public policy, and the great promise, with the right candidates and the right policy, of a better American future.”

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