“I wasn’t a lobbyist, I was a strategic adviser.”
— Newt Gingrich, explaining why he took $1.8 million in fees from Freddie Mac, a federal agency that operates on taxpayer/bailout money
Move past, if you will, the part of this story that involves a Republican presidential candidate’s having what reporters call “baggage” (though in this particular candidate’s case it’s sure to be either Gucci’s or Louis Vuitton’s).
That Newt Gingrich has always viewed political cachet as a route toward becoming Newt Getrich dates back to his first touch of power, assuming the House speakership in 1995 and immediately hooking onto a $4.5 million book deal he gave up only after being pressured by his embarrassed Republican colleagues.
No, Gingrich-being-Getrich shouldn’t be the focus of media attention here. That’s old news. The question to be raised – the thing to be condemned by good government moralists in the media – is why federal departments and agencies like Freddie Mac are allowed to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to lobby Congress for additional millions of taxpayer dollars.
Gingrich’s audacity (somebody has to pay those Tiffany bills, so why not Freddie Mac?) simply expresses the routine acceptance by members of Congress — Democrat and Republican alike — that influence-peddling not merely for but with taxpayer money is now the accepted norm in Washington.
There ought to be a law against it — and as a matter of fact, there is: Taxpayer-subsidized federal departments and agencies are strictly prohibited from using their funds for lobbying purposes. But then, this isn’t lobbying, is it? No, it’s “strategic advice,” given when the price is right by ex-Republican and ex-Democratic congressmen alike.
Who says there isn’t bipartisan agreement on some federal expenditures?
Sound Bite to Remember (circa 1955)
“Why is it that when I take it, it’s stealin’, but when a governor who’s a lawyer takes it, it’s called a fee?”
Alabama Governor Big Jim Folsom, complaining about the inequity of it all