Saturday, December 3, 2011

Exposing Newt Gingrich’s Influence Peddling May Mean Serious Problems for the Romney Campaign

But It Gives the Gingrich Campaign a Big Boost

In an unusual burst of journalism the New York Times has an in depth story on the various ways that Newt Gingrich engaged in influence peddling after he left public office.  Basically what Mr. Gingrich did was to set up companies that sold its services to private corporations, those services being giving those companies access to elected officials who could authorize the spending of vast amounts of public dollars with those companies.

Here is a brief summary of what was going on.

In a variety of instances, documents and interviews show, Mr. Gingrich arranged meetings between executives and officials, and salted his presentations to lawmakers with pitches for his clients, who pay as much as $200,000 a year to belong to his Center for Health Transformation.

Now Mr. Gingrich appears not to have broken any laws (is it even possible in the U.S. to violate the toothless laws that supposedly protect the public against influence peddling by former elected officials?  Probably not.).  And we know he was not a lobbyist because he says he was not, he merely pressured legislators to adopt policies and spending favorable to his clients.

And this practice influence peddling is not restricted to one party or one philosophy, witness the phenomenal success of former Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle. (Thankfully Mr. Daschle has had the decency not to run for President this year).  So what is the problem?

No problem for Mr. Gingrich.  Conservatives have long ago adopted the philosophy that says government spending is evil and wrong, unless there is a way to make a good buck out of it.  George W. Bush was a part owner of a baseball team and saw nothing wrong with the people of Texas subsidizing his private business.  Republicans wail against corporate welfare, but as a group they have never ever taken even small steps to eliminate it. 

So for the Republican primary electorate the fact that Mr. Gingrich became rich selling influence is not a negative, it is a positive.  Those voters will applaud him for doing so, and probably wonder why Mr. Romney did not do so also.  Mr. Romney will have to counter with showing how he made tens of millions in the private sector by loading up companies with debt so that he and his partners could withdraw millions from those companies, which may appease some voters. But that is just not as good and using your government connections to make millions, so Mr. Romney may well suffer in comparison.

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