I’m always a little skeptical when people talk about the many opportunities in public history for PhDs who don’t go into the academy. But hey, look!
Newt Gingrich made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with mortgage company Freddie Mac, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.
The total amount is significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about during a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9 sponsored by CNBC, and more than was disclosed in the middle of congressional investigations into the housing industry collapse.
Gingrich’s business relationship with Freddie Mac spanned a period of eight years. When asked at the debate what he did to earn a $300,000 payment in 2006, the former speaker said he “offered them advice on precisely what they didn’t do,” and warned the company that its lending practices were “insane.” Former Freddie Mac executives who worked with Gingrich dispute that account.
One idea that the former Georgia congressman proposed that Freddie Mac didn’t pursue was initiating a program with the Boy Scouts of America to teach youngsters the importance of saving money and maintaining good credit so they would qualify to buy a home later in life.
In 2001, according to one person familiar with the work Gingrich performed, company officials asked him for feedback on their plan to publicly embrace “six voluntary commitments.”
The six items included a pledge to periodically issue subordinated debt, manage liquidity, undergo capital stress tests and expand various types of risk disclosures. Gingrich applauded the ideas, saying they would enable Freddie Mac to demonstrate benefits to the taxpayer, the person said.
“What he did was provide counsel on public policy issues,” Delk said in an interview. “There was no expectation that he would do any lobbying, and he did not do any lobbying.”
What he did for the money is a subject of disagreement. Gingrich said during the CNBC debate that he advised the troubled firm as a “historian.”
Dear financial services firms: I will happily provide you my expertise as a historian, and not in any way a lobbyist, for a much more reasonable rate than Gingrich, and with proportionately less condescension.