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Gingrich can't say how much he netted from Freddie consulting

 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged an extended consulting relationship with mortgage giant Freddie Mac, though he said he couldn't verify just how much he or his firm received in fees. NBC's Andrea Mitchell has more.

URBANDALE, Iowa -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged an extended consulting relationship with mortgage giant Freddie Mac, though he said he couldn't verify just how much he or his firm received in fees.

Gingrich denied having lobbied on behalf of the mortgage giant, but said his staff was looking into a Bloomberg News report that said Gingrich "made between $1.6 and $1.8 million in consulting fees" in his work for Freddie Mac between 1999 and 2008.

Gingrich said that his staff was poring through records, which he suggested they might make public, to calculate the exact amount of money paid by Freddie Mac for Gingrich's services.

"All I can tell you is that Gingrich Group was paid in the amount, I don't know what the amount is," Gingrich said at an energy forum sponsored by Politico in Des Moines.

Gingrich said at a separate event in Urbandale that not all of the money had been paid to him; his firm, Gingrich Group, received some of the consulting fees.

"I offered strategic advice over a long period of time," the former Speaker said in Urbandale. He also confirmed that he had only consulted for Freddie, and had never worked with Fannie Mae, the other troubled lender.

If accurate, the Bloomberg story would suggest that Gingrich received much more than was originally thought, and for a more extended period of time. Gingrich was asked about his work for Freddie in 2006 -- for which he earned $300,000 -- at a debate last week in Michigan. He said it was for consulting in his capacity as a historian, and Gingrich denied having been employed as a lobbyist.

Alex Moe/NBC News

Newt Gingrich before speaking at The Machine Shed in Urbandale, Iowa Wednesday morning.

"I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice," he said at the debate, which was hosted by CNBC.

It was a sentiment Gingrich's spokesman, R.C. Hammond, reiterated on Wednesday.

"The Gingrich Group provided consulting for Freddie – there were a series of contracts. He provided strategic advice … he would meet with them on a monthly basis about problems an he would come back to them about solutions. He never lobbied. He never directly contacted lawmakers on their behalf," Hammond told NBC News.

Hammond said that the campaign will release a list of clients the Gingrich Group had maintained, along with how much each company paid for the firm's services. The campaign will also report the annual revenue of the Gingrich Group.

Gingrich also said at that debate that he warned that the subprime mortgage practices that Freddie and its counterpart, Fannie, were helping support were leading to a housing bubble. Both companies are now under the conservatorship of the federal government, a practice which has drawn the ire of conservatives who charge the government with propping up failed companies at taxpayer expense.

The Bloomberg story said that Gingrich's initial contract with Freddie Mac started in 1999, shortly after he resigned both the Speakership and his seat in Congress. Gingrich's work was meant to encourage homeownership.

Gingrich said he favored expanded housing, but only in a responsible way (i.e., not through methods pursued by Fannie and Freddie during the 2000s).

"I favor people who need help getting housing if it's done in a prudent way. That's public record. I give speeches all over about that," the former Speaker said in Des Moines.