Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he personally pocketed about $35,000 per year for his work with mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
For the first time on Monday, Gingrich pegged his own personal earnings from an extended consulting contract between his firm and Freddie Mac. His namesake firm, the Gingrich Group, earned at least an estimated $1.6 million, according to an initial Bloomberg News report on the relationship.
"I hope, starting today, we can clear up this and frankly I hope my friends will take down the ads that are fundamentally inaccurate," Gingrich explained to supporters during a question-and-answer session with supporters in Iowa. "One, the contract. Freddie Mac hired Gingrich Group, which is a firm which had offices in three cities. Of the total contract, it was a six year period contract, of the total amount they keep talking about I probably got about $35,000 a year."
As if to minimize just how much he earned as a result of the contract, Gingrich said his yearly take-home from working with Freddie Mac was less than what he would earn in fees for delivering a single speech.
"Now that's less than I was making per speech so that's what my particular interest in it was that amount," he said.
The former speaker's work for the troubled mortgage giant, which was taken into government conservatorship in 2008 along with its counterpart, Fannie Mae, has emerged as a point of scrutiny for Gingrich's foes in the Republican presidential primary.
"For weeks now, Speaker Gingrich has struggled to explain exactly what he did in return for $1.6 million in fees from Freddie Mac," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email this morning to reporters. "Not only has he distanced himself from his past work, but he is also distancing himself from the money he earned -- saying it was for ‘overhead’ or that he didn’t ‘personally’ receive it."
Texas Rep. Ron Paul has also vocally criticized Gingrich's work for Freddie Mac, having highlighted that relationship in television ads running in Iowa.
Gingrich has repeatedly denied having lobbied on Freddie Mac's behalf, and sought to highlight work he had done that might have conflicted with the lender's financial interests.
"Both Congressman Rick Lazio, who was the Chairman of the House reform effort when I was the Speaker, and Congressman JC Watts, who was the head for a number of years of the Freddie Mac watch committee, have both come out publicly and said it is bologna to suggest that I any way tried to use any influence with anybody on the Freddie Mac issue," he said. "So I just want to come down to what did we provide. We provided strategic advice."
The total extent of how much wealth Gingrich might have gained as a result of the contract, though, is murky. Whatever fees were collected by the Gingrich Group could have contributed to building the value of the former speaker's consulting practice.
NBC's Chuck Todd has more.