Thursday, January 26, 2012

Almost lobbying but not quite?

Newt Gingrich has tossed out a lot of carefully chosen words lately regarding his work with Freddie Mac. First he was a historian, then a consultant, and now he's engaged in a kerfuffle with Mitt Romney about whether or not he was a lobbyist for them.

CNN's Anderson Cooper looked into the controversy:

This brings to mind a few questions. First, my undergraduate degree was in Political Science and German: where can I get a job as a "historian" that pays this well? Seriously though, if Gingrich wasn't lobbying, why did Freddie Mac's contract have him answering directly to Michael Delk, Freddie Mac's chief lobbyist? Was Gingrich supposed to be Delk's history tutor?

Also, as an attorney and consultant myself, I frequently enter into independent contractor agreements with a variety of candidates, elected officials, businesses and organizations. I always include a list of services to be provided, and sometimes expressly state certain services that are not included. However, personal services contracts are not like contracts for goods. It is a much more straightforward prospect to draft a contract that says "Company X will pay Company Y $1,000 for 500 widgets," than it is to spell out consulting and advising services, that often evolve over time.

Finally, I am increasingly feeling like Gingrich is trying too hard to be clever with his words. If I tell you that I know where someone keeps valuable items in their house, advise you the best way to break in and get out without being caught, but I don't accompany you during the burglary, aren't I still partially culpable? 

Similarly, if Gingrich advised Michael Delk and other Freddie Mac employees on which members of Congress they should target for lobbying, the best strategies to influence those specific members, etc. but Gingrich himself didn't actually directly communicate with any members of Congress, what does that mean? Is it really fair to say that Gingrich really did not engage in lobbying, if he provided all the information and experience at his disposal to others to use on Freddie Mac's behalf? Would those same Freddie Mac employees have been as effective if they had not had Gingrich's advice?

Some of this just doesn't pass the smell test. What makes more sense - that Freddie Mac paid Gingrich and his company millions of dollars to give them "history" lessons, or that they were hired to provide information and strategies that Delk and other Freddie Mac employees could use to lobby Congress?

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