Gingrich under fire for business deals
Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told CBS News this week that he expects the controversy over his work for Freddie Mac to blow over quickly. Now, however, the former House speaker is now under the microscope for advancing other causes seemingly anathema to the Tea Party vein of conservatism -- including a health insurance mandate and corporate influence peddling.
Major health care providers and industry groups paid the Center for Health Transformation, a think tank that Gingrich founded, at least $37 million over the last eight years, the Washington Post reports. The think tank, which offered its clients special access to Gingrich, advocated a form of the individual mandate -- a requirement that "anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond." The individual mandate in President Obama's health care overhaul is at the heart of conservative opposition to the law.
Gingrich left the the think tank earlier this year to run for president and has since disavowed the individual mandate. Still, his rivals like Mitt Romney have tried to remind voters of his earlier support for the mandate. The Center for Health Transformation supported other proposals found in President Obama's health care overhaul, the Post reports, like building centralized electronic medical records.
Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation also counted Gundersen Lutheran Health System, a Wisconsin-based health care provider, among its clients, the New York Times reports -- an organization that pushed aggressively for the end-of-life provisions in the health care overhaul that came to be known as "death panels."
In July 2009, Gingrich praised Gundersen's end-of-life practices on the Washington Post website, the Times points out, though by August, he was slamming the end-of-life provisions in Mr. Obama's health care bill.
Meanwhile, in addition to diving into health care policy, Gingrich was paid nearly $1 million over the last decade to advise the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- Washington's largest lobbying group, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Specifically, unnamed sources told the Journal, Gingrich received about $840,000 over seven years to meet with Chamber officials every few months to give feedback on economic issues and ideas. Gingrich reportedly did no lobbying for the organization.
Tea Party-aligned groups like the FreedomWorks have taken issue with some of the Chamber's positions, such as its backing of Mr. Obama's 2009 stimulus package.
The latest reports come after revelations that Gingrich made at least $1.5 million in consulting fees from the government-sponsored mortgage giant Freddie Mac -- another entity that conservatives dislike.
Gingrich told CBS News radio this week that he's unconcerned the Freddie Mac reports would remind voters of his "insider" status in Washington.
"There's no question when you serve 20 years in the House and as speaker of the House for four years, you know a fair amount about Washington," Gingrich told CBS News radio correspondent Dan Raviv. "We just tried an amateur for the last three years, and it didn't work very well... The country would be better off with someone determined to change Washington and who knows how to do it."
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