"Baloney?" Gingrich suggests illegal PAC collusion

Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during the Iowa Veterans Presidential Candidate Forum as his wife Callista looks on, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Newt and Callista Gingrich
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Newt Gingrich, who has been stung by attack ads from so-called "super PACs" supporting his rivals, yesterday asked his supporters to tell their friends to tell the candidates whose backers have been running such ads "they ought to be ashamed of themselves."

"They ought to take this junk off the air," he said. "And don't hide behind some baloney about this super PAC that I actually have no control over that happens to be run by five of my former staff. That's just baloney." Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns.

Less than 24 hours after Gingrich claimed that legal divide is "baloney" in light of staffing connections, a newly-formed pro-Gingrich super PAC called "Winning our Future" announced the hiring of a former Gingrich staffer. Rick Tyler, a longtime Gingrich aide who resigned from the Gingrich campaign when his campaign imploded over the summer, has joined the group as a senior advisor.

Tyler is not the only former staffer with Winning Our Future: It's led by Becky Burkett, a onetime official with a now-defunct group called "American Solutions for Winning the Future" that Gingrich founded after leaving Congress.

In light of Gingrich's comments, CBS News Political Hotsheet asked the Gingrich campaign if the former House speaker is controlling "Winning our Future," something that would be a violation of the law. Spokesman R.C. Hammond responded,"Let me know if Winning our Future launches 1.4 million dollars in negative advertising."

Super PACs can accept unlimited contributions to advertize and advocate on behalf of a candidate - without revealing their donors - and they are expected to have a significant impact on a presidential race. Hammond's reference was to spending by a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC, which is blanketing the airwaves in Iowa with spots asking if Gingrich has too much "baggage" to defeat President Obama. The spots may have contributed to a stall in the former House speaker's momentum in the first-in-the-nation voting state. (Romney calls the campaign finance situation that allows for super PACs a "disaster," even as he benefits from them.)

Winning our Future is one of two super PACs backing the candidate; yesterday it released a videoin support of the candidate in which a narrator said Gingrich believes America's "best days are ahead." The Gingrich campaign put out an ad earlier this monththat opening with Gingrich saying, "Some people say the America we know and love is a thing of the past. I don't believe that." 

Earlier this month, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaintwith the Federal Election Commission after identical TV footage appeared in two ads in support of Rick Perry - one from the Perry campaign and another from a super PAC backing him.

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