Newt Gingrich: I'm debt-free and frugal

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on 'Face the Nation,' Sunday, May 22, 2011. CBS

In answering questions about his financial status, former House Speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said he was debt-free and frugal, and discounted a recent report of his having run up charges of as high as a half-million dollars at the New York jeweler Tiffany's.

It was reported on Tuesday that, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives in 2005 and 2006 by Gingrich's wife Callista (who was working for the House Agriculture Committee), a "revolving charge" (credit card) account at Tiffany and Co. involved debt in the range of $250,001-$500,000.

When asked about the debt on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, Gingrich said the disclosure (which has "been sitting there for five years") was about "obeying the law."

"We're private citizens," Gingrich told host Bob Schieffer. "I work very hard. We have a reasonably good income. I currently owe nothing, except I owe one mortgage on a house that's rental property in Wisconsin. Everything else is totally paid for. My home is paid for. My cars are paid for. We don't have a second house. We don't do elaborate things."

"Did you owe a half-million dollars to a jewelry company at one point?" Schieffer asked.

"We had a resolving fund," Gingrich said.

"What does that mean?" Schieffer asked.

"It means that we had a revolving fund," he replied.

"Who buys a half-million dollars worth of jewelry on credit?" Schieffer asked.

"No. Go talk to Tiffany's. It's a standard, no-interest account," Gingrich said.

When asked how long he carried that debt, Gingrich replied, "I have no idea. But it was paid off automatically. We paid no interest on it. There was no problem with it. It's a normal way of doing business."

"I mean, it's very odd to me that someone would run up a half-million dollars bill at a jewelry store," Schieffer said.

"Go talk to Tiffany's," Gingrich responded. "All I'm telling you is, we are very frugal. We in fact live within our budget. We owe nothing."

"What did you buy?" Schieffer asked.

"We owe nothing," Gingrich replied. "It's my private life.

"I understand that. You're running for president - you're going to be the guy in charge of the Treasury Department. It just sticks out like a sore thumb," Schieffer said.

"I'm a guy running for president who pays all of his bills, and after-tax income at no cost to the taxpayer, and who currently owes nothing except one rental property in Wisconsin. I am debt-free. If the U.S. government was as debt-free as I am, everybody in America would be celebrating.

"I think I have proven I can manage money," Gingrich continued. "As a small businessman I run four small businesses. They have been profitable. They've employed people. This is the opposite of the Obama model. So as a private citizen who has done well, I think I'm allowed to pick and choose what I prefer doing."

"And you paid that bill?" Schieffer asked.

"On time, with no interest. I mean, it was a revolving account."

Gingrich businesses owed unpaid state taxes

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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