Can Newt Gingrich Pass Tea Party Muster?

By Beth Reinhard for the National Journal

Newt Gingrich doesn’t seem like the tea party’s type. He’s the ultimate Washington insider, a career politician who spent two decades in that reviled institution known as the U.S. Congress. Especially when compared to stick it-to-the-man tea party heroes like Rep. Allen West of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Gingrich doesn’t seem to fit the part. He is the man.

But forget the aesthetics. Now that Gingrich is a verifiable front-running candidate for the Republican nomination, his record is facing renewed scrutiny by the most conservative and exuberant wing of the Republican party. While Gingrich has long advocated the tea party’s central tenet—cutting federal spending—his record falls short on several counts by the movement’s standards.

The latest blemish: consulting fees of at least $1.6 million that he collected from Freddie Mac over the past decade, according to a Bloomberg News report. Many tea party activists blame the government-sponsored mortgage backer for the housing crisis.

“Whenever the idea of ending Freddie Mac comes up with our group, it gets a standing ovation,” said Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks, a prominent tea party umbrella group. “Gingrich is not going to be able to nuance this away.”

Gingrich responded to the Bloomberg story with a statement noting that he never lobbied for Freddie Mac or opposed legislative reforms. “Newt Gingrich welcomes scrutiny of his record in public office and as a small businessman,” the statement said.


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