Mitt Romney said Monday that Newt Gingrich should return the money he was paid working on behalf of Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage company that required a taxpayer bailout and has become a frequent target for conservative critics.
“I sure do,” the former Massachusetts governor said when asked in an appearance on “Fox & Friends” whether he believed Mr. Gingrich was working as a lobbyist and should return the $1.6 million he received from the housing mortgage giant.
The Associated Press reported that Mr. Gingrich countered on Monday while campaigning in New Hampshire.
“If Gov. Romney would give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over the years at Bain, then I would be glad to listen to him,” he told reporters. “But I bet you $10, not $10,000, that he won’t take the offer.”
The Georgia Republican was alluding to the time Mr. Romney spent as a business consultant and founder of Bain Capitol firm, which profited from layoffs and cost-cutting at the businesses it acquired. He also was alluding to the $10,000 bet that Mr. Romney offered Rick Perry in the debate Saturday after the Texas governor suggested Mr. Romney supported the idea of a universal health care mandate on a federal level in an early edition of his book “No Apology.”
The exchange follows the debate where Mr. Romney and GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul sharpened their attacks on the surging Mr. Gingrich, describing the former House speaker as a mouthpiece for the agency the federal government took over in 2008.
“Look,” Mr. Romney said Monday, “this whole Washington crowd of insiders that stay there, get paid a lot of money there because of their associations, I think it’s something the American people are tired of.”
Mr. Gingrich has dismissed such criticism by arguing that he consulted for Freddie Mac as a “historian,” not a lobbyist.
“I was never a spokesman for any agency. I never did any lobbying for any agency. I offered strategic advice. I was in the private sector and I was doing things in the private sector,” Mr. Gingrich said, sparking some laughter from the audience.
But Mrs. Bachmann refused to let him off the hook.
“Well, when you’re talking about taking over $100 million and when your office is on the Rodeo Drive of Washington, D.C., which is K Street, and you’re taking money to influence the outcome of legislation in Washington, that’s the epitome of the establishment. That’s the epitome of a consummate insider,” she said.
And during his appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Romney pointed out that Mr. Gingrich had said he was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac, while news reports say it was about $1.6 million.
“He said $300,000 and he was there as an historian. That would make him the highest paid historian in history,” Mr. Romney said.