- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

GOP presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich on Thursday strongly defended his work as a consultant to housing giant Freddie Mac after leaving Congress in 1999.

The former speaker of the House, in an interview on The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News,” said the Freddie Mac contracts were only a small part of the consulting work he did, and he flatly denied lobbying Congress on behalf of his client. Congressionally-chartered Freddie Mac and counterpart Fannie Mae received massive taxpayer bailouts in the wake of the 2008 housing market meltdown.

“No. Zero. Period. We have a standard understanding which we said over and over: I do no lobbying. I will not contact the Congress on behalf of clients. Also, I never change any of my positions on behalf of clients, because I wasn’t a lobbyist. I was a strategic adviser,” the Georgia Republican said.

“My public record goes back to when I first ran for Congress in 1974. It has thousands of votes, even more thousands of speeches. Twenty-four books. I told people, “Look, if you’re interested in what I’m interested in, I’ll be glad to offer you advice. I’m not going to represent you, I’m not going to go out and try to sell you,’” he said.

The Gingrich campaign has been surging in recent weeks, with some polls showing the former speaker now running neck-and-neck with — or even slightly ahead of — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The front-runner status has brought extra scrutiny as well, with Mr. Gingrich now fending off questions about the money he and his firm made during a  decade of consulting with Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant that many conservatives and free-market advocates blame for fueling the American housing bubble.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday the former speaker earned an estimated $1.6 million from Freddie Mac from 1999 to early 2008.

But Mr. Gingrich said he thought the the extra scrutiny he is now receiving was “perfectly legitimate.”

“That’s exactly how the system should work.”

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