Newt And Freddie

It’s amazing that Newt Gingrich has been able to depict himself as a “Reagan conservative” and surge to the top of the Republican field.  After all, soon after he left public office he began to do “consulting” work for Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant at the center of the housing crisis that crippled our economy.  Freddie Mac paid Gingrich’s consulting firm at least $1.6 million from 1999 to 2008.  It’s not the kind of resume that you would expect to find in a Tea Party favorite, given the Tea Party’s disdain for the cash-soaked, insiders culture of Washington, D.C.

Gingrich’s firm has now released one, but only one, of its contracts with Freddie Mac.  The contract covers only one year, which is curious.  Has the Gingrich Group really misplaced the other lucrative contracts?  If so, what does that tell you about Gingrich’s managerial abilities?  And if he really has misplaced the other contracts, why not just get copies of them from Freddie Mac and produce them all, so we can see what the entirety of the arrangement was?

The article linked above reprints the one contract that Gingrich’s firm produced.  It’s not scintillating reading — few contracts are — but it reveals that Gingrich’s firm reported to the Freddie Mac Public Policy Director, whom the Post article identifies as a registered lobbyist.  The firm was paid a retainer of $25,000 a month, which means its compensation wasn’t tied to how much work it actually did.  The description of what Gingrich’s firm was supposed to do is found in Exhibit 2, which states only that the firm was to provide “consulting and related services, as requested by Freddie Mac’s Director, Public Policy.”

However, Section 2(b) of the contract says that Gingrich’s group was to submit “an invoice that includes a detailed description of the Services performed” in order to get paid.  I hope a reporter somewhere is using public records requests and other methods to try to get those invoices, which might shed light on whether Gingrich really acted as a historian, as he states, or as a lobbyist and influence-peddler, as his opponents contend.  Interviewing the people that Gingrich reported to, and who requested the “consulting and related services,” would be a good idea, too.

I suppose it is possible that Freddie Mac paid more than $1.6 million for Gingrich to serve as a kind of historian.  After all, Freddie Mac was not exactly a paragon of fiscal responsibility, so it may well have spent $25,000 a month for unspecified historian duties even though its business involved mortgages, not histories.  Or, perhaps, Freddie Mac paid the former Speaker of the House to do other things.  It would be nice to know where the truth lies.

High Expectations And Electric Football

Life can be difficult if you approach it with high expectations.  You vote for a new President expecting him to live up to his promises, for example, and inevitably you are disappointed.  That’s not a problem for me, because I grew up with Electric Football.

Electric Football was a toy, but its ads portrayed it as more than that.  You would be a 12-year-old coach of a team of hardened football players.  You would put them on a beautiful green field of gridiron glory.  They would run plays that you designed, that pitted your football prowess against that of your opponent — tough up-the-gut fullback plunges, all-out blitzes, and the occasional, beautiful breakaway sprint down the sideline to the end zone.  This was a toy that UJ and I had to have.

We finally got it one Christmas.  We opened it, found the beautiful green field of Electric Football Stadium — and then found a bunch of cheap, flimsy plastic football players.  The football itself was made out of lighter-than-air pink foam.  We tried running a few plays, which meant placing your players on the field and then turning a switch to start the Electric Football Excitement.  The field would throb with an annoying hum, the surface would vibrate, and the players would rattle around.  No matter what the call, be it Cleveland Browns sweep, tight buttonhook, or long bomb, every play ended the same way — with every player moving randomly on the surface, some toppling over, and most eventually clustered on the sidelines, facing outward.

What a rip-off!  We quickly realized that there was no true gridiron glory to be had with Electric Football, so we decided to make the best of it.  We designed grossly illegal formations like the flying wedge or the ultimate volcano, in hopes a getting a player to the end zone.  When even that got boring, we gave up, put the Electric Football in the closet, and promptly forgot about it.

So, when it comes to our politicians, my expectations are low.  I anticipate random activity, I’m happy if they aren’t too lightweight and their humming isn’t too annoying — and I’ll gladly forget they exist after too many disappointments.