Today Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Florida Speaker Designate Will Weatherford held a hard-hitting conference call stripping Newt Gingrich of his I-wasn’t-a-Freddie-Mac-lobbyist disguise.
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: “NEWT GINGRICH AS A POTENTIAL NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT: REALLY? I MEAN REALLY?”
“His influence-peddling with respect to Freddie Mac to Congress, that needs to be revealed. And so he called upon Governor Romney to be transparent, well Speaker Gingrich needs to be transparent on this issue and many others. And the notion that he was paid $1.7 million as a historian for Freddie Mac is just B.S., it’s just nonsense. And so he needs to reveal, and his firm needs to reveal, that contract. He needs to go through in detail what positions and advice he gave Freddie Mac, how they responded to that. And then also what advocacy, if any, that he undertook with respect to these issues with the United States Congress.”
– Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Transcript of “Definitely Not A Lobbyist” conference call:
OPERATOR: “Ms. Gail Gitcho, you may now begin.”
GAIL GITCHO, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: “Thanks Claire and thanks everyone for joining today. I have Governor Tim Pawlenty on the line and also Florida Speaker Designate Will Weatherford, and they’re going to talk about Speaker Gingrich’s record and his work for Freddie Mac. And I’ll turn it over to Governor Pawlenty and then Mr. Weatherford and then we’ll take some questions and wrap up. So Governor Pawlenty, go ahead.”
GOV. TIM PAWLENTY: “Great, thank you Gail. Good morning everyone, thanks for being on the call this morning. We’re going to talk this morning about Speaker Gingrich’s record in a couple of key areas. One, as Speaker and the other as his post-Speaker role as advocate and lobbyist and influence-peddler in Washington DC. And I think for Republicans and conservatives all across this country, a question is going to have to be as they consider Newt Gingrich as a potential nominee for president: really? I mean really? This is somebody who has had so many incredibly unfortunate and questionable activities while he was speaker, post-speaker, that he is not somebody that I think can carry the banner for the Republican Party and the conservative movement forward as the nominee or as a future president. Let me give you just a couple of example and then I’ll turn it over to Speaker-Designate Weatherford for his comments. If you’re going to be president of the United States, people have to understand your full record. They have to see it in user-friendly and transparent ways. Newt Gingrich has represented hundreds of clients and interest groups in Washington, DC since he left the speakership. We have very little insight and transparency as to what exactly he did for many for those clients, in many cases, for huge sums of money. To say that he wasn’t a lobbyist is an incredible hair-splitting. He’s been an advocate to the Congress trying to push influence in Washington, DC. In the case of Freddie Mac, he was lobbying Republican members or advocating with Republican members against Republican interests on one of the most difficult and unfortunate behaviors by the federal government in modern history, and that is their activities in the housing market. If you go down to Florida where the primary is going to occur shortly, one of the most devastating blows to the Florida economy in recent years of course has been the housing market. And on of the principle culprits in the demise of the housing market was the role of Congress and their government sponsored entities of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and their role in the housing market. And now you have a candidate for the President of the United States, Newt Gingrich, who was paid $1.7 million by Freddie Mac and we don’t have insight or transparency as to what he actually did, what positions he took, what advice that he gave. His influence-peddling with respect to Freddie Mac to Congress, that needs to be revealed. And so he called upon Governor Romney to be transparent, well Speaker Gingrich needs to be transparent on this issue and many others. And the notion that he was paid $1.7 million as a historian for Freddie Mac is just B.S., it’s just nonsense. And so he needs to reveal, and his firm needs to reveal, that contract. He needs to go through in detail what positions and advice he gave Freddie Mac, how they responded to that. And then also what advocacy, if any, that he undertook with respect to these issues with the United States Congress. And I think voters deserve to see all of that from Newt and more.
And then beyond that, he has a whole list of other clients that he should release all of the groups that have paid him for all of the reasons, over all of the years for lobbying and for advocacy, for issue work, for strategic development, release it. We should have a chance to know who he represented and for what purposes and at what price.
(Good stuff! Much more…)
And lastly, before I turn it over to Speaker-Designate Weatherford, one of the issues in this campaign is who represents Washington, DC and all of the dysfunction and incredible disappointment and frustration that the United States of America and its people have towards Washington, DC, and who doesn’t. Newt Gingrich has spent almost his entire adult life either as a member of the Congress or as somebody who has been an influence peddler post-Speakership in the ways that I’ve described. And to suggest that he’s the outsider simply defies the facts. There’s only one outsider in this race, there’s only one person who has lived a substantial portion of his life and undertook a substantial portion of his activities outside of Washington, DC, in the real economy, dealing not with the government economy, but with economic freedom in the private sector, and that’s Mitt Romney. And that’s one of the reasons I’m proud and honored to support in his campaign for president. Now with that, I’d like to turn it over to Speaker-Designate Will Weatherford. I think many of you are familiar with him but if you’re not, he’s a superstar in Florida politics. He’s going to be the next Speaker of the House in Florida and is viewed as one of the most influential Republicans and policy leaders in that great state. Will, go ahead.”
SPEAKER DESIGNATE WILL WEATHERFORD: “Thank you very much Governor. Let me just say that, you know, living in Florida and having witnessed the devastation that the mortgage crisis has caused here. Floridians have been living through a tremendous amount of pain. In fact, the average home value is down somewhere between 35 and 40 percent statewide. And nothing has contributed to that more than the mortgage crisis and, frankly, the terrible management of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And I think that if you’re going to run for President of the United States, and you’re going to come to the state of Florida, that has lived through this devastation, you’ve got to be transparent and show exactly what it was that your role was. Was it as an advisor or councilor to Freddie Mac? And let me say this, I think we’re all aware of the tuition and the fact tuition has been going up across this country for many years now, but $1.7 million for a history lesson, I think that’s got to be a record somewhere. And maybe what Speaker Gingrich should have been giving them instead of a history lesson was a math lesson because clearly they had their numbers wrong. Speaker Gingrich has had his time to lead in my opinion. I think the party needs to look forward and not backwards. His term as Speaker was questionable to say the least. He certainly had to resign under questionable circumstances. I believe 90 percent of his colleagues voted against him. He violated House rules. He had $300,000 in fines that he had to pay. Our country is in a very challenging spot. Our party is in a moment where we have to decide what we want to do and the direction we’re going to go as we face what I believe is going to be one of the most historic elections in our lifetime. And we need principled leaders, not political opportunists. Transparency goes both ways and Newt Gingrich spent the last two weeks talking about transparency and coming after Governor Romney from that front. But it works both ways and I think that if you worked Washington, DC or any state, working from influence-peddling or lobbying or whatever you want to call it, he should be transparent with that and he should show the citizens of this country and most particularly, the citizens of Florida, what he did for the resources and the money he received for that work. So I’m very honored to serve as a helper on the campaign with Governor Romney. I think he provides the steady leadership and the visionary leadership that we need in this state. And, to me, the kind of campaign that I think you’ll see us run over the next 10 days will reflect that. And it’s time for Speaker Gingrich to come clean, it’s time for him to show transparency and it’s time for him to show us how living the last 30 years in Washington, DC and using his influence up there is going to make him the change agent that this country needs to turn it around. With that, I guess, Governor, if there’s not anything else from your standpoint, I think we can move on to questions.”
OPERATOR: “Our next question will come from Brian Bolduc of the National Review. Please go ahead.”
BRIAN BOLDUC, NATIONAL REVIEW: “Hi Governor and hi Speaker Designate. Thanks for taking my question. Considering Speaker Gingrich’s win in South Carolina over the weekend and the fact that a lot of this Freddie Mac information has been out in the open for the past couple of months now, it is possible that this attack, that whatever hit he would have taken in the poll numbers is already been baked in? Do you expect to get much traction in pursuing this avenue?”
PAWLENTY: “Well there’s a remaining issue here and it’s transparency. And as to the previous questioner’s point, one of the reasons you know about a particular investment by Mitt is because it’s been disclosed. And so, one of the things we are asking and expecting Speaker Gingrich to do is release his contract between himself and his firm and Freddie Mac so that the country can see precisely what the scope of the work was, what the expectations were, what he was doing for $1.7 million, and then if there are some internal documents, as it relates to memos or advice, activities that were undertaken by Speaker Gingrich that we have a chance to see and then people can make a judgment about whether that’s relevant or not, but it’s—I think people know that there was a connection with Freddie Mac. But what we don’t know and remains a mystery, is what did he do? What did he do for $1.7 million dollars? What advice did he give? Who did he lobby? What advocacy positions did he take? What did he tell them to do? Did he do it? Let’s have a look at what his role was with Freddie Mac and it’s profoundly important because of the issue of Freddie Mac and the housing market more broadly and the economic challenge the country’s facing right now.”
WEATHERFORD: “And Governor, if I can just add to that. You’ll find—and I can’t speak for South Carolina ‘cause I don’t live there—but I can tell you this: Floridians know exactly what Freddie Mac is. Floridians are extremely familiar with what the mortgage crisis has brought to them personally. It has brought personal pain and agony to Floridians across the state of Florida. So I don’t think you’ll see Newt Gingrich—Speaker Gingrich—be able to sweep this issue under the rug. The citizens of Florida are going to want to know specifically what did he do for Freddie Mac? What kind of advice did he give them? Did he foresee this cliff coming? And if he did, where’s the documentation where he shows—that he provided to them explaining on how they could avoid such a disaster. He has yet to show that. We don’t know what he did. We don’t know what the contract says. We don’t know what services he provided. All we’re asking is that he be transparent. He’s been preaching transparency. It’s time that he act on it as well.”
OPERATOR: “Our next question comes from Reid Epstein with Politico. Go ahead, sir.”
REID EPSTEIN, POLITICO: “Hi gentlemen. Governor Pawlenty, you’re talking about lobbying as if it’s a bad thing. My question for you is given what your take is on lobbying and the lobbying industry, are you—are you saying that you’ll never go into lobbying as a profession in your post-political career?”
PAWLENTY: “The point we’re making here is transparency. Whether someone wants to go work for a law firm, or a lobbying firm, or a PR firm, is up to them. I don’t have any current plans or commitments to do that. But the point is whatever Newt does or Mitt does that is relevant to being President of the United States, when you’re a candidate for President of the United States, you should disclose it so people can make a judgment about whether it’s relevant or not. Whether it’s something that goes to one of the issues facing the country or not. So, when you’re running as an outsider—running as Newt is—as somebody who says he’s against the establishment, when, in fact, he is the establishment. That’s number one, there’s hypocrisy there. And number two, there needs to be transparency so people can evaluate the candidates based on the information and their track record.”
OPERATOR: “Our next question comes from Adam Mongol of Central Florida News 14. Go ahead.”
ADAM MONGOL, CENTRAL FLORIDA NEWS 14: “Governor and Representative Weatherford, thank you for taking the time. Thank for you taking my question. One of the main themes of this call has been transparency. And you know Speaker Gingrich has asked that this contract be released and from what it sounds like, it’s not up to him. The lawyers with his company, The Center For Health Transformation and then also Freddie Mac, have been talking about whether or not they would let that go or not, so I want to ask you if you are putting it all on him to have that released? And secondly, I’d like to ask, you know, Speaker Gingrich has said he has warned Freddie Mac that their business practices were risky. Do you all believe that he actually did that?”
PAWLENTY: “Well, we’d like to know that. And first of all, as I understand it, Freddie Mac has indicated that they would release the contract if Speaker Gingrich or his firm would agree to that. Newt has said he agrees to it, but somehow the firm apparently is standing the way. Well he’s the founder, he’s the principal, I presume he’s the majority owner or decision maker in one or all of the many entities he has here. But the notion that Freddie Mac is okay with releasing it, and supposedly Newt is okay with it, but the subordinates back at his firm won’t allow it is preposterous.”
GITCHO: “And operator, we have time for one more question.”
OPERATOR: “Our final question will come from Julie Davis with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.”
JULIE DAVIS, BLOOMBERG: “Hi there, thanks for doing the call. Given, Governor Pawlenty, what you’ve said about the concerns you have, can you characterize the degree of worry you that hear among party stalwarts about the prospect that Gingrich might actually win the nomination and how far you think folks are willing to go to stop that from happening. And then, are you concerned at all with how nasty that process could get?”
PAWLENTY: “Well look, Mitt has said and the Romney campaign has said this is going to be a long campaign, so the fact that this is going beyond a few states is not a surprise—at least not to the Romney campaign. But number two, one of the things that I would urge conservatives and Republicans to consider is are we going to nominate somebody who can actually win the election? Because otherwise, it is just a debating society and we want to do more than debate. We want to also win the election and get America moving in the right direction by restoring American values. Mitt Romney obviously has that vision for America, but he also can get elected. The possibility of Newt Gingrich being our nominee against Barack Obama, I think is essentially handing the election over to Obama, if it got to that point.”
WEATHERFORD: “Yeah, if I could just add to that”—
PAWLENTY: “And I think that’s shared by a lot of folks in the Republican Party but obviously part of the election and the campaign is to go out and talk about not just the issues, but who’s best positioned—who’s got the best record and the best skills to defeat Barack Obama.”
WEATHERFORD: “Yeah, I think, if I could just add to that Governor. One of the things—this is about leadership and consistency and credibility and I think that the race—at least for the next ten days in the state of Florida is going to be about credibility and in order to have credibility, if you’re going to preach about transparency, you have to show it on your own. And I think that the Speaker’s going to have to do that. I also think that it’s interesting if you look around the country and a lot of his former colleagues, they don’t all seem to be jumping on the bus. And I think we need to be asking ourselves the question as to why? I thought Paul Ryan had an interesting quote, about six months ago, when he said ‘With friends like Newt Gingrich, who needs enemies?’ So clearly, within the conservatives, in this country and the leaders in this country, there is a question as to whether or not Speaker Gingrich can lead the party. I think that Governor Romney has shown that we can. He has shown he has the stability, the vision, and the consistency, and the credibility to win this race as a primary and also in a general election and to lead this country where we know it needs to go. So thank you Governor for this and thank you all for being on this call.”
GITCHO: “Let me just say a couple of things. Thank you both for being on this call today. And before the reporters hop off, I just wanted to let everybody know coming to an inbox near you, you’ll see a new Romney for President ad that starts to air in Florida this week and it’s called ‘Florida Families.’ The ad highlights that while Florida families were struggling during the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in working for Freddie Mac. You’ll be getting a preview of that ad very shortly. Like I said, it will be airing in Florida this week. So thanks everyone for joining the call and we’ll talk to you again soon.”
Excellent interview! Thank you, Gov Pawlenty and Speaker Designate Weatherford. They’ve provided plenty of good material to post on Facebook, blogs, articles, and to email/tweet. Now, let’s get busy!
► Jayde Wyatt