Ex-Freddie Mac official said Newt Gingrich paid $1.5 million for consulting
"It reminds people that I know a great deal about Washington," Gingrich said Wednesday. "We just tried four years of amateur ignorance and it didn't work very well. So, having someone who actually knows Washington might be a really good thing."
Gingrich's history at Freddie Mac began in 1999, when he was hired by the company's top lobbyist, Mitchell Delk. He was brought in for strategic consulting, primarily on legislative and regulatory issues, the company said at the time. That job, which paid about $25,000 to $30,000 a month, lasted until sometime in 2002.
In 2006, Gingrich was hired again on a two-year contract that paid him $300,000 annually, again to provide strategic advice while the company fended off attacks from the right wing of the Republican Party.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae for years had been under scrutiny from Republicans on Capitol Hill who opposed government involvement in the mortgage business and wanted to scale back the companies' size and impose tough regulation.
In last Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, Gingrich sought to explain his role at Freddie Mac as that of an "historian" sounding dire warnings about the company's future. He said Freddie Mac officials told him "we are now making loans to people that have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do." He said his advice was to tell them, "this is insane."
"I said at the time, this is a bubble ... this is impossible. It turned out unfortunately I was right," Gingrich said.
Former Freddie Mac executives dispute Gingrich's description of his role.
Four people close to Freddie Mac say he was hired to strategize with his employer about identifying political friends on Capitol Hill who would help the company through a very difficult legislative environment. All four people spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss the personnel matter freely.
Freddie Mac executives hoped that would speak positively about the company and its business model as he circulated among conservative groups and help to build intellectual support within his party.