Just saw this at The Washington Examiner (new conservative paper in DC, headed by Micahel Barone and Byron York). Good for them. They took a look, stepped back and took another look, and then headlined their story:
Newt Gingrich was a lobbyist, plain and simple.
. . . we know he was paid consultant for drug makers. That’s the first criterion for being a drug lobbyist.
Here’s the second criterion: While some consultants simply provide strategy or advice, Gingrich directly contacted lawmakers in an effort to win their votes.
Three former Republican congressional staffers told me that Gingrich was calling around Capitol Hill and visiting Republican congressmen in 2003 in an effort to convince conservatives to support a bill expanding Medicare to include prescription-drug subsidies. Conservatives were understandably wary about expanding a Lyndon Johnson-created entitlement that had historically blown way past official budget estimates. Drug makers, on the other hand, were positively giddy about securing a new pipeline of government cash to pad their already breathtaking profit margins.
One former House staffer told me of a 2003 meeting hosted by Rep. Jack Kingston where Gingrich spoke. Kingston would regularly host “Theme Team” meetings with a few Republican congressmen and some of their staff. Just before the House vote, Gingrich was the special guest at this meeting, and he brought one message to the members: Pass the drug bill for the good of the Republican Party.
Conservatives were worried about the potential for cost overruns, and about the credibility of their limited-government arguments if they passed this new entitlement bill. “Every concern that members raised,” the former House staffer told me, “Gingrich would respond with a poll number.” Gingrich invoked the American Express motto “Don’t Leave Home Without It,” and told Republicans they could not afford to go home for recess without some Medicare drug bill — regardless of the content.
Two aides to other GOP members who had been resisting the bill told me their bosses were lobbied by Gingrich over the phone, sometimes citing politics, sometimes citing substance. And it worked. “Newt Gingrich moved votes on the prescription-drug bill,” one conservative staffer told me. “That’s for sure.”