Newt Gingrich's Freddie Mac Delusions

| Thu Dec. 15, 2011 10:19 PM EST

In Thursday night's Fox News debate, GOP presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich unloaded a whopper when confronted—again—about his controversial consulting gig with government housing corporation Freddie Mac in the late 1990s and 2000s.

At the debate, Gingrich dismissed his work for Freddie Mac. "I was a private citizen engaged in a business like any other business," he said. Details on his work with Freddie, however, suggest otherwise. Freddie, which was taken over by the federal government in 2008, paid Gingrich between $1.6 million and $1.8 million for consulting work. And although Gingrich has said he was paid to be a "historian" for Freddie, officials with the housing giant told Bloomberg News that Gingrich was hired, in part, to "to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company's public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it." So although Gingrich may not have technically lobbied for Freddie, he was hired to open doors in Congress for the company—and he received quite the paycheck for doing so.

Not only did Gingrich consult for Freddie, he also stood fast by its quasi-governmental status, which is anathema to many conservatives in Washington and beyond. Ex-Freddie employees told Bloomberg they didn't remember Gingrich ever voicing opposition to the company's business model or strategy. In September 2008, as both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae teetered on the brink of collapse (they were eventually taken over by the federal government), Gingrich said he had no plans to question Freddie's business model. "I was perfectly happy to not push the issue as long as they weren't failing," he explained at the time. That's a claim that could come back to haunt Newt. Here's video of it: