Jim Hightower wonders how Newt Gingrich can claim that his influence peddling is any different from lobbying in his new column, “The Deep Shallowness Of Professor Gingrich:”
In past commentaries, I have called Newt Gingrich a lobbyist. Apparently, he hates that tag, even though he has indeed gotten very wealthy by taking big bucks from such special interest outfits as IBM, AstraZeneca, Microsoft and Siemens in exchange for helping them get favors from federal and state governments. But Gingrich, his lawyers and staff adamantly insist that it’s rude and crude to call him a lobbyist. No-no, they bark, The Newt is — ta-da! — “a visionary.”
Major corporations, they explain, pay up to $200,000 a year to the corrupt former-House speaker’s policy center, seeking nothing more from Newt than the sheer privilege of bathing in the soothing enlightenment of his transformative vision. Also, as the man himself constantly reminds everyone, he has a Ph By-God D. So he’s “Dr. Newt,” the certified visionary.
Yet the sales pitch to lure potential corporate clients to his center makes crystal cleat that the visionary services he offers entail precisely doing what (excuse the term) lobbyists do. For example, the center brags that Newt has “contacts at the highest levels” of government, and that being a paying customer “increases your channels of input to decision makers.” One corporate chieftain who hired the well-connected Washington insider for $7,500 a month (plus giving him stock options) says that Gingrich “made it very clear to us that he does not lobby, but that he could direct us to the right places in Washington.”
So, Mr. DoNotCallMeALobbyist is, in fact, selling his government contacts and peddling his political influence. But he does not lobby. Instead, we’re told that he directs, makes calls, arranges meetings, opens doors — and, of course, has visions.