GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said the reason he didn’t do any lobbying after leaving Congress was because he “was charging $60,000 a speech” and didn’t need the money.
“I did no lobbying of any kind, period,” Gingrich said at a campaign stop on Tuesday in South Carolina. “For a practical reason — and I’m going to be really direct, OK? I was charging $60,000 a speech and the number of speeches was going up, not down.”
Gingrich also referred to himself as a celebrity.
Gingrich has had to defend against allegations that he lobbied heavily on behalf of healthcare companies and bailed-out U.S. mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which he has blamed on the campaign trail for the 2008 financial crisis.
Gingrich received at least $1.6 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac, and one of his for-profit healthcare think tanks took in at least $37 million from healthcare companies and trade groups.
Gingrich is adamant that he did no lobbying after leaving Congress, and said the payments were for “strategic advice” from firms that were paying for his historical knowledge.
"I was being paid to offer a series of — and I did this, as I said a while ago, at a number of companies who would come in and ask for advice on a wide range of things. And as long as they were topics that I was interested in and topics that I cared about, I was very happy to share ideas with people," Gingrich said previously.
"What I didn't do and would not do is I didn't go and lobby the Congress. I didn't go and lobby the executive branch. I didn't try to represent any position I didn't believe in beforehand. And I think that's a very big difference between being a lobbyist and being a strategic consultant,” he said.
Gingrich’s claim that he didn’t lobby because he didn’t need the money echoes a statement made by Rick Perry at an earlier GOP debate that invited criticism.
“If you are saying I can be bought for $5,000, I am offended,” Perry said.
The statement was in response to an allegation that as Texas governor, Perry’s controversial mandate to vaccinate teenage girls was in part due to influence from lobbyists at pharmaceutical companies.
The Texas Legislature ultimately nixed the vaccination mandate.