NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich began receiving payments from Freddie Mac in 1999 under a contract that paid his consulting business $25,000 a month to work with the mortgage giant's chief lobbyist, according to a second agreement released Tuesday night.
The contract specifically excluded lobbying services, stating "nothing herein is or shall be construed as an agreement to provide lobbying services of any kind or engage in lobbying activities."
The Center for Health Transformation, founded by Gingrich, provided the second contract a day after releasing a 2006 agreement for Gingrich's services. The two contracts paid Gingrich's consulting business $1.65 million and required Gingrich to report to Freddie Mac's lobbying office.
The 1999 contract was signed in July and renewed through 2002, and the 2006 contract was renewed for one year in 2007, said Susan Meyers, a spokeswoman for the Center for Health Transformation.
Gingrich's work with Freddie Mac has received renewed scrutiny as GOP rival Mitt Romney has criticized the arrangements as influence peddling by the former House speaker. Gingrich has blasted Romney, saying he has mischaracterized his work in a desperate attempt to regain momentum in the Republican presidential race.
Gingrich in the past described his work for the government back mortgage company as that of a historian, and later he said he served as a strategic adviser. For months he has said he could not provide the Freddie Mac contracts related to his work because they were confidential, the property of a consulting business that he no longer ran. But after Romney's repeated criticism on the issue, Gingrich persuaded his former business partners to release the contracts.
Gingrich's ties to Freddie Mac could be a liability for him in Florida, where the next GOP primary is scheduled Jan. 31. The housing crisis hit the state particularly hard, and Freddie Mac has been blamed for contributing to the crisis.
Romney has pressed Gingrich further to release details of his work for Freddie Mac, including any work product or reports completed for the company that would show exactly what type of services he provided. Gingrich urged the consulting company he left last year to release the contracts, but no other materials have been released.
The second contract released Tuesday night provides more detail on the work Gingrich was hired to perform, including "serve as advisor to Freddie Mac in the areas of strategic planning and public policy." It also called on Gingrich, who is mentioned by name in the second contract, to "engage in discussions" with Freddie Mac's chief lobbyist and senior officers "to strategize on approaches to Freddie Mac business opportunities and challenges."
Gingrich, who was hired to help the company reach out to Republicans, also was expected to "contribute to Freddie Mac corporate planning and business goals" and to "meet with major stakeholders of Freddie Mac."
The contract also states that "neither The Gingrich Group nor Newt Gingrich will provide lobbying services of any kind nor participate in lobbying activities on Freddie Mac's behalf."
The second contract also provided up to $1,000 a month for Gingrich's expenses.
Freddie Mac reserved the right to cancel the 1999 contract if Gingrich, who resigned his House leadership after a poor showing by Republicans in the 1998 election, decided to get back into government.
Other terms of the contract are similar to the first provided by the Center for Health Transformation, which was created by Gingrich in 2003 to focus on health-care issues. Gingrich left the center, formed as a part of his Gingrich Group consulting business, last year before announcing his candidacy for president.
Blackledge reported from Washington.