The Rachel Maddow Show | November 18, 2011
MADDOW: Gingrich has made a career for the last few decades out of flirting with running for president. But when Newt Gingrich announced earlier this year that he was going to stop just the flirting and finally make it legal -- well, at least he was going to form an exploratory Web site about setting up an exploratory committee about maybe running for president, when Newt Gingrich did that earlier this year, the Web site address he chose was, NewtExplore2012.com . Which is a hard thing to remember, and sort of an awkward construction even for a Web address . Why did he pick NewtExplore2012.com ? Maybe it's because ExploreNewt2012.com was already taken. For a long time, ExploreNewt2012.com was home to this long boring video of marbled Newts eating stuff in a dish. Whoever owns ExploreNewt2012.com doesn't just like salamanders, they've also been clearly sort of following the campaign all year long. When Newt Gingrich was really ostentatiously not campaigning hard and going to places like Hawaii , ExploreNewt2012 redirected for a while to a Web site offering humpback whale retreats in Hawaii . When it was revealed Newt Gingrich had a half million dollar rotating charge account at Tiffany's , the jeweler, explore Newt started redirecting to this nice Tiffany's jewelry page. It's a heart. Now, if you go to ExploreNewt2012.com today, it automatically redirects you to this federal housing agency, Freddie Mac . As Mr. Gingrich has had his recent upward thrust in the polls, pretty much every day has started with a new revelation about how exactly Newt Gingrich makes all of his money . The Freddie Mac thing that is referenced here, by the redirected ExploreNewt2012 , the Freddie Mac thing came to light last week when asked at the CNBC debate about having taken $300,000 from the federal housing agency Freddie Mac . Mr. Gingrich previously criticized Freddie Mac as being responsible for the financial meltdown. He described it as essentially a corrupting thing. He piously demanded that politicians who got money from Freddie Mac should be forced to give that money back. So Newt , himself, taking 300 grand from them was kind of a scandal -- kind of a do as I say, not as I do hypocrisy moment. And also an interesting window into how he makes his money . Since then, it's emerged that it wasn't actually $300,000 that Newt Gingrich got from Freddie Mac , it was more like $1.6 million . Oh, no, wait, maybe more like $1.8 million . Oh, no, wait, I guess we don't know. As of today , the Gingrich campaign says it's still counting. Mr. Gingrich has tried to explain this away by saying that Freddie Mac paid him that kind of money as a historian, a housing historian. Housing historian is apparently a thing. It's a very well-paid thing. If we are taking Newt Gingrich 's candidacy seriously enough now, that we are now looking into how he makes his money , I got to say, the $1.6 million to be a housing historian for Freddie Mac , that's sort of as legitimate as it gets in Newt Gingrich 's world. When you look at how Newt Gingrich makes his money , when you look at what his profession is, the $1.6 million for being a housing historian deal, that makes him look righteous compared to the rest of his portfolio. Right before the 2010 midterm elections, you may remember the story about doctors all across the country getting faxes, faxes like this one from the desk of Speaker Newt Gingrich . The facts complete with fake real handwriting, a font made to look like handwriting, was sent to alert these doctors that they had been personally selected by Newt as one of his 2010 champions of medicine. The congratulatory letter was an invitation. Quote, "I'm having a party in Washington at the historic Ronald Reagan Building on election night, November 2nd , to honor you and a few others who have been selected to receive this prestigious honor." In addition to the banquet that you got to go to, there was a framed certificate signed by Newt Gingrich , himself. You can see on the facts written there as if Newt has just scrawled it in there jauntily in his own hand. This would look great in your office. One of the doctors who got the fax was a mother of a good reporter at " Huffington Post " named Sam Stein . Sam Stein followed up on his mother's spam fax award offer from Newt Gingrich and discovered that in order to attend this exclusive party with Newt Gingrich in Washington , all his mother would have had to do was send Newt Gingrich $5,000. Now, Mr. Gingrich didn't just pull this scam with doctors, he was doing this sort of thing with all sorts of businesses. Like, for example, the strip club in Dallas to which he tried to bestow an entrepreneur of the year award, if they'd give him thousands of dollars as well. That scam included a commemorative gavel that was fake signed by Newt Gingrich . This is how Newt Gingrich has been making his money . This is the ka- ching that makes Newt Gingrich go. He's a Nigerian prince e-mail send me your bank details guy. He does email spam , fax spam, direct mail, suckerless, bottom feeding, prey on the gullible financial scams. But the key to them, the hook, the thing that makes it work for Newt Gingrich is that it's all based on the glamour and prestige of Newt Gingrich , the prestige of the speakership of the House , which can be yours for a fee. That's what they're selling. It's the Newt Gingrich signed gavel, right? It is the Newt Gingrich framed certificate. It is the party where you're allowed -- where you're guaranteed that you'll be allowed to be near Newt Gingrich . It is the letter you get from the desk of Speaker Newt Gingrich . And today, we have learned that it's not just small businesses and doctors who've been suckered into the whole access to Newt fund-raising spam scam. It's big companies, too. Today, " Washington Post " reports that the Newt Gingrich 's health care think tank , the Center for Health Transformation , collected $37 million over the past eight years from some of the biggest health care companies in the country. Companies like AstraZeneca and Blue Cross Blue Shield and G.E. Healthcare and Wellpoint -- all of these companies would pay Newt 's for h-profit health care thing, something like $200,000 a year in membership dues. What would they get for their membership dues money ? Well, in part, they'd get special access to the former House speaker . The immediate scandal of the health care thing this week for Newt Gingrich is that his scammy access to Newt , for-profit health care organization endorsed the individual mandate in health insurance . They had a whole plan on their Web site titled " Insure All Americans ." And that's awkward in light of comments like this by Mr. Gingrich while campaigning earlier this year.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE : I'm completely opposed to the Obama -care mandate on individuals. I fought it for 2 1/2 years at the Center for Health Transformation .
MADDOW: Actually, no, at your Center for Health Transformation , your big scammy, for-profit health reform thing, you specifically endorsed the mandate on individuals. As " The Washington Post " notes today, the, quote, " Gingrich health center support for such a mandate appears to have disappeared from the center's Web site as of Thursday." So, that's the immediate kind of short-term scandal. Just like Newt Gingrich said taking money from Freddie Mac was a bad thing, even though he took a boatload of money from Freddie Mac , here he says he was opposed to the individual mandate even though his organization quite dizzily promoted it for a long time. Yes, you can find all sorts of short-term, small-bore scandals like that in Newt Gingrich world. But just do yourself a favor, particularly if anybody from the -- my colleagues in the Beltway media right now, just take a step back and look at the bigger picture here. I mean, stumbling on this Newt Gingrich $37 million from the health insurance industry story, stumbling on that and deciding the scandal here is that he's been two-faced about the individual mandate , it's little bit like waking up to a home invasion and being outraged that your attacker is tracking mud on your carpet. You're sort of missing the bigger point. It's a home invasion . Yes, Newt Gingrich took contradictory positions on the health insurance mandate , but he also made $37 million selling companies access to himself. The Center for Health Transformation put what companies could get for their money in print, and its materials for those companies. What were they offering? Quote, " Access to Newt Gingrich " and, quote, "direct Newt interaction." And that was just his health care venture. We also found out today in " The Wall Street Journal " that Newt Gingrich was paid nearly $1 million over the last seven years by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce . What did Gingrich do for his $120,000 a year salary from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ? Well, according to " The Wall Street Journal ," quote, "Mr. Gingrich 's assignment with the Chamber of Commerce was to attend dinner -- attend dinner or lunch with chamber officials every few months." A hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year for access to Newt , and for the honor of feeding near him. And so, yes, the Chamber of Commerce supported President Obama 's stimulus package and Newt Gingrich is campaigning against the stimulus so there's two-facedness there. And yes, his health reform group was pro-individual mandate . Now he says he's always been against the individual mandate . You can find policy scandals. You can find policy scandals and hints about Newt Gingrich 's, shall we say, transactional relationship with policy everywhere you look in his career. But, look around. If you get hung up on the little awkwardnesses, you sort of miss the greater and frankly vastly more entertaining story which is Newt Gingrich , ka-ching, is a scam. Newt Gingrich 's profession since he got kicked out of Congress under a cloud of ethics charges related to fund- raising, his full-time profession has been selling access to himself as someone who is influential because of his time as a public servant. He's been marketing the speakership of the House for his own private financial gain, to anybody who will pay him, anybody he can scam money out of -- even if he has to do it by a fax with fake handwriting. For decades, he's been doing this. This is why he is now a zillionaire. Newt Gingrich wants you to think of him as a political prophet. And he totally -- he's right. He means it in the homonym sense. The next time he says it, make him write it down because this is what it has actually been for him. Here's the relevant context for understanding the presidential candidacy of Newt Gingrich . Right now, Newt Gingrich is getting taken seriously as a presidential candidate , right? He's having his moment. A new poll out in New Hampshire today shows Newt Gingrich in a statistical tie with Mitt Romney in New Hampshire . New Hampshire is supposed to be the one place Mitt Romney has absolutely locked up. And this poll may be an outlier, but in this poll, Newt Gingrich gained 21 points just in the last month. So, if you're a candidate, how do you deal with something like that, a surge like that? How is Newt Gingrich marking this huge development in his presidential campaign prospects? Well, he is in the northeast tonight, but he's not in New Hampshire . He's at Harvard university tonight screening his new DVD , "A City Upon a Hill ." to be followed immediately afterwards by a Newt Gingrich book signing . Step right up, folks. Step right up. Ka-ching! Joining us now is David Corn , Washington bureau chief for " Mother Jones " and an MSNBC political analyst . Mr. Corn , thank you for being here.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: Thank you, Rachel . I don't know what I can say after all that.
MADDOW: Well, tell me if there's some secret parallel universe in which Massachusetts is the right place for a Republican presidential contender to be in November before an election.
CORN: Well, particularly, Harvard square , you know. He's really going to the belly of the beast and taking on the elites that would plot against Middle America . That's all I can gather up there. I mean, I have to say, listening to you, everything you said I agree with, but I do think the flip-flop on the individual mandate is significant only because it's symbolic of basically his whole career. Not -- I mean, before the for-profit stuff, I'm talking about the 20, 30 years he spent in public life as a politician, which was always to be as situational as possible. He could come up there with the most slippery denials and the most fierce attacks. It didn't matter if they contradicted one another. I mean, I take a little pride in being the first one this week to point out that the Center for Health Transformation , a for-profit think tank , I don't think there are any other for-profit think tanks out there, had this plan on their site calling for an individual mandate . And after my story came out as " The Post " reports today, poof, it's gone. It's no longer there. But then today I found something else in that same -- on the Web site for the same group. In June 2007 , he wrote an op-ed, a column for his own Web site . Maybe they paid him for it. Who knows?
MADDOW: I'm sure they did.
CORN: That said exactly the same thing but went further. It said Congress should pass a law mandating that people get health care insurance. This is the exact opposite to the T of his claim that Obama wants to take away your freedom by making individual mandates. So -- but this, you know, this is, as I say, representative of everything he said in public life and public policy from the get-go. He can just flip, turn on a dime. You saw that with Paul Ryan , you saw that with Libya , you saw that with climate change. I'm just talking about this year. Not the past 33 years.
MADDOW: And talk, I think, setting him up as a person who has a flip- flop problem, that is the reputation Mitt Romney has in politics. It has not been the reputation that Newt Gingrich has largely because he insists so loudly that he is so principled -- I think sometimes his insistence on that blocks out anybody documenting anything to the contrary or believing it even when it is documented. But I wonder if that's even going to be a liability for him. I mean, has flip-flopping been a liability for Mitt Romney up until this point?
CORN: Well, I think he's not a flip-flopper. I think he's a gyrator. He never stops spinning and twirling. He plays musical chairs with himself and I think, you know -- and then the gets caught in these lies. I mean, Mitt Romney flip-flops. He goes from one position to the next and he comes up with bogus justifications for it, but he sort of lands where he lands. Newt Gingrich can't get his story straight. It's always, always spinning it. And I think we saw that, whether it's about policy, or whether it's about Freddie Mac . You know, I'm a historian, no, I give strategic advice, I got $300,000, no, I got $1.6 million . I didn't lobby, but I warned them not to do what they're doing, but, no, "Bloomberg" reports I didn't warn them. So, you saw the same thing in Tiffany's . Any time he's met by a challenge, whether about his personal behavior, his political behavior , his professional behavior, he just becomes a whirling dervish of whatever he thinks will get him through that moment. It's exhausting watching him. I don't know what it would be like to live that life. And I think this is all becoming a piece. I think, you know, when even Republican primary voters, they want to feel that the person they're voting for is to some degree real. And Newt Gingrich is just -- I think all this is piling up. It takes a while to hit. You see this with Herman Cain , when those first charges came out about inappropriate behavior -- you know, his poll numbers were still good. He got a lot of money . But, you know, he started eventually dropping in the polls. And, you know, some people call it cratering. I think Newt Gingrich might have hit his high point and I don't think he can sustain this.
MADDOW: While he's up, he is definitely going to do as many activities -- as many campaign events as possible, where he can both screen and DVD and do a book signing right after. He's hitting a doubleheader tonight in Washington .
CORN: And the most important thing tonight, Rachel , is --
CORN: You get a discount if you buy both.
MADDOW: David Corn , Washington bureau chief for " Mother Jones " -- ka- ching -- and MSNBC political analyst -- David , thank you. I really appreciate it.
CORN: Thank you, Rachel .