Newt’s Presidential Campaign Scam

Newt’s Presidential Campaign Scam January 3, 2012

I have said many times that I don’t think Newt Gingrich ever really thought he had a chance of winning the Republican nomination, nor do I think Herman Cain did. I think they both started their campaigns with a primarily financial goal in mind, and I think they both achieved those goals. The Washington Examiner spells out the many ways Newt has turned his campaign into financial opportunity.

To judge the success of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, don’t look at the number of county delegates he wins in next Tuesday’s Iowa’s caucuses, or even where he places in New Hampshire’s primary the following week. Gingrich delegates to the Republican National Convention will not be the proper measure of the former speaker’s bid. The increase in Newt’s net worth will be the true gauge…

Newt Inc. is the unofficial name of a small network of enterprises making money for Gingrich on the strength of his name and reputation. “American Solutions for Winning the Future” was one such enterprise, anchored by two books (“Winning the Future,” 2005 and “Real Change,” 2008), and aimed at building an active network of Gingrich followers debating various “solutions” in web forums — “The American Solutions Community,” as Gingrich & Co. called it.

Anyone who has worked in marketing understands what was going on here. Gingrich lured in motivated private citizens to his “Solutions Lab,” promising them they could “collaborate on developing policy solutions to the many challenges facing America,” as one book put it. These right-leaning idealists’ email addresses and personal information was then compiled into valuable lists.

Newt Inc. also used blunter tools to harvest valuable conservative email addresses. In 2008, for instance, Republicans were reeling from a teetering economy and the dismal poll ratings of George W. Bush, and so they focused on expanding offshore drilling. “It’s our only winning issue,” one top GOP aide told me. American Solutions began a petition campaign called “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less,” and raked in 100,000 online “signatures.” These sort of online petitions are ubiquitous in today’s politics. The organizers typically deliver the signatures to Capitol Hill or the White House, to little or no effect. The real purpose is building a mailing list that can then be sold to anyone looking for thousands of politically interested conservatives, or folks worried about gas prices.

In the case of Newt Inc., you can always sell your mailing lists to your own presidential campaign. In a July campaign filing, Newt 2012 (Gingrich’s presidential campaign) listed a $47,005 debt to Newt Gingrich with the line item reading “Direct Mail List/Travel.” The Washington Post reports that $42,000 of that was for the mailing list.

He’s also had his campaign pay money to his other business ventures for web development and used campaign stops more for selling books than policy proposals. And then there’s this:

Even when Newt Inc. wasn’t profiting from Newt 2012, Newt himself was benefiting. Consider his campaign-funded trip with his wife to Hawaii in August, coinciding with their wedding anniversary. A Gingrich spokesman told Politico the trip was for fundraising, but his schedule listed no fundraisers in the state and FEC data shows no August contributions to Gingrich from any donors in Hawaii — and only one since August, for $900, surely less than his plane fare.

And there was, of course, his vacation to Greece, which he later claimed was to do research on the European debt crisis. None of this is particularly unusual, of course, politicians of all parties sell their own books at campaign stops for instance. But I think that was the entire goal of his campaign, along with resurrecting his reputation as someone to take seriously, which will then boost his appearance fees and bring more clients to his various moneymaking schemes.

We saw what Newt was all about with his various award-giving scams, where his organizations would send letters to doctors and business owners telling them that they were getting an award that Gingrich would personally give to them at a ceremony in Washington, DC — all they had to do was spend a few thousands dollars on tickets to the dinner.

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  • d cwilson

    Newt Inc. is the unofficial name of a small network of enterprises making money for Gingrich on the strength of his name and reputation.

    Amazed that his reputation is worth more than eight cents.

    Months ago, I predicted that if Newt ever became the Not-Mitt, he would suddenly act like George Costanza trying to get Steinbrenner to fire him. Based on some of the statements he’s made this month (turning elementary school kids into part-time janitors is one of the least offensive ones), he went full Costanza months ago.

  • raven

    They are just copying Sarah Palin. And Bristol Palin.

    Being famous for being famous.

    Oh well. Money collected from the faithful and spent on fun vacations and expensive toys is money they can’t use to overthrow the US government and set up a new Dark Age.

  • dingojack

    Yep – Write an ad campaign that appeals to much less than 20% of the audience (and diminishing yearly) while completely alienating the rest. So much so, that the majority will not only avoid buying your product, but they will actively tell everyone they can not to buy your product either thus preventing you getting any new sales to replenish your dwindling base!

    What a brilliant advertising strategy!

    Why hasn’t anyone thought of it before? @@

    Dingo

    —–

    Clearly, it’s thinking like that made America – mediocre.

  • Ben P

    They are just copying Sarah Palin. And Bristol Palin.

    Being famous for being famous.

    That may be the case with Cain, after all he went from CEO to an executive of a lobbying group to talk-radio host. (what an interesting career track…) It’s reasonable to expect he wants a Mike Huckabee type future as a niche black conservative on Fox and other media outlets.

    Newt’s scheme on the other hand predates the Palins and Cain both in when he personally began it and the nature of the scheme itself.

    As Ed describes it, the Palin Schtick is a “celebrity without portfolio.” Basically not unlike a reality TV star. You do outrageous things to get into the headlines, and then you make money off of your ability to make headlines. This sort of thing has always existed to some extent, but has only really come into its own with the internet age and the maturity of an entertainment centric media.

    Newt is something much older, an influence peddler. Politics is a means to personal power and personal wealth, but not just for those at its apex. Newt’s established himself as a go-to conservative think tank person and lobbyist and created a small empire of consulting companies around these traits. Newt realized he doesn’t need to be the king. He’s perfectly content to be the person whispering in the King’s ear while using that position of power to obtain substantial personal wealth.

  • jamessweet

    Newt Gingrich is that rare person who I suspect is truly amoral.

    Even people we figure must have not a shred of conscience — oil company execs trying to warp the evidence on global warming, child-raping priests, etc. — I think the vast majority of people go home and tell themselves they are still good people, that they find some way of rationalizing what they are doing, some way of believing their own bullshit that they have to shovel.

    I’m not sure Newt does that. I think he might just go home and laugh all the way to the bank.

  • laurentweppe

    And there was, of course, his vacation to Greece, which he later claimed was to do research on the European debt crisis

    Who knows: personnally, I Did spent three mounth in San Francisco to study the American housing crisis, and it felt like holidays… except the part where I actually did research on the subject, interviewed people, gathered data, and ended up coming back depressed and muttering “they’re all mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad” to myself.

    So, maybe Newt really did research on the EU debt crisis, realized that in the Greek case, one of the main reason of the crisis was the fact that the Greek Fisc is a joke, and came back a changed man willing to stop the anti-tax demagoguery of his party in order to avert a similar fate to his fellow countrymen…

    Or not.

  • mingfrommongo

    It is a measure of how far Mr Gingrich has fallen that The Examiner took space away from its usual columnists Tonto, Tarzan, and Frankenstein (“HRRR…Obama BAD! Democrats BAD!) to publish something worth reading. I did the puzzles as usual, and threw the rest directly into the recycle bin. Thanks Ed, for taking one for the team and pointing this out to us.

  • Chris from Europe

    @laurentweppe

    What’s your take on “Merkozy”? I think we have enough people that are mad, especially in Germany.

  • laurentweppe

    What’s your take on “Merkozy”? I think we have enough people that are mad, especially in Germany.

    There is no Merkozy. It’s a stupid play on word built around the “Franco-German couple”. Both Sarkozy and Merkel are first and foremost motivated by keeping their own national electorate, which are both older, richer, more prone to deny that their country would be nothing more than a tiny irrelevant principality without the European Union and therefore more sensitives to the pandering of europhobic demagogues while facing difficult if not hopeless prospects for reelection. Which means that while both know that Europe needs a federal government with a much bigger budget, instead of acting like the two-headed juggernaut forcibly leading the continent like some anglo-saxon media claim they’re acting way too slowly, because their own voters are still clinging to the post-imperial fiction of their countries’ “grandeur nationale”.

    Hopefully, the Union will survive until 2013, at which point, both Merkel and Sarko should have lost their majority and be replaced by socialists: after all, establishing a left-wing ruled European Republic is the great dream of social-democrats.

  • lpetrich

    Newt Gingrich had admired Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy in his youth:

    Decline of the Galactic Empire = Decline of the US

    Trantor = Washington, DC

    Hari Seldon = him

    The Foundation = Newt, Inc.

  • dingojack

    As I said when you first posted this:

    Second Foundation = The Democratic Party?

    Dingo

  • laurentweppe

    Second Foundation = The Democratic Party?

    Naaaaaaah: Obama is the Mule: a powerful mutant with mind-controlling power /sarcasm

  • danielkim

    So, Gingrich is kind of like “The Producers”?