When you think about the Republicans' businessman-candidates, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain are the ones who come to mind. But credit has to be given to the man who managed to build a unique family of enterprises I like to call GloboNewtCorp. There may be no politician in recent years, not even Sarah Palin, who has turned his or her political celebrity into as lucrative a money machine as Newt Gingrich. Politico has some details:
During his decade on the political sidelines, Newt Gingrich got rich by building a network of companies and think tanks that pulled in more than $115 million in contributions and fees from powerful corporations and individuals...
Now, though, months after Gingrich stepped away from his businesses and groups to run for president, some of his enterprises have struggled: one major group folded, another is on the brink and a third is reportedly considering a sale.
The story of Gingrich's network, and the way in which it has been partly absorbed in his campaign, is an example of how the line between business and politics can blur when a politician uses connections and clout to build a Washington empire.
"I've never seen anything quite like what Newt did," said Norm Ornstein, a veteran of Washington’s non-profit policy world who worked with Gingrich during their time together at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where Ornstein is a resident scholar. "We've had plenty of political figures who’ve come out and done a lot of speaking at high rates, done some consulting, gone into lobbying, and made lots of money. But nobody that I’ve ever seen has come close to building the type of complicated web that Newt did and parlaying it into apparently as much incredible money as he did."
If Mitt Romney is right that corporations are people, GloboNewtCorp is Newt Gingrich. And the reason his organizations are struggling now that he's running for president is that they sell Newt, and without him they have no product to peddle. When news broke that Freddie Mac paid Gingrich as much as $1.6 million for "strategic consulting" that consisted of nothing more than a speech and a few conversations with executives, many people were shocked. But that was only the tip of the iceberg.
Consider the Center for Health Transformation, the "for-profit think tank" which Newt mentions often to show his innovative thinking on health care. In truth, it's little more than a scheme for Newt to squeeze money from the health care industry. The way it works is that if you're, say, an association of hospitals or pharmaceutical companies, you pay up to $200,000 a year for "membership," and in return you get to talk to Newt, and he'll take your ideas and present them as his own in op-eds and on television. The group took in $55 million over the last decade. And Newt has a whole network of these organizations.
When he announced his presidential run, I predicted that Newt would run a "campaign of ideas" that contained no actual ideas anyone could discern. But there is one idea he's been extremely successful at promoting, one so compelling it has earned him tens of millions. It's the idea of Newt. And once his presidential campaign ends, he'll be more in demand than ever.