Brand Newt In Trouble

Since leaving Congress, Newt Gingrich managed to put together a souped-up version of the way congressional heavy hitters make a living after leaving the world of legislating. As befitting a historical figure like himself, simply signing on with one of Washington's elite law firm/lobby shops wouldn't be enough. Instead, Gingrich constructed what I like to call GloboNewtCorp, a network of quasi-think tanks, policy centers, and publishing enterprises whose role was to promote all things Newt. They worked symbiotically, each feeding off each other's work. So for instance, if you're a health-care company, you could pay six figures to Newt's Center for Health Transformation, you weren't only paying for Newt's access to powerful Republicans, you also saw your favored policy ideas show up in the products of other arms of GloboNewtCorp, like Newt's op-eds and books.

One would imagine that a presidential campaign could only aid GloboNewtCorp in acquiring new clients and new income, heightening Newt's visibility and reputation as a visionary, knowledgeable insider. But it seems to have had the opposite effect. This morning we learn that the Center for Health Transformation, one of the cornerstones of Newt's empire (the "for-profit think-tank" raked in $55 million over the last decade), has filed for bankupcy protection. And I predict that it won't be the last arm of GloboNewtCorp that suffers because of Gingrich's presidential campaign.

It isn't just because that campaign has reminded everyone of Gingrich's peculiar combination of grandiosity, impracticality, and general dickishness. Along the way, the other Republican candidates made an issue of Gingrich's relationship with Freddie Mac, which paid him $1.6 million for "strategic consulting" that consisted of nothing more than giving a couple of speeches and offering some informal advice. Freddie Mac was hardly the only company that in recent years gave Gingrich absurd sums for basically nothing. But now that everyone knows just what it is Newt sells to corporations, what company is going to shell out six or seven figures for the benefit of his wisdom? If you were on the board of a corporation, would you approve that?

Many politicians find that an unsuccessful presidential run boosts their career prospects nicely—Rick Santorum, for instance, shouldn't have trouble making a living from now on (not that he had too much trouble before). But Newt may be that rare candidate who had a smashingly lucrative pre-campaign career, but then found that his campaign destroyed his ability to milk unsuspecting people for cash. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

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