Sept. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Newt Gingrich Situation Highlights Lobbying Dilemma

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Marianne Gingrich’s background in urban planning and her influence as a Congressman’s wife helped her lay the groundwork in 1988 and 1989 for several federal grants still benefiting a development group based in her Ohio hometown.

As Newt Gingrich was rising in the House Republican ranks, his then-wife, Marianne, was hired by a former employer to extract grant money from the Economic Development Administration, a federal agency President Ronald Reagan sought to eliminate and that her husband oversaw from his seat on the House Public Works and Transportation Committee.

Marianne Gingrich’s background in urban planning and her influence as a Congressman’s wife helped her lay the groundwork in 1988 and 1989 for several federal grants still benefiting the development group based in her Ohio hometown.

Newt Gingrich’s financial disclosure reports for those years show that GOPAC, his political organization, also paid for the couple to visit Youngstown, Ohio, where the Eastgate Development and Transportation Agency was based. Employees there recall seeing the Gingriches around the office, but Roll Call could not confirm whether Marianne Gingrich used the GOPAC-funded trips to visit her employer.

While Marianne Gingrich’s lobbying work would not violate House rules even today, it highlights a familial loophole that groups continue to exploit for political gain.

“Businesses will frequently hire family members of Members of Congress to do lobbying for them,” said Craig Holman of the advocacy group Public Citizen. Holman lobbies Congress on ethics matters.

Yet “there is no specific rule barring that,” according to Stanley Brand, a former House counsel who advises Members of Congress on ethics issues. He said the issue is whether the former Speaker “did something specifically to intervene on her behalf to get the contract.”

The Gingrich campaign did not respond to multiple requests for an interview. A lawyer for Marianne Gingrich declined to comment.

Roll Call obtained a copy of her contracts with the Ohio development group, now called the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments. They show she was hired to help the group become an official economic development district, which it did in 1992. The status came with federal funding for strategic planning on how to create jobs and draw businesses to the area.

By the time it was granted, Marianne Gingrich had completed her work with the group and her husband had left the House Public Works Committee for leadership posts in his party.

But the lucrative designation was years in the making, and Gingrich played a role, according to her former colleague John Getchey — now Eastgate’s executive director.

He credited Gingrich with laying the groundwork for the Youngstown Airport and surrounding area to be designated a foreign-trade zone years later.

Gingrich traveled with her husband to Youngstown several times during that period, and Getchey said he remembers the couple visiting Eastgate’s office.

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