Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tiffany, lobbying, and the corruption of the Gingriches

So you remember that huge no-interest revolving charge account Tiffany gave Newt Gingrich? Well, even with Tiffany's explanation and The Newt's dismissals, the story just doesn't make any sense. It's still not clear how it worked and why the Gingriches needed it (other than to buy lots of really, really expensive jewelry, though they surely have enough money of their own not to need credit there), nor why they seem to have had the account in place, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to Tiffany, over two years, more than the usual 12-month period for Tiffany's "interest-free borrowing."

Regardless, there's actually much more to the story -- the smoking gun, if you will -- and it makes the Gingriches look even worse. Not just avarious and conspicuously consumptive but unethical and corrupt:

At the same time Tiffany & Co. was extending Callista (Bisek) Gingrich a virtual interest-free loan of tens of thousands of dollars, the diamond and silverware firm was spending big bucks to influence mining policy in Congress and in agencies over which the House Agriculture Committee -- where she worked -- had jurisdiction, official records show.

Filings by Tiffany's lobbyist, Cassidy & Co., and other government records show that the firm's spending on "mining law and mine permitting-related issues" in Congress, as well as the Forest Service, the Interior Department, and Interior's Bureau of Land Management shot up sharply between during the period when Callista Gingrich was chief clerk at the House Agriculture Committee.

Tiffany's annual lobbying expenditures rose from about $100,000 to $360,000 between 2005 and 2009, according to records assembled by the Center for Responsive Politics,  a nonpartisan government watchdog organization.

In other words, it looks like Tiffany may have been paying off Callista Gingrich, a major player on Capitol Hill (particularly in terms of Tiffany's lobbying interests), with what was essentially an interest-free loan for her and Newt.

Newt is denying any wrongdoing, which must mean he thinks there's nothing wrong with a company paying off (or giving gifts to) a Congressional staffer who just happens to be working for the committee the company just happens to be lobbying.

He says it wasn't preferential treatment. But it's pretty obvious it was blatant corruption. (And, yes, he really does seem to hold American democracy in such contempt.)


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