April 20, 2024

You’re the Boss: Newt Gingrich, Small-Business Owner

Newt Gingrich on “Face the Nation.”Chris Usher/CBS-TV, via Associated PressNewt Gingrich on “Face the Nation.”
The Agenda

Last Sunday, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and current Republican presidential candidate, told America that he was a small-business owner. The revelation came on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” as the candidate tried to deflect questions (PDF) from Bob Schieffer, the host, about his recently revealed debts to Tiffany and Company.

After Mr. Schieffer posited that the debt “just sticks out like a sore thumb,” Mr. Gingrich responded: “If the U.S. government was debt-free as I am, everybody in America would be celebrating. I think I have proven I can manage money. As a small-business man, I run four small businesses. They have been profitable. They’ve employed people. You know, this is the opposite of the Obama model.”

It turns out that Mr. Gingrich — whose interest in small businesses has been previously noted in this blog — has operated at least five companies, according to his spokesman, Rick Tyler. The companies, with one notable exception, mostly appear to be in the business of marketing Newt Gingrich.

For example, Gingrich Communications was responsible for promoting Mr. Gingrich’s public appearances, said Mr. Tyler, including his Fox News contract (canceled when Mr. Gingrich declared his candidacy) and his Web site, newt.org. “It was built on Newt as a brand,” he said. At its height, the company employed 15 people, Mr. Tyler said. However, the company was dissolved once Mr. Gingrich began his campaign. “You can’t have a company manage a brand while you have a campaign manage a brand,” Mr. Tyler said. The campaign has taken over the Web site.

Some of the Gingrich Communications employees went to the campaign, others to a separate company, Gingrich Productions. According to the company’s Web site, it is “a performance and production company featuring the work of Newt and Callista Gingrich. Newt and Callista host and produce historical and public policy documentaries, write books, record audio books and voiceovers, produce photographic essays, and make television and radio appearances.”

Gingrich Productions, Mr. Tyler said, is largely about Callista Gingrich. “It was her company, her vision,” he said. It was originally formed in 2007 as a subsidiary of Gingrich Communications, and today has about five employees. Another former Gingrich Communications subsidiary, FGH Publications, was “responsible for production of historical and fictional novels,” Mr. Tyler said in an e-mail.

Gingrich Holdings, with about three employees, provided back-office support for the other companies in the Gingrich portfolio. Mr. Tyler said that the campaign had not paid the Gingrich companies for anything, including the Web site.

Yet the oldest Gingrich business doesn’t fit this mold — or any other. When Mr. Gingrich organized the Gingrich Group, in 1999, it was a standard-issue ex-legislator consultancy with a diverse roster of corporate clients. (Technically, it was not a lobbying firm.) But eventually Mr. Gingrich became interested in health care reform and “in having an organization that could attract those kinds of cutting edge companies that were providing solutions to some of the biggest problems in health care,” said David Merritt, Gingrich Group executive vice president. “Over time, those nonhealth clients were dropped, and then the Gingrich Group became the Center for Health Transformation.” (Mr. Gingrich sold his interest in the business to his partners when he became a presidential candidate.)

The Center for Health Transformation is now, as Mr. Tyler described it, a “for-profit membership organization” that seeks to foster an innovative, intelligent, and, above all, free-market health care system. About 80 to 90 member companies and organizations pay $5,000 to $200,000 to help shape the debate and, as Mr. Merritt put it, “to participate in developing some of the solutions that we think will transform the system.” A handful of companies remain consulting clients.

It’s an innovative proposition in a couple respects. As a post-Congressional career, Mr. Merritt said, it’s unusual for being “solutions-based and not based on lobbying for a particular company or carrying somebody’s water.” Similarly, he noted, it stands apart from many member-based organizations, which typically take direction from the membership. Finally, it’s a novel model for a public policy organization, since most are nonprofit and tax-exempt.

Mr. Tyler agreed. “I think we invented it,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=9f4a2c6f322d9f438f2c93ee66c64d52

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