Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- A lawyer for a consulting firm founded by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he was barring the release of a contract between the Republican presidential candidate and Freddie Mac.
Gingrich said last week it would be up to his partners in his former company, the Center for Health Transformation, to determine whether to release the documents. Earlier, he said he would be happy to release the contract, yet couldn’t make it public because Freddie Mac, the mortgage company now under U.S. conservatorship, refused to waive a confidentiality agreement.
Freddie Mac officials said last week that Gingrich was “welcome” to release the contract, under which his consulting firm was paid at least $1.6 million over eight years for his services.
Even though Freddie Mac is willing to allow the document to be made public, allowing a release of the documents in this case might put the confidentiality of other Center for Health Transformation clients at risk, said Stefan Passantino, an attorney representing the firm.
“The risks of any kind of confidentiality waiver, even if the company tried to limit it to one client or one document, are too great to be feasible,” Passantino said in an e-mail yesterday. “A limited waiver is not possible and I am unable to authorize such a release.”
Gingrich has faced questions in debates from his Republican presidential rivals about his relationship with the mortgage finance company. Freddie Mac and its sister company, Fannie Mae, have drawn about $153 billion in taxpayer aid since losses from risky mortgages caused them to be brought under U.S. conservatorship in September 2008.
The contract could answer some of the outstanding questions surrounding the deal, including precisely what Gingrich was paid and how much of it went directly to him. Since Bloomberg News first reported the payments on Nov. 16, these accounts have varied, with the former speaker lately claiming his firm was paid at least $1.6 million while he personally only received about $35,000 a year.
Gingrich’s description of the work he performed has differed from that of company insiders.
During a Nov. 9 Republican debate, Gingrich initially said he was paid to offer Freddie Mac advice as a “historian,” and that he cautioned officials that its business model was “insane.”
Former Freddie Mac officials familiar with Gingrich’s work for the company said he didn’t disparage their business model and was paid to build bridges to congressional Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with opponents seeking to dismantle it.
--With assistance from Tim Higgins in Detroit and Sandrine Rastello in Meredith, New Hampshire. Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Don Frederick
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