Mea culpa, I misspoke, my bad. I stand corrected. I have called Newt Gingrich a lobbyist.
Apparently, he hates that tag, even though he has indeed gotten very wealthy by taking big bucks from such special interest outfits as IBM, Astra Zeneca, Microsoft, and Siemens in exchange for helping them get favors from federal and state governments.
But Gingrich, his lawyers, and his staff adamantly insist that it's rude and crude to call him a lobbyist. No, no, they bark, the Newt is "a visionary."
Major corporations, they explain, pay up to $200,000 a year to the former House speaker's policy center for the sheer privilege of bathing in the soothing enlightenment of Newt's transformative vision. Also, as the man himself constantly reminds everyone, he has a Phd. So he's "Dr. Newt," the certified visionary.
Yet, the center's own sales pitch to lure potential corporate clients makes crystal clear that the visionary services he offers entail doing what (excuse the term) lobbyists do.
For example, the center brags that Newt has "contacts at the highest levels" of government, and that being a paying customer "increases your channels of input to decision-makers."
One corporate chieftain who hired the well-connected Washington insider for $7,500 a month plus stock options says that Gingrich "made it very clear to us that he does not lobby, but that he could direct us to the right places in Washington."
So, Mr. Do-Not-Call-Me-a-Lobbyist is, in fact, selling his government contacts and peddling his political influence. But he doesn't lobby. Instead, he directs, makes calls, arranges meetings, opens doors, and (of course) has visions.
I'm glad we got that cleared up. From now on, I'll call Newt what he is: a Washington influence peddler. Yes, that's much better.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker