But neither of the remaining contenders represents a danger to Washington’s political culture. Mitt Romney, trained at Harvard and financed lavishly by Wall Street and special interests, is a technocrat and a second-generation politician driven more by ambition than any of the various ideologies he has assumed over the years.
Conservatives were justifiably searching for an alternative to Willard Milquetoast, but they wound up with an anti-Romney who is the consummate Washington insider: a man who has made himself a multimillionaire by peddling his influence in the capital.
“I did no lobbying of any kind, period,” Gingrich said this week, explaining why the $1.6-million-plus he earned from lending his influence to mortgage giant Freddie Mac wasn’t technically lobbying. “I’m going to be really direct, okay? I was charging $60,000 a speech. And the number of speeches was going up, not down. Normally, celebrities leave and they gradually sell fewer speeches every year. We were selling more.”
So he wasn’t lobbying — because he was instead trading on his name and influence in Washington to give speeches for $60,000 a pop. That’s well more, for an hour’s work, than the median household income in the United States, which last year was $49,445. Newton Leroy Gingrich, self-described celebrity, poses no threat to Washington’s pay-to-play economy.
My Post colleagues Karen Tumulty and Dan Eggen recently quoted a Gingrich lawyer as saying the various tentacles of Newt Inc. have generated close to $100 million in revenue over the past decade. Virtually all of these for-profit activities trade on his name and influence: health-care think tank, consulting, speeches, TV appearances, books and more. His nonprofit political entities have brought in an additional $52 million — some of which is used to charter jets for Gingrich, who “earned” $2.5 million in personal income last year.