Congress unlikely to probe Gingrich's Freddie work
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional committees are in no rush to investigate what U.S. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich did for up to $1.8 million in consulting fees from troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
Some activities of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, its sister government-backed housing finance company, have been examined - and criticized - by panels of lawmakers, particularly the House of Representatives committees on Financial Services and Oversight.
But there appears to be little appetite in the House or the Senate for aggressive fresh investigations into Freddie Mac's dealings with Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House.
A Bloomberg News story this week said Gingrich was paid between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with Freddie Mac, the second-largest provider of mortgage funds in the United States.
Gingrich said initially he was retained by Freddie Mac as a historian then acknowledged on Wednesday he received consulting fees for providing "strategic advice."
Congressional officials said it was highly unlikely the House Oversight or Financial Services panels would be interested in investigating what work Gingrich did for Freddie Mac given that the committees, like the House as a whole, are controlled by Republicans.
Earlier this week, the House Oversight committee released a report and held a hearing criticizing Obama administration policy on the awarding of substantial bonuses to executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now operating under government conservatorships.
It is possible Gingrich's dealings with Freddie Mac could "come up" at some point in the future, an official of the House Oversight committee said, but at present the panel had "no plans" to look into the matter.
One committee that would have jurisdiction over the matter and is controlled Democrats is the Senate Banking Committee.
"At this time, issues related to Mr. Gingrich's contract at Freddie Mac before the FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency) took over as the conservator do not appear to justify a hearing of the Banking Committee," committee spokesman Sean Oblack told Reuters. "But we will continue our close oversight with FHFA."
One reason Democrats may have little enthusiasm for investigations of the political activities of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is that prominent Democrats - including Thomas Donilon, President Barack Obama's current National Security Advisor - were also deeply involved.
Fannie and Freddie hired figures such as Donilon and Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff, as part of a campaign aimed at protecting government ties that allowed them to borrow money cheaply from financial markets.
A spokesman for Freddie Mac said Gingrich had worked for the organization as a consultant but it would not discuss how much he was paid or what he did, other than to say he did not work as a lobbyist.
Because it is not a government agency, Freddie Mac is exempt from responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, officials said.
But under certain circumstances, a congressional committee would have the power to issue a subpoena compelling the organization to turn over records relating to the payment and work of consultants like Gingrich.
(Editing by John O'Callaghan)
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