This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 17, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, well, there's a new frontrunner, and he is here. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joins us. Good evening, Mr. Speaker.
NEWT GINGRICH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE/FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Good evening. It's good to be with you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let's talk about some news that I think you probably will find very good news tonight. The Rasmussen poll in the state of Iowa, where the first caucuses -- or where the caucuses come January 3rd -- you now lead, 32 percent to 19 percent for Governor Romney, 13 percent for Mr. Cain and 10 percent for Congressman Paul. Thirty-two percent -- what do you attribute that jump to?
GINGRICH: I think a lot of people have been looking for substance. I think they have been looking for solutions as big as 9 percent unemployment, solutions as big as $2 trillion annual deficits. And my sense was that in the last couple of debates, people sort of checked off and began saying to each other, Gee, you know, I think Newt has the right ideas.
And as they went to Newt.org and looked at our "21st Century Contract With America," I think they began to think maybe, having done it before in the 1990s with four balanced budgets and Welfare reform and bringing unemployment down from 5.6 to 4.2 percent -- maybe Newt Gingrich actually (INAUDIBLE) has the right solutions and the right experience to do it. And I think that conversation has made a difference.
We just spent the last three days in Iowa, and we certainly got the feeling going around the state that there was a very significant consolidation towards my campaign. I'm here in Jacksonville, where we had a huge rally this afternoon with the First Coast Tea Party people. And it frankly felt like October of an election year. The amount of energy, the number of people, the excitement was much more like October than it was like a year before.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it sounds like at least there's some wind behind your back right now because there are at least some reports that 18 staffers have rejoined your campaign, including six in the state of Iowa. So things are looking really good right now.
Of course, that means, of course, now the tough scrutiny, which brings me to another issue. I want you to explain this to me because I don't fully understand it. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, that you -- Gingrich Productions, or Gingrich Group, rather, received a significant amount of money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Tell me, first of all, how much money was it?
GINGRICH: Well, I'm not sure of the exact amount, but the reports are it's about $1.6 million. We were trying to work that out. I just don't have the numbers in the campaign because I'm no longer at Gingrich Group.
It was only from Freddie Mac. We never got anything from Fannie Mae. It was over a number of years. I think it started in 1999 and ran up into I think 2007 or 2008. So you'd have to -- we're trying to pull that together. And I think that we'll have that information probably by tomorrow. But we've asked the people at the Center for Transformation who run Gingrich Group to pull all that together. But it's money paid out over a period of time.
Gingrich Group has had as many as 30 employees at any one time. We've had offices in Atlanta, where the headquarters are, in Washington and in St. Louis, Missouri. It has -- with the Center for Health Transformation, it acquired a very large number of members. And I think that the Freddie Mac payments were actually a relatively small percentage of the total income of Gingrich Group over the last 10 or 11 years.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'll be interested to see those numbers because, I mean, I've run a business. I know you have to pay overhead. I know you have to pay rent. I know that, you know, the money -- it sometimes looks very different, what you end up with in your pocket than what goes into the group.
Now, in spite of that, it's -- I'm trying to understand this. Was the contract during the time of 2007 when we went into a tailspin in the housing market? So did it extend as far as that point?
GINGRICH: To the best of my knowledge, it ended about the time that we were going into a tailspin, but I'd have to go back. I can't give you an exact date. It was clear by that stage that what you had was a giant bubble because you had loan requirements that had collapsed to a point of absurdity, where people could get mortgages who had, you know, no credit history, no down payment, et cetera.
And having been a professor of history and somebody who had actually looked at economic history over time, it was very clear that this was a bubble that was developing that had bad consequences. I've had a long period of being concerned about housing. Jack Kemp and I worked on housing issues back in the '80s. I supported Rick Lazio strongly when we were in charge of the Congress and he passed a housing reform bill.
I believe that there are conservative, practical ways to help relatively poor people get into housing, it's not by giving them mortgages that they can't pay. It's by teaching them how to budget, teaching them how to take care of a home. I did a lot of work when I was speaker with Habitat for Humanity, which works really well because the people who get the house actually help build it, so they have a real investment and a real interest in their own home.
So my interest in housing and my interest in helping relatively poor Americans have a chance to buy a house is very real and goes back a long way. I was approached to offer strategic advice.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me...
GINGRICH: I do no lobbying of any kind. I never have. A very important point I want to make. I have never done lobbying of any kind.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. OK. All right, a couple questions (INAUDIBLE) because I'm trying to understand exactly what strategic advice is, you know, because a lot of people made an awful lot of money off Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I know you said that you only worked for Freddie Mac. So you know, there's good reason for people to be sort of -- you know, be prying and trying to find out exactly what this is. And especially in the '90s, people were really making -- were stuffing their pockets full of cash.
All right. You say that you were providing strategic advice. What does that mean? What did you do?
GINGRICH: Well, I'll give you two general examples. There's some confidentiality agreements and it's been broken a little bit on both -- by both of them and by us because I answered a question probably more bluntly than I should have in the debate without having checked with my lawyers, which is something you don't do in the middle of debates.
But let me just say, as an example, there's a whole issue about whether or not government-sponsored enterprises have any legitimacy. Well, I can tell you as a historian they have been used in a variety of ways over all of American history. There are times they've been very, very useful and very valuable.
And so part of the question was, Can you make that case? Can you put in context the history of these institutions? The other one I just gave you. Is there a conservative path that helps people learn how to budget...
VAN SUSTEREN: Is it -- but...
GINGRICH: ... helps them learn how to take care of a house? So they'd come and say, How would you approach these kind of issues? How would you talk about these kind of issues?
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so these were the questions they would go to you and you would sit down and answer? Is that how it worked? I mean, it's, like -- I'm trying to understand, like, you know, what was...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... the quid pro quo? I mean, how often did you talk to them?
VAN SUSTEREN: Did they come to...
GINGRICH: ... there were two things...
VAN SUSTEREN: ... your office? Did you go to them?
GINGRICH: I think less than maybe once a month, they would drop by. We'd spend an hour. It would always start with me listening. I'd always say, What are you trying to solve? What are your concerns? What are you trying to get done?
And I've done this with many, many clients. I mean, it's not at all unusual for us to have folks to come in and say, This is what we're trying to get done, this is how we're trying to solve a wide range of problems. Many of them involved health. As you know, we founded -- out of Gingrich Group, we founded the Center for Health Transformation. And we ended up publishing books. We ended up with a whole range of things.
So I'm very proud of what we've done. You know, the fact is, I helped run four small businesses during the period when I was out of office before I ran for president. I have a pretty good idea of what it's like to be a business person and to meet a payroll and to find clients and to make sure that you're actually delivering value so the clients decide to stay with you.
And the value we delivered consistently was listening to people, offering them strategic advice, developing positive public policy positions with a very simple ground rule. I believe what I believe based on a very long period of life. If you'd like to come and have my advice, that's fine. I don't change any of my beliefs because somebody drops by and wants to pay me. I have no reason to.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in terms of Freddie Mac, though, did you spot what was coming in terms of the housing industry crisis? Did you tell them, you know, Look, you know, this is a real problem? You know, this is about to blow up on the nation. Did you see that coming?