December 16th, 2011
03:51 AM ET

Truth Squad: Part of the CNN Republican debate fact-checking series

Truth Squad: Gingrich's claim on surplus off base

The statement: "I balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in debt, pretty conservative." Newt Gingrich, during Thursday night's Republican candidates' debate in Sioux City, Iowa.

The facts: Newt Gingrich served as speaker of the House from January 4, 1995 to January 3, 1999. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the nation ran a deficit in 1995 (-$164 billion), 1996 (-$107.4 billion) and 1997 (-$21.9 billion). It ran a surplus in 1998 ($69.3 billion) and 1999 ($125.6 billion).

If you don't count the deficit during his first year as speaker, when the budget was already set, and do count the surplus during the year after he stepped down, he can claim credit for a surplus in only two of four years. Those surpluses total $194.9 billion, which is less than half the $405 billion he says he paid off.

If you confine the view to the time he spent in office, Gingrich's assertion looks worse. The national debt on the day Gingrich was sworn in as speaker was $4.8 trillion. Four years later, it was $5.6 trillion, an increased debt of $800 billion, according to the U.S. Treasury website.

Also, Gingrich fails to acknowledge that the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton would take some credit for putting in place policies that resulted in the four consecutive years of surplus that occurred from 1998-2001.

Verdict: False.

Truth Squad: Is Iran "a few months" away from a nuclear weapon?

When Rep. Michele Bachmann said that a report by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency had described Iran as poised to join the world's elite club of nuclear powers, during Thursday's Republican candidates' debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas responded immediately that she was mistaken.

The statements:

"We have an IAEA report that just recently came out that said, literally, Iran is within just months of being able to obtain that weapon." - Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota

"There is no U.N. report that said that. It's totally wrong what you just said. That is not true. They produced the information that led you to believe that, but they have no evidence." - Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas

The facts: The IAEA Board of Governors released a 14-page report on November 8 that concluded that it had "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The information also indicates that prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured program, and that some activities may still be ongoing."

The verdict: False. The IAEA report does not say that Iran is within months of being able to obtain a nuclear weapon. So Bachmann is wrong. But the report does cite "credible" information that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons, so Paul's blanket denial that "they have no evidence" may also be wrong, depending on whether he is referring to evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon or evidence that such a weapon could be ready within months.

Truth Squad: Did Bachmann prove Gingrich lobbied for Freddie Mac?

During Thursday night's Republican candidates' debate in Sioux City, Iowa, a moderator asked U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to produce hard evidence that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had peddled his influence with congressional Republicans on behalf of mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Bachmann, who is among conservatives who say Freddie Mac and fellow federally backed mortgage group Fannie Mae had a role in the collapse of the U.S. housing market, has criticized Gingrich for his post-Congress work as a consultant for Freddie Mac and accused him of lobbying senior Republicans on Freddie Mac's behalf.

Bachmann was asked: "Given (Gingrich's) denial over time ... that he's ever lobbied, what is your evidence - hard evidence - that he engaged in influence peddling?"

The statement: "It's the fact that we know that he cashed paychecks from Freddie Mac. That is the best evidence that you can have: over $1.6 million. ... The evidence is that Speaker Gingrich took $1.6 million. You don't need to be within the technical definition of being a lobbyist to still be influence peddling with senior Republicans in Washington, D.C., to get them to do your bidding."

The facts:

CNN reported in November that the consulting company that Gingrich started after he left Congress, the Gingrich Group, was paid between $1.6 million and $1.8 million for work done with Freddie Mac.

Gingrich has repeatedly said he and his firm consulted Freddie Mac and other groups, but did not lobby for anyone.

"Gingrich made a decision after resigning (from the House) that he would never be lobbyist so that nobody would ever question the genuine nature of his advice and perspectives," the Gingrich campaign website says, adding that Freddie Mac was one of many Gingrich Group clients, and that its fees were comparable to that of many consulting firms.

Freddie Mac has backed Gingrich's assertion, telling CNN last month that he was a consultant, and not a lobbyist.

A former official who worked for Freddie Mac during Gingrich's two stints with the group - 1999-2002 and 2006-2008 - told CNN that Gingrich's work included consulting about Freddie's efforts to become more transparent about "risk and capital management" procedures, risk information disclosure, and how those efforts would be received in Congress, specifically by Republicans.

In Gingrich's first turn, Freddie Mac worked with him on the group's desire to "bond" with Bush administration officials on the idea of creating a "home ownership society" - getting more Latinos and other minorities into home ownership, the source said. It's not clear how Gingrich worked with Freddie Mac on this.

In the second stint, Freddie Mac officials tried to get Gingrich, known for intricate policy ideas, to write "white papers" on how good the "model" was for government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie Mae and Freddie because free-market Republicans didn't like that model, the official said. Freddie Mac officials were frustrated with Gingrich, the source said, because they had a hard time getting him to write anything.

The verdict: Misleading. While Freddie Mac was a Gingrich Group client, Bachmann did not offer hard evidence that Gingrich lobbied for Freddie Mac.

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Filed under: Politics • Republican Party • U.S.
soundoff (236 Responses)
  1. cregis

    Freddie Mac paychecks seem pretty good evidence to me.

    December 16, 2011 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Jean

      Only of the fact that he worked for them, which he does NOT deny. It is not evidence that the work included lobbying. I am not a Gingrich fan but let's be fair. Individuals leaving public office have a right to work for a living and no one knew then that Freddie Mac would wind up implicated in a future financial meltdown. Hindsight is always 20/20.

      December 16, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. SS Fraud

    No matter if the beast has the smallish head of a Donkey with the fat ass of an Elephant loaded down with Donkey crap, or if it's a Big Fat Emephant head dragging around an obese Donkeys ass, it's still the same beast. Picture a 12 yr. old problem child strung-out on Ritilin. Now, hand him a shotgun and tell him to fetch you some oil and diamonds. That's the beast we are dealing with.

    December 16, 2011 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. SS Fraud

    Oops. Forgot to mention the obvious. The 12 yr. old is obese, and enjoys attention deficit disorders. Eating disorders? Anyway, the kid is stupid. Of course it's not his fault. He's only doing what we want him to do. Let's hope he doesn't commit suicide by selling America.

    December 16, 2011 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kahuna

    Just remember, False is the same thing as a lie.

    December 16, 2011 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  5. Greg

    Did they find anything the gop said that was truthful?

    December 16, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. dj

    Ron Paul claimed that Iran had done nothing to further its nuclear program since 2003. This was the most blatant lie of the whole debate, but the Truth Squad ignore it... I wonder why?

    December 16, 2011 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
    • adriana

      Because they ignore everything Ron Paul says.

      December 16, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Iran already has nukes

      The US once lobbied Iran to buy 23 nuclear reactors, yet now one seems too many. Ironic, isn't it? And besides, Iran would be crazy not to build nukes, as an Israeli professor said in the New York Times back in 2004. Yet, all the evidence the IAEA found was from back then. The reason? Most likely because they'd already developed them. Only with a hundred nukes and missiles to deliver them are they safe from us.

      December 16, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
    • GreenieInPA

      He never said that, tard.

      December 16, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Franny

    Facts, and truth? These characters don't need any stinking facts, nor do they try to be truthful. This article was too kind!

    December 16, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. chuck

    what a bunch of creeps..good thing none will win in 2012.

    December 16, 2011 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Heather

      God help us all.

      December 16, 2011 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  9. martin

    A half-truth is a whole lie.

    December 16, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. MANIE

    wow! some of the arrogance here is mind numbing. just to be clear. I do not like the idea of nukes but who are we to tell another nation, they can't have a nuke, beacuase they might use it . the U.S should be the last person to metion such statements because they are the Only ones repeat the only ones who have Used nukes on this planet to destroy another country. besides even if they had a nuke they would dare not use it becasue it would be the end of them as we know it. but then again when the U.S wants an unjust war it always gets what it wants, but when the blood starts flowing those who support these mad policies should not complain.

    December 16, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • REEKO

      People have to have background checks to buy a handgun to make sure they aren't a wacko. Well, it's the same thing with a nuke. Iran didn't pass the wacko check. In the war against Iraq they would tie their children together in packs and walk them across mine fields to make sure it was safe for thier thanks. Letting them have a nuke is a bad idea for everybody. Most of us are on the same page on that one ace.

      December 16, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • MB

      Iran possessing a nuke may not be a good idea, but I agree with the original post that it’s not our decision. Your analogy to background checks for handguns is useless, as it involves domestic laws. Of course we can pass laws which allow us to check up on our own people. However Iran is a different sovereign. We can no more tell them what to do or what we’ll permit, than they could do to us—unless we intend to go to war, which would be unsound as we have seen. If another country tried to tell us what we could and couldn’t do, we would all be outraged

      December 16, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mamoru

    I seem to recall when Newt took the Speaker of the House position, the Clintion administration had no interest in a balanced budget at all, and had deficit projections for years to come.... I also seem to recall the government being shut down several times... Now granted the economy did grow rapidly due to the advent of the net... but how much did that have to do with government vs. private sector development.... Now is the Truth Squad being completely truthful and the Clinton Administration????

    December 16, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. Stan Levenson

    Where there smoke there is fire. It is astounding with all the negative press about Gringrich it is amazing how dumb or desperate the GOP is. Do they really think that the rest of the US population will buy into his BS. It seems to me that that GOP want to President to get a second term. Is there no one in the entire party with any common sense or any scandal attached to them. This was once a outstanding part

    December 16, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  13. Stan Levenson

    Where there smoke there is fire. It is astounding with all the negative press about Gringrich it is amazing how dumb or desperate the GOP is. Do they really think that the rest of the US population will buy into his BS. It seems to me that that GOP want to President to get a second term. Is there no one in the entire party with any common sense or any scandal attached to them. This was once a outstanding party.(GOP) GOVERNMENT OF THE PARTY now they are destroying USA with their ideas. one concern is that Dems will not get control of the house, then another wasted four years. PLEASE WAKE UP AMERICA BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE TAKE CONTROL OF YOU COUNTRY. GET RID OF THE TEA BAGGERS

    December 16, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      You give the US electorate too much credit. Most of them are stupid and are willing to vote against their own self-interest simply because of their religious views and the perception that conservatives are more moral than liberals.

      December 16, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  14. That guy

    I did it. Ron Paul finally got mentioned on CCN. It's a brave new world and it's time we change that. Sorry about the literary reference, maybe someone here would like to take the time to explain it to the rest of the class.

    December 16, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Willem

    CNN Truth Squad, in responding to the Newt allegation that he worked as a lobbyist, provides no evidence whatsoever that he worked as a lobbyist for Freddie, but includes Freddie's assertion that Newt's organization was paid consult, not lobbying fees.

    yet the 'Truth Squad' considers the truth 'misleading'.

    CNN Truth Squad is apparently incapable of printing anything that could bolster a position.

    It's quite noticeable that the CNN Truth Squad only covered a few items they could perverse into a 'false' or 'misleading' verdict.

    yeah....CNN's politics are quite well hidden.

    December 16, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
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