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. Jim Bob

    I'm a Democrat. Man, do I hope Gingrich wins the nomination. Obama will hardly have to raise a penny to defeat him! Now, if Romney wins the nomination, then my vote is up for grabs.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      That is because you are a rational person, unlike many of my fellow Republicans.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Larry in Houston

      I Totally agree !! as a matter of fact – I will prob vote Obama Out – IF the republicans get someone who is a little bit towards the middle !! BUT, unfortunately, most of them are Far, Far Right, and right wing extremists !

      December 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. waheid

    It's pathetic that these Republicans, all of whom aspire to be President of the U.S., seem to have so much trouble keeping their facts straight. Or do they know the true facts, but are willing to mangle the truth? I think the country has had enough of lies and deception during the maladministration of Bush & Cheney and we certainly don't need more.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • DB

      If you think the lies worry you when they are directed at each other...imagine the lies they have to come up that are leveled at Obama...Imagine to what extent they most go since the grand prize is to become President....

      December 16, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      About ALL we get from politicians running for office are LIES. Basically, that is simply because the average American citizen is completely uninformed, and in many cases does not even know WHO their representatives in the government are. Sad – but true. Maybe we SHOULD just elect another Republican President, so that he can promptly rip us a new one like before. Great.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • nheckt

      You people are crazy. The only reason there is a little bit of sanity left in the US is because winning the house in 2010. Obama is the biggest POS to ever walk our great land. Everything out of his mouth is a lie!!!

      December 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. EarnYourOwn

    Ok I guess the Fact checkers need to check their own facts. The United States of America has not ran a SURPLUS since 1957/58. During Clinton's and Ginrich's rule, they fooled the people and all these pundits, that they ran a surplus by taking SSS and MEDICARE money and paying of Foreign debt, it is called INTRA Government Holdings. They did get close to being a balanced budget, but never made it all the way there. The real crime from those politicians during that time was taking what was never to be touched SS and using it for political gain.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • DC7

      Watch FOX News much? Where do you get this nonsense? We had a surplus and any economist (who isn't in bed with the Tea Party) will tell you the same.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Stop watching Fox news...and read for yourself...

      December 16, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • jon

      Oops – more lies from FOX News. (Fair and balanced as they say.)

      December 16, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Hey DB & DC instead of crying foul why don't you offer some facts that prove he is lying. You can't can you! Losers.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      Quit making up useless information.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bzarr

    I think we are debating what the meaning of is is. Most of the firms lobbying congress are refferred to as consulting firms.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • EarnYourOwn

      Real question is why Obama has not kept his promise that he would make Washington Transparent and Kick all the Lobiest out of Washington. he has lost my vote from last time unless he soem how completes these tasks before next November.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. DC7

    Funny how all of these debates end up with verdicts of FALSE or MISLEADING. Not surprising given the source of the information. What a bunch of slimy, underhanded, bigoted, flip-flopping windbags.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • DB

      If you think the lies worry you when they are directed at each other...imagine the lies they have to come up that are leveled at Obama...Imagine to what extent they most go since the grand prize is to become President.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. old3putt

    I wish you goobers would review the President's accomplishments with the similar zeal. He has failed this country miserably.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • DC7

      His foreign policy record is great. He got rid of DOMA. He made it possible for 2.5 million young adults to now have health insurance who didn't have it before. He is ending the occupation of Iraq. Whatever he hasn't accomplished is because moronic GOP congressmen have blocked it at every turn. That's why Congress has a lower approval rating than he does. So if you want to blame anyone for inaction, blame your do-nothing GOP controlled House.

      December 16, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • DC7

      Oops... I meant DADT, not DOMA

      December 16, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • DB

      I not sure you're looked at his accomplishements....pretty amazing if you asked anyone who actually looked at it...I don't think you actually did!

      December 16, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Typinator

      Looks like you need a new putter – you're missing the hole. It would appear you're listening to Foxed Up News or those towering intellectuals like Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, or Ann Coulter. Do some fact checking rather than parroting the conservative propaganda.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • MTATL67

      Provide examples. Foreign policy is an area that the President has excelled because he is working with people that want things to get better. Congressional Republicans mantra has been to block and stop everything the President proposes. Didn't Sen. McConnell say "My number one priority is to make President Barack Obama a “one-term president.” and look where his promise has lead us. For me that tells me Sen. McConnell and those that follow his policy lack a true sense of duty those they claims to represent and serve. No wonder 67% of us think all members of Congress should be replaced in 2012.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • alanseago

      Goobers. Great word. Also a good point, about being even-handed.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Iconoclast

      No he has not and if given a reasonable congress he will be able to accomplish a lot more. I'm not concerned about Obama's reelection (that's a given) I'm more focused on getting rid of the GOP in congress entirely. It's coming oldputt.

      December 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tony Antin

    Newt balanced the budget??? I thought that was Clinton.

    December 16, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  8. David

    It will be interesting when Obama starts debating to see exactly how objective CNN can be.then
    As for the budget while technically not balanced given the accounting they were using Clinton and Gingrich claim balanced budgets what I don't understand is how CNN acknowledges that Gingrich could not impact the budget his first year because it was already set using this logic shouldn't you give him credit for the year after he left since he had set the budget already?

    December 16, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • DB

      Reading is fundamental!!!

      December 16, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Boss

    The greatest danger to this nation are all the neo-con and neo-lib unwitting voters. Yes, those who would vote for Obama, Romney or the Grinch must be classified as geo-political cultural stooges.

    Our Nation is bankrupt and Ron Paul is the ONLY candidate who addresses this issue.

    Ron Paul serves on the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Financial Services, and on the Joint Economic Committee. He is the chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, where he has been an outspoken critic of American foreign and monetary policy.

    Dr. Paul is clearly the most qualified candidate to tackle our Nations critical economic and foreign affair issues.

    Ron Paul has warned his supporters for three decades and more about the dangers of a fraudulent fractional reserve banking system in the hands of private central bankers, and no one can legitimately argue any longer that those concerns have not been justified.

    So are American's educated enough to realize that our monetary system is rigged?... Are they educated enough to realize that most candidates from both parties are owned?

    Unfortunately, we are a nation of war mongering Neo-Con conservatives, unwitting hip hoppers and pseudo intellectual progressives who are each culturally brain washed into bankster sheep. So... it doesn't look good.

    Ron Paul receives more financial contributions from active duty vets than all the other candidates combined. Why is this? They know that Ron Paul is the best solution for our National Defense, though the establishment media is trying to make him look like a kook who would hurt national security. We need to defend our borders and give all these National Guard troops who are on their 3rd and 4th tours of duty a break. What if there was a real war in the near future? Our military is already at the breaking point from wars started to help banks and oil companies. We need an agenda to help repair America. Vote for Ron Paul 2012!!!!

    December 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • oussu

      And I would consider voting for Ron Paul if he wasn't such a wack job on non-financial, non-military issues. Remove all government agencies and deregulate all businesses? If people die en masse from a company's negligence, well the rest of the people will go to a different company. Great in theory until the first few thousand kids die from unregulated food manufacturing or contaminated water. Agencies like the FDA and EPA are incredibly understaffed, insanely and unfairly criticized (average FDA employee turn over is < 3 years due the horrible pay and high work load), and often are the only line of defense keeping large swaths of the public out of harm's way.

      December 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Galt 2012

      Exactly. Too bad the US is too stupid to realize what's happening. I hate to be pessimistic, but we're going to get what we deserve...

      December 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • alanseago

      I was with you until I read your comment that people who disagree with you are sheep. Do you think it is at least possible that intelligent, thinking people can have different opinions? Even different than yours and Ron Paul's?

      December 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John Galt 2012

    I just donated (again) to Ron Paul's campaign. At least if he does not get the nomination, I will have a clear conscience.

    The elephant in the room when it comes to "who can beat Obama" is that if there is ONE GOP nominee and it's Paul–it will get the GOP votes, but he will also get the independent and many Dem votes! This is incredibly obvious–go read the comments from any article here or on fox news.com–the people want Ron Paul. He's actually the one candidate that can beat Obama.

    I'll tell you right now that I voted for Obama in 2008, and if Paul is NOT the GOP nominee, I will also vote for Obama in 2012. I guarantee this is not a rare position in this country, it's just that the MSM is not covering it.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MTATL67

    I remember when the GOP forced Newt out. It makes no sense to me why would GOP voters want someone their own party turned on to be their nomination. Rep. Bachmann gets her fact so wrong that they are actually lies and she was on the Committee on Intelligence. One would think she would show some. The GOP is one fractured and fragmented party. There has got to be some sort of civil war going on behind the scenes.

    December 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. saywhat

    At this juncture in our history and changing paradisms across the globe, it will be unfortunate if a man like Newt Gingrich is elected to lead us & the free world.
    Americans sit up & take notice.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jloeffler

    Hey CNN, where was your "truth squad" on Obama's campaign? Where is it now on the stimulus, Solyndra, etc.?

    What a joke.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Todd62

    Does this fact checking come straight from the DNC?

    December 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. OGR99

    Wonder when CNN will fact check one of Obama's speeches....

    December 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
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