January 24th, 2012
03:47 AM ET

Truth Squad: Fact checking Monday's debate

CNN examines statements by Republican presidential candidates during Monday night's CNN Republican debate in Tampa, Florida.

Mitt Romney said Newt Gingrich lobbied during Medicare Part D battle

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney accused former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of having lobbied in favor of Medicare Part D, the federal program that provides drugs for senior citizens. Romney said other congressmen said they were lobbied by Gingrich at the time.

The exchange between the two candidates included the following  statements: "You have congressmen who say that you came and lobbied them with regards to Medicare Part D." - Romney

"I didn't lobby them." - Gingrich

"It is not correct to describe public citizenship, having public advocacy as lobbying. Every citizen has the right to do that." - Gingrich

"If you're getting paid by health companies, if your entities are getting paid by health companies that could benefit from a piece of legislation and you then meet with Republican congressmen and encourage them to support that legislation, you can call it whatever you'd like. I call it influence peddling. It's not right." - Romney

The facts: Romney was likely referring to a number of media reports in which at least three lawmakers spoke of Gingrich's actions to get a yes vote from them on the Medicare legislation. The New York Times also reported last month that the world's largest insulin maker, Novo Nordisk, had hired Gingrich to help "position itself as a thought leader" to raise awareness about diabetes.

Former Colorado Rep. Marilyn Musgrave told CNN last month that Gingrich called her at the height of the 2003 debate urging her to vote for the bill.

"Newt called me to vote yes," said Musgrave, who is now director at the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.

"He asked for a yes vote on a Medicare prescription drug benefit," she said. "Dick Armey" - a former House majority leader - "called me and wanted a no. But I had already made up my mind to vote not to expand an entitlement that we were going to have to pay for down the road."

Musgrave, who is neutral in the presidential race, said she was not sure if Gingrich was technically "lobbying" when he called her, because she did not know if he was working for anyone else at the time.

"All I know is he wanted a yes," Musgrave said.

Musgrave was one of 19 House Republicans who voted against the plan, which passed 220-215.

Two other Republicans who served in Congress at the time, Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, told the Des Moines Register last month that they interpreted Gingrich's actions as lobbying.

"He told us, 'If you can't pass this bill, you don't deserve to govern as Republicans,' " Flake told the paper. "If that's not lobbying, I don't know what is."

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the bill is projected to cost nearly $1 trillion from 2010 through 2020. The price tag for Medicare Part D was added to the nation's deficit.

"It was a huge entitlement" that left the insurance and drug industries as big winners, said Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of health economics at Princeton.

The verdict: Misleading. It is true that at least two lawmakers, Flake and Otter said Gingrich's actions amounted to lobbying, but Gingrich and his spokesman say what he did was not lobbying. Romney did not offer any hard evidence that Gingrich lobbied for any company. Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said the former speaker publicly supported the Medicare proposal at the time and was speaking for himself and not on behalf of any client. Gingrich cited as "terrible" the fact that Medicare did not pay for insulin for diabetics, but did pay for dialysis when their kidneys failed. He said he had always favored a stronger Medicare program, but that did not mean he was lobbying. Gingrich says he was motivated by his own values and beliefs.

Romney said Gingrich resigned as House Speaker after ethics probe

The statement: "But the truth is that the members of his own team, his congressional team, after his four years of leadership, they moved to replace him. They also took a vote, and 88 percent of Republicans voted to reprimand the speaker. And he did resign in disgrace after that. This was the first time in American history that a speaker of the House has resigned from the House."

The facts: The January 1997 vote on the bill titled "In the Matter of Representative Newt Gingrich," the body acted with overwhelming bipartisanship. Voting in favor were 196 Republicans, 198 Democrats and one independent. Voting against were 26 Republicans and two Democrats. That's 88%.

Of the 53 individuals who have served as speaker, two resigned and Gingrich was not one of them. Henry Clay of Kentucky resigned three times - on January 19, 1814; November 15, 1820; and December 5, 1825. James C. Wright Jr. resigned in 1989, the result of a complaint initiated by Gingrich over charges of ethics violations.

Gingrich himself, though re-elected to the 106th Congress, did not take his seat for a third term as speaker. Instead, J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois took the job.

Gingrich reimbursed U.S. taxpayers $300,000 for legal expenses and costs incurred by the investigation by the Select Committee on Ethics into his use of tax-exempt funds to promote Republican causes and lying about it to the committee.

Though the committee allowed him to hold onto his post, its vote marked the first time the House had disciplined a sitting speaker.

The verdict: True, but incomplete. It is true that his fellow party members voted overwhelmingly to reprimand him, but not true that his failure to show up for a third term marked the first time in history that a speaker has resigned. Others had resigned. And, though the result was the same, Gingrich himself technically did not resign - he simply did not take his seat.

soundoff (131 Responses)
  1. Mariela

    Mitt is firing hard now. He is actually proving to be a pretty great debater, even if he did have his facts a little off. Still wondering whether this is all going to end up hurting the Republican Party in the end. The dems are going to have so much fuel against whoever wins the nomination.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
    • rmelton

      When will CNN give Ron Paul the time of day....

      January 24, 2012 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Two of the three Democratic House Speakers prior to Gingrich becoming speaker left office under clouds of scandal. In addition to Jim Wright (Democrat Speaker of the House) who resigned in disgrace, Carl Albert (Democrat Speaker of the House) also had a major scandal which led him to decide not to run again. That was the Tongsun Park Scandal in which Albert was accused of accepting gifts in exchange for influence. After the scandal emerged he decided not to run again for the House. He admitted accepting token gifts from Park. So Gingrich was certainly not the first to leave office under a cloud. There were some Republican leaders who wanted Gingrich replaced as House Speaker, but they did not have the votes to do it. Gingrich was popular in his dIstrict when he decided to resign from the U.S. House. In fact he had just been re-elected.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg M

      To previous responder rmelton: CNN will give Ron Paul the time of day when Ron Paul becomes a serious contender for the nomination.
      To previous responder John: Ah, so two other house speakers besides Newt have left office in disgrace. Thanks for the info. We'll have to make sure that both of them get tossed onto the junkheap of history, right along with Newt.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. kflanigan

    Who ever wins this mud wrestling match is going to limp his way into the General election.

    January 24, 2012 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. GordonGecko

    What a joke these Repubs are. Pathetic joke

    January 24, 2012 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. Shigty

    Ron Paul 2012!!

    January 24, 2012 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tom Degan

    It matters little at this stage who gets the nomination. It's a fairly safe assumption to say that the election of 2012 is essentially over. Are Romney and Gingrich secretly working for Barack Obama's campaign? That would seem to be the case given their behavior in recent days. They've done so much damage to one another (and their party) that his reelection in November is almost written in the stars.

    Here's another thing to take to the bank, boys and girls: Romney (assuming he will be the nominee) will be placed in the same position that McCain was forced into in 2008. In order to bring out "the base" he will will be forced to place on the ticket with him someone (like Sarah Palin) who is such a right wing extremist that he or she is in serious danger of falling off of the face of the earth. Remember how well that worked out for them last time 'round? As it did four years ago, the choice of running mate will scare the heck out of moderate Americans. Just you wait and see.

    Here are the Cliff Notes: The Republican party is imploding before our very eyes. Life is beautiful.


    Tom Degan

    January 24, 2012 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mike Brooks

    I tell you what we learned. John King and CNN served up a T-Ball to Newt. Oh, they don't care about Newt or the actual story. They were going for the headline. So, in just about the worst venue imaginable, knowing full well that Mr. Gingrich would be prated and coached "to a T", they asked about his marriage. And he hit it out of the park and CNN and John King made all of the news cycles. Libs went back to sleep, assured that their oaf of a President, that dictator wannabe, would also be in charge of all of those shiny new tools, NDAA, a greatly expand Homeland Security, a corrupted and politicized DOJ, BLS, a government so undermined it looks like styrofoam, an internet kill switch, a nifty revolving door between the White House and Goldman Sachs and GE and China. It never occurred to to them or CNN that Newt is *brilliant* and you fools gave him an opening that he is going ride clear into the White House... where awaiting him are all of those shiny new tools, just what a dictator wannabe wants.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
    • AzPatriot

      @ Mike Brooks: wow, paranoid much?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Shirlene

      I totally agree. When John King asked that question, especially as the first question of the debate, he handed the nomination to Gingrich.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Because cheating on your wives and yelling at John King makes it right? Your right family values have you looking at Gingrich? Wow yealling makes him a stong leader? Not. It makes him a hot-head and a finger on the button of doom. He is brilliant? If you call making money off of insurance legislature on the backs of the elderly. He is a snake-oil representative. A wolf in sheep clothing who prays on the elderly. Open your eyes.

      January 24, 2012 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg M

      Maybe somebody can explain to me why it's outrageous to think that a candidate's record of personal and professional integrity (or lack thereof) is relevant to his qualification for office. And if doubts are being raised about a candidate's integrity, what would be wrong with asking the candidate if he would like to comment on the accusations that are being made against him?

      January 24, 2012 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Mr. Brooks...
      1. You sound truly insane.
      2. Mr. Obama, in listening to his people and trying to do what they need him to do, is the exact OPPOSITE of a dictator.
      3. Newt making John King look bad doesn't exactly qualify him to be president, but probably qualifies him to take John King's lunch money.
      4. Just kindly remind yourself that Mr. Obama is just as much white as he is black, and maybe you'll start to calm down a little bit.
      K, thanks, bye.

      January 24, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. kyle788

    Just sayin, but there aint no mud anyone can sling at Ron Paul.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Awaker

      What about his record of doing nothing?

      January 24, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Moe

    Everytime Mitt goes after Gingrich is another vote for him – keep going Mitt! Newt for President!!!

    January 24, 2012 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. clc

    if I were to vote today, I wouldn't vote for any of the above, if these two idiots want to be a president. I would rather see Donald Duck Mickey Mouse be president of the United States.

    January 24, 2012 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. Penfold Blue Flash

    The best is yet to come.

    Obama 2012.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dino Droppings

    Moe and Larry are poking each other in the eye.
    Boy do i miss Curley.
    Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
    • BobbyB

      Which one was Curly? Perry or Cain?

      January 24, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Fearless Freep

    Rent a room.
    Drop a dozen boxing gloves in the room.
    Drop all the candidates off in the room.
    Last man standing gets the nomination.

    January 24, 2012 at 7:19 am | Report abuse |
    • noteabags

      Let's do it the American way. Give them all guns, 10 paces, and fire.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • ArmyVet

      Mitt is taller and has a long reach. Ron Paul is at a disadvantage. Not fair!

      January 24, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. John

    Any body that Is force to resign from Congress on Ethics Charges should not even be able to run for President. Plus the man was a lobbyist ,so you know he won't try and get rid of them. And he Cheated on two wife. Now Is this man a you think you could trust.

    January 24, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. coy4one

    The fact is that neither Romney or Gingrich will survive a major election. Through these debates they have loaded the coffers of the Democrats whereby they will be swamped with defending themselves until November. Better chances for Ron and Rick to run against Obama now, but that is the longest shot!

    January 24, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. ArmyVet

    Even though I am a Dem, I would still like to hear a few clear plans of action (in detail, not just rhetoric) from my GOP brothers. Enough with the name calling, please. They sound like a bunch of teenage girls on stage. "well you cant talk about me being voted out of my Speaker position, b/c you wont show your taxes..." C'mon people.

    January 24, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • ditty1991

      your right. ron paul is the only adult on stage talking about real issues.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
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