Romney attacks ‘erratic’ Gingrich, demands records on ethics investigation, Freddie Mac
Mittens goes on the offensive…
Washington (CNN) — Mitt Romney ramped up his criticism of Newt Gingrich on Monday, calling the former House speaker a Washington insider lobbyist, questioning his leadership, and demanding he release records tied to both a previous ethics investigation and work done for housing giant Freddie Mac.
Romney also demanded Gingrich return roughly $1.6 million earned from a contract with Freddie Mac, and ridiculed Gingrich’s insistence that the work amounted to little more than “strategic” advice, as opposed to lobbying.
“Saying that New Gingrich is a lobbyist is just a matter of fact. … If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck,” Romney told reporters in Tampa, Florida. “We could see an October surprise a day from Newt Gingrich. Let’s see the records.”
Romney’s critique of his resurgent GOP rival was part of an effort to blunt momentum from Gingrich’s win in Saturday’s South Carolina primary. The former Massachusetts governor is expected to continue his new rhetorical offensive in Monday night’s Republican presidential debate, and throughout the runup to the January 31 Florida primary.
“As you look at the speaker’s record over time it has been highly erratic,” Romney said. “He voted in favor of establishing the Department of Education, and yet he gets in a debate and says we should get rid of the Department of Education and send all the education issues back to the states. He is opposed vehemently to the Massachusetts health care system, and yet just a couple of years ago wrote about what a superb system it was.”
The former governor said Gingrich “has gone from pillar to post almost like a pinball machine, from item to item in a way which is highly erratic and does not suggest a stable, thoughtful course which is normally associated with leadership.”
Earlier in the day, Gingrich said he had asked his former company, the Center for Health Transformation, to release the details of its consulting contract with Freddie Mac.
“I’m very comfortable with it being released,” Gingrich said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” though he noted that the company has a “number of confidentiality agreements” to sort through.
Gingrich repeated his insistence that he did no lobbying of any kind.
“Romney keeps using the word lobbyist, I’m sure, because his consultants tell him it scores well,” Gingrich said. “It’s not true. He knows it’s not true. He’s deliberately saying things he knows are false.”
Gingrich also accused Romney of hypocrisy.
“Here’s somebody who has released none of his business records, who has decided to make a stand on transparency without being transparent,” Gingrich said.
On Sunday, Romney yielded to mounting pressure to release his previous tax returns, promising to release both his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 tax liability.
Last week, Romney told reporters he would release his tax returns in April and estimated his actual tax rate was close to 15% — the amount charged for capital gains income — because most of his income was from investments.