Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have been publicly going at it, trying to discredit one another in order to gain the frontrunner status in the GOP primary race. At the GOP debate in Florida, Romney accused Gingrich of being an "influence peddler" for his lucrative role consulting for the Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) Freddie Mac, which many right-wingers blame for the subprime mortgage mess. In his response, Gingrich said "there are many different kinds of government-sponsored enterprises and many of them have done very good things" and likened Freddie Mac to electric cooperatives and federal credit unions.
But neither electric cooperatives nor credit unions are GSE's and this is the second time in recent presidential debates that Gingrich has used this line. Freddie Mac -- from which Gingrich has reportedly received $1.6 million in contracts -- is a quasi-governmental entity which the U.S. government backstops with loans and guarantees. Very few institutions fit this description. On the other hand, credit unions are private nonprofit cooperatives, which are organized under charters authorized by either federal or state agencies. They do not receive funding from the U.S. government. In the case of Freddie Mac, the institution had to be bailed out by the Federal Reserve after its role in the subprime mortgage crisis, so now it is partially owned by the U.S. government.
While Gingrich has stated that he was not a lobbyist for the Freddie Mac, a recently released contract shows that Gingrich reported to Freddie Mac's director of public policy, essentially the group's top lobbyist.