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Former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff told The Nation this week that in his dealings with former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Gingrich demonstrated a bigoted, irrational and somewhat flippant attitude toward policy-making. The revelations came during a visit by Abramoff to The Nation’s offices on January 24. “Meeting with Newt was exceedingly frustrating,” said Abramoff. When Abramoff visited Gingrich to discuss sovereignty issues regarding his client, the Mariana Islands, Gingrich simply said they should become a part of Hawaii. “They’re all Islanders,” reasoned Gingrich. Problem solved.
Gingrich loves to proclaim his affection for big ideas. In this context, making the Mariana Islands part of a state nearly 4,000 miles away would qualify as a big idea. But not every big idea is a good one. Gingrich has a penchant for tossing off silly suggestions in public, but this shows that he brings that tendency to bear in actual policy-making conversations while serving in government.
More troubling is a story Abramoff related about Gingrich’s response to Abramoff’s lobbying on behalf of Indian tribes. When Abramoff went to Congress to protest a tax increase on tribal gambling proceeds, Gingrich insisted—supposed conservative principles about taxation notwithstanding—that such a tax increase was warranted. His reason? He had recently sat next to a Native American in first class on an airplane. “Where do you think he’s getting that kind of money?” Gingrich demanded.
“To his mind this was an offense that they have all this money: he’s an Indian, he must own a casino.” says Abramoff. “What are you doing in first class, Newt? You’re a public servant.”
To be fair, Abramoff noted that he has a personal bias on the subject. Having known Gingrich since 1982, he does not care for him and fears the result of a Gingrich presidential nomination. “I would hope [Republicans] would be less knuckle-headed, but they seem to be marching headlong to anoint Newt” said Abramoff. “To me that’s the height of silliness.”
Gingrich’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment by the time of this post’s publication.
You can listen to Abramoff’s recollections of Gingrich HERE.