[See 5/25/11 UPDATE below]
Newt Gingrich, a fiscal conservative? Not when it comes to Tiffany’s.
In 2005 and 2006, the former House speaker turned presidential candidate carried as much as $500,000 in debt to the premier jewelry company, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
Obviously, I'm not a Newt Gingrich fan. However, Sherman's article doesn't even rise to the National Inquirer level:
1. There's no indication at all of any sort of impropriety. As the article admits, Gingrich retired in 1999 and his wife (whose disclosure form listed the debt) "was employed by the House Agriculture Committee until 2007". As far as I know, Tiffany's jewelry and agriculture have few common bonds; it's not like ag subsidies are offered to diamond growers.
2. So, unless Jake Sherman can find some sort of link, this is a purely personal matter. It does reveal that Gingrich was living the high life, but then again so do most people with large amounts of money. Politicians' private lives should be off limits unless there's some sort of link to their policies. The media should be discussing politicians' policies and public actions, showing the ways they're wrong, and trying to encourage better policy.
3. Gingrich's spending habits (or those of his wife) have absolutely nothing to do with fiscal conservative policies: Sherman is engaging in a logical fallacy. Gingrich could throw $100 bills out the windows of his Hummer, while still promoting fiscal conservative policies with no contradiction whatsoever. What Gingrich does in his private life has no bearing on what's best for the country as a whole. It's very easy to make valid, logical arguments against fiscal conservatism, yet opponents of it generally act like, for instance, Rachel Maddow or others who are even less persuasive and credible.
If Jake Sherman were a real reporter and not just a Jerry Springer wannabe, he'd do something like call Newt Gingrich on his immigration position.
UPDATE: Jake Sherman isn't alone. For instance, Eric Kleefeld of TalkingPointsMemo offers a post based on Sherman's "work" here. It's so paint-by-the-numbers that you know Kleefeld is only doing it because - like Sherman - he's just a hack.
5/25/11 UPDATE: There might actually be something here, although the comments about Sherman still stand because he didn't look into that angle. The "credit card" with Tiffany's was actually interest-free; their normal credit card charges interest at a 21% annual rate. However, they also extend interest-free loans to top clients and Gingrich says he took advantage of an interest-free first year that they gave to anyone else (link). At the same time, contrary to what I said above, there might be a link between the Committee Gingrich's wife sat on and Tiffany's line of business (link):
Filings by Tiffany’s lobbyist, Cassidy & Co., and other government records show that the firm’s spending on “mining law and mine permitting-related issues” in Congress, as well as the Forest Service, the Interior Department, and Interior’s Bureau of Land Management shot up sharply between during the period when Callista Gingrich was chief clerk at the House Agriculture Committee...
The Forest Service, which comes under the committee’s jurisdiction, oversees mining, including silver mining, in federal forests.
Silver, of course, is a big part of Tiffany & Co.’s business.
Tue, 05/17/2011 - 14:00 · Importance: 4