Newt Gingrich Has $1 Million of Campaign Debt, 44 Percent of it for Private Planes

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 15 2011 5:36 PM

Newt Gingrich Has $1 Million of Campaign Debt, 44 Percent of it for Private Planes

Do you want to read past the headline? Fine. The Newt Gingrich campaign is carrying $1,030,627.81 of debt. Of that, $451,946.00 is to Moby Dick Airways, a private plane company that does a lot of work for Republicans. That debt represents more money than Gingrich currently has on hand.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

We need some context, right? What kind of coin do other campaigns drop on planes? Well, the Pawlenty campaign reports only $11,554.90 of payments so far to airline companies, most of them commercial airlines like Southwest, with the biggest single charge to Minnesota Jet, Inc. A half-million bill for airline travel is unusual at this stage, especially for Gingrich, who hasn't had the busiest schedule of the 2012ers. The campaign's explanation:

Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond tells me Gingrich was unaware of the financial situation until the consultants left. Once problems became apparent, Gingrich made several changes — “part of which included replacing private travel with commercial.”
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Fair enough. Gingrich still owes more than $13,000 to Amanda Stewart and Jody Thomas, for "fundraising consulting/travel." Worth every penny!

Seriously, though, we have heard this story before -- the tale of the sad campaign that was fleeced by consultants and made bad decisions. How did Gingrich used to spend money, when he was travelling the country with his 527 group American Solutions?

Gingrich's group spent $726,961 on travel -- including $677,539 for private jets flights supplied by Moby Dick Airways Ltd. -- in that timeframe. As the the Associated Press reported, American Solutions spent $2.2 million over the past two years just on private jets and chauffeurs.

So the story is that Gingrich kept up the private plane jag while running for president, even though the cash flow to a campaign and the cash flow to a 527 are radically, radically different. Let us ponder this as Gingrich weighs in on the debt debate.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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