Oh how we miss the days when we could write about pasty rat sack Newt Gingrich sobbing over how no one remembered his existence. Because this is what Newt Gingrich should be, a forgotten nightmare that not even a bad acid trip can rouse from the depths of half-memory. That was our first thought when we saw the latest Gallup poll results showing Newt expanding his national lead in the Republican primary with 37% support to Mitt Romney’s 22%. Strangely, Newt’s climb in the polls actually seems to be due to the fact that voters did forget that Newt Gingrich is and has always been Newt Gingrich, a whiny serial con artist that Mother Jones reminds us today had a “cash for reading” charity for kids in the nineties that was just a front for Newt to funnel thousands of dollars to his corrupt circle of hangers-on.
Newt’s “grand plan” (they’re always grand and hollow in equal measure) for his Earning By Learning program to promote youth literacy was to pay kids a couple bucks every time they read a book. And YET:
The point of the story is that private initiatives often succeed where government programs fail. [Earning By Learning] was a lean, mean, private machine. “The overhead is entirely voluntary,” Gingrich said of the program in 1995. “The only money goes to the kids. So if you have $1,000 at $2 a book, you can pay for 500 books. Whereas, in the welfare state model, if you have $1,000, you pay $850 for the bureaucracy.”
But that description turned out to be false. A 1995 Mother Jones investigation revealed that the program’s all-volunteer army came at a hefty price. The group paid its Atlanta volunteers $500 each; nearly half of the total budget of the Houston branch of the program went to one salaried staff position.
A Wall Street Journal report earlier that year was even more damning, revealing that most of the money in the program’s endowment in Georgia was being kicked back to Gingrich’s friends, including Mel Steely, a former Gingrich staffer who was at the time working on an authorized biography of the House Speaker. According to the paper, “90% of the $20,000 raised in the past year went to Steely and two other professors who help him evaluate the program. The children earned less than $10,000, from money leftover from prior years.”
The WaPo is also reporting that Gingrich’s campaign is still $1.2 million in debt from all his luxury private jet trips and “extravagance,” so, uh, time to start another children’s charity! [Mother Jones]