Debra J. Saunders
Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously shared a love seat with former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich in a 2008 ad advocating for global warming legislation.

This week, they're sharing the legal-but-is-it-ethical spotlight.

On Sunday, "60 Minutes" looked at the handy way Congress has of writing rules that favor -- you guessed it -- Congress. The report originated with the book "Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich Off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison," by conservative author Peter Schweizer.

The worst offender: Rep. Spencer Bachus -- the then ranking Republican on the House Financial Services Committee -- who cashed in by shorting the market after a 2008 pre-meltdown briefing with Treasury and Federal Reserve biggies. (In the corporate world, that would be insider trading, but in Washington, it's business as usual.)

"60 Minutes" also looked at the Pelosis' purchase of Visa stock in a 2008 initial public offering unavailable to the rest of us chickens.

At a news conference, "60 Minutes" reporter Steve Kroft asked Pelosi, "Do you think it's all right for a speaker to accept a very preferential, favorable stock deal?"

To which Pelosi replied, "Well, we didn't." And: "It only has appearance if you decide that you're going to elaborate on a false premise." Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington hit "60 Minutes" for implying that Pelosi may have used her leadership position to make a few fast bucks in the market by undermining proposed credit card legislation. "The facts don't add up," wrote CREW. I agree. As her office pointed out, after husband Paul Pelosi bought 5,000 shares at $44 in the IPO, he bought an additional 10,000 shares at $64 and another 5,000 at $86. Pelosi still owns 19,000 shares.

Pelosi once promised that if she were elected speaker, she would "drain the swamp" in Washington. But as speaker, she bought stock at an insider's discount. "60 Minutes" reported the story, and spokesman Drew Hammill cried "right-wing smear."

Gingrich knows how to play that game, too. At GOP presidential debates, he frequently takes aim at the liberal media. Methinks the Newter wants to deflect attention from his own checkered record.

On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that Freddie Mac paid Gingrich at least $1.6 million in consulting fees starting in 1999. Gingrich and Freddie's chief lobbyist say the former speaker did not engage in any lobbying for the mortgage giant. At a recent CNBC debate, Gingrich acknowledged that Freddie paid him $300,000 in 2006, for which he acted as a "historian" who warned that Freddie's lending practices were "insane."


Debra J. Saunders


 
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