(Bloomberg News) Newt Gingrich, the Republican presidential candidate who has criticized rival Mitt Romney for his role in the buyout business, was paid more than $60,000 two years ago to deliver a speech that extolled the private-equity industry, according to the meeting's organizer.
"This gentleman praised private equity more fulsomely than I could ever do it," Paul Levy, managing director at JLL Partners Inc., said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "InsideTrack" today. "He was great. He gave a great evening. Everybody had fun. He fielded a lot of questions. He gave us a lot of time. Nobody praised private equity, risk-taking capital more fulsomely than Newt Gingrich."
Gingrich received $60,750 from JLL through a contract with the Washington Speakers Bureau, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by Bloomberg News. The fee included the "cash equivalent" of two first-class plane tickets, meals and lodging at the Mandarin Oriental, a midtown New York hotel that boasts of its "breathtaking Central Park views."
The contract obligated Gingrich to deliver an hour-long presentation with a question-and-answer period and join the firm for dinner at an upscale steakhouse. He spoke to almost 100 people including firm executives, chief executive officers of JLL's portfolio companies and other investors who work with the firm.
Roils Primary Race
Levy's revelation set off a new wave of criticism of the former U.S. House speaker in the primary campaign in South Carolina, where Gingrich is raising questions about front-runner Mitt Romney's term as chief executive officer of private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC.
The Romney campaign sent a news release highlighting the Bloomberg TV interview with Levy. In a morning conference call with reporters, some of Gingrich's former House colleagues warned against his nomination, saying he is a "negative force" whose actions and comments would deflect attention from President Barack Obama's record in the general election.
"When the focus is Newt, the Republican Party loses," said Susan Molinari, a former New York representative who is backing Romney. "He has not changed and become more disciplined."
Former Missouri Senator Jim Talent, another Romney supporter who also served in the House, said Gingrich has "attacked Bain Capital in a way that he's admitted was factually inaccurate" and is "using the language of the left."