Less than a month into his tenure as a new CNN host, Newt Gingrich has already violated the ethical guidelines set for him by the network.
CNN executive Rick Davis previously told Media Matters that if Gingrich, who serves as honorary co-chair for the American Legacy PAC, "is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that. Disclosure is important when it's relevant." However, Gingrich has violated those standards since his first day of hosting.
As Mother Jones' David Corn and Andy Kroll reported today, Gingrich's PAC recently donated to the campaigns of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
After the donations were made, Gingrich hosted Paul on the first episode of Crossfire's revival -- and discussed Cruz on yesterday's episode -- without disclosing his PAC's donations in either instance.
The rebooted Crossfire debuted September 9 with a discussion about Syria featuring Paul and Sen. Bob Menendez. During the program, Gingrich sided with Paul against military strikes on Syria. A few weeks earlier, on August 20, American Legacy PAC founder and president Mike Murray sent an email to supporters announcing they're "proud to endorse Sen. Rand Paul and provide him with a check for $5,000 to aid in his re-election in 2016!"
During the September 24 edition of Crossfire, Gingrich discussed Cruz's lengthy speech against Obamacare, and complained that the Senate has become "virtually a dictatorial system" and "people like Ted Cruz, they end up giving speeches like this and making noise in the media, in part because they can't get a vote ... If Ted Cruz had come in yesterday and gotten his vote, he'd probably have gotten 12 to 20 to 25 votes." American Legacy sent an email on August 29 announcing they're "proud to announce our endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz along with a $5,000 donation to his campaign."
Issues with Gingrich and his PAC don't end with his CNN disclosure problem. Mother Jones raised significant questions about whether Gingrich is fronting a "dubious PAC" since "most of the money flowing into American Legacy PAC is benefiting vendors and consultants who have long been associated with Gingrich" rather than actual candidates. A spokesperson for Gingrich told Mother Jones that Gingrich isn't making money in his role with the PAC, and the group is building up so it can make more disbursements to candidates in the future.
Donations to candidates like Paul and Cruz actually represent a miniscule amount of the money spent by American Legacy. So far this election cycle Gingrich's group has given just $27,500 to candidates out of over $1.4 million raised. By contrast, approximately $1.25 million has been paid to InfoCision, a controversial telemarketing firm that has a long and profitable history with Gingrich.
As Mother Jones noted, Gingrich launched a network "of nonprofits, advocacy groups, and for-profit enterprises that generated close to $150 million over a decade" after he left Congress:
"This empire -- dubbed Newt Inc. by outside observers -- has included a production company, a literary agency, a for-profit think tank called the Center for Health Transformation (which drew annual membership fees from health care firms ranging from $5,000 to $200,000), and the non-profit American Solutions policy shop (which spent millions of dollars on charter jets for Gingrich). Various members of Gingrich's family and inner circle have held key positions in the assorted ventures. (Gingrich also pocketed up to $1.8 million in consulting fees from Freddie Mac.)"
Media Matters has documented how Gingrich previously used his platform at Fox News to promote the interests of his various groups (some of which shut down after Gingrich ran for president). Specifically, Gingrich's groups got money from major special interests, and he would then go on Fox and push the interests of these donors.
CNN did not provide a comment as of posting.