Last week Jane Hamsher wrote a good piece at FireDogLake about Newt Gingrich's big spending on private planes. She noted that Gingrich's organization American Solutions paid $3,360,346 to Moby Dick Airways, which charters private planes, during 2008 alone. American Solutions raised a total of $25,489,668 last year, and donations below $200 made up $7,343,986 of that amount.
Hamsher asked a good question:
On their contributions page, it says "American Solutions is here to serve as your voice in the political process." Did the people who gave this money think they were donating so Newt and Company could jet around on private planes?
I'm pretty sure they didn't, because last night I received a fundraising call from American Solutions. As I always do when I am a respondent for any political survey, I grabbed a pen and took notes, which you'll find after the jump.
I have no idea why I ended up on the list for American Solutions. The phone-banker asked for me by name, which for a political call usually means they are working from the voter rolls. However, I've always been a registered Democrat, so I'm surprised I would be considered a prospect for American Solutions.
The caller identified herself as representing Newt Gingrich's American Solutions and asked me whether I would participate in a brief survey about Washington's response to the recession. I said sure, and she told me that before the survey she would play a recorded message from Gingrich.
He was speaking too fast for me to get it all down, but it was your standard Gingrich message: Washington politicians are out of control, and more spending and more debt are not the answer for the recession. He has real solutions for putting people back to work and helping small businesses. Gingrich mentioned that he has 12 American solutions for jobs and prosperity. The full list is here, but the only ones I remember Gingrich mentioning were reducing the business tax to the level of Ireland so we will stop exporting jobs, eliminating the capital gains tax like China and Singapore have done so we can attract investment, control government spending, and end earmarks and wasteful pork-barrel spending.
(Side note: I am sickened by the phony Republican outrage over earmarks, which are a tiny portion of the federal budget and don't even increase government spending. Earmarks only affect how money within a certain pot is allocated and who makes that decision. But in calls like this, it's important to resist the urge to hang up the phone. Stay on the line and keep taking notes.)
After Gingrich's recorded message ended, the caller came back on the line to ask me whether I believed that Washington's answer of bailouts and out-of-control spending would help the economy. At first I said yes, so she thanked me for my time and started wrapping up the call.
Then I pretended that I misunderstood her question, so she repeated it and this time I answered no. (Don't go writing The Ethicist about me; I'm not the one bothering thousands of people with a fake telephone "survey" that is really a push-poll and fundraising call.)
Then the caller started talking about New Gingrich's solutions. According to my notes, she mentioned across-the-board tax cuts, abolishing the capital gains tax, ending Medicare fraud and wasteful government spending.
The caller then offered me a "free" autographed copy of Gingrich's book with a donation of $100 or $200 to help pay for a full-page ad Gingrich plans to run in USA Today to feature his 12 solutions. I said I couldn't make a contribution and asked when the ad would be running. She didn't know, she thought they were trying to run the ad as soon as possible.
She asked if I would agree to let Gingrich list my name in his USA Today ad. Would I consider a smaller donation of $50 or $75? I said I wouldn't be able to donate any money but was interested in Gingrich's plans. She referred me to the website www.americansolutions.com, where the full 12-point plan is listed.
Finally, I asked the caller who she worked for, and she said she is an employee of Infocision, a third party that makes calls on behalf of American Solutions. I always like to ask phone-bankers who is paying for the call and what company they are working for.
I feel a little sorry for the people who get taken in by this kind of call and end up subsidizing chartered planes for Gingrich. He could afford to run more ads in USA Today if he flew commercial.
UPDATE: In February, Ben Smith posted about an unsolicited fax Gingrich's group was sending out.