Newt Gingrich's month-long ride at the top of the polls -- a run, it seems, that is coming to the same inglorious end as other GOP candidates who have peaked and burned -- has drawn plenty of attention to Newt Inc., his multi-million Washington influence empire. And on Monday, the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that his production company, Gingrich Productions, made illegal corporate contributions to his presidential campaign.
Gingrich's campaign denied the charge. "If the FEC considers the complaint, they will find that the rules are being followed and published regulations are being enforced," spokesman R.C. Hammond said.
CREW's complaint alleges that the campaign paid Gingrich Productions $42,000 for its mailing list and asks the FEC to investigate whether the production company illegally subsidized his campaign by holding campaign events that doubled as book signings, practices that were detailed in two Washington Post stories.
CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said Gingrich appeared to have turned campaign funds to personal use. "Gingrich seems like one of the greediest candidates to come through Washington. If there's a way to make money on something he will," Sloan said.
So far, Gingrich has enjoyed solid support from the tea party, but as the media and outside groups have shed more light on business practices designed to cash in on his status as a Washington insider, that support seems certain to erode among a group that detests Washington wheeling and dealing.