Newt Gingrich is running about as anti-Washington of a campaign as humanly possible for a guy who's a former speaker of the House. So it created a bit of cognitive dissonance to see two consummate Washington insiders flanking Gingrich during his South Carolina victory speech Saturday night.
But look closely and you'll see the pair basking in the glow of Gingrich: former congressman-turned-lobbyist Bob Walker and Randy Evans, the candidate's lawyer when then-Speaker Gingrich was slammed with a $300,000 House ethics fine. Not exactly optimal optics.
Or, as one GOP insider not backing a presidential candidate put it: "It's raises eyebrows to see Gingrich sharing a campaign stage with Washington insiders in South Carolina when he keeps bashing the culture he presided over as speaker of the House."
Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said Evans and Walker were there as friends. Evans hasn't represented Gingrich in a decade, he said.
"Considering that Randy lives in Atlanta, I wouldn't call him a Beltway insider. And considering that during Bob's time in the U.S. House he was behind the Contract for America, he's not exactly establishment. Insiders support Romney."
Indeed, Gingrich rival Mitt Romney is widely seen as the GOP presidential candidate with the deepest K Street support.
For his part, Evans wrote in an email to the Alley, "My relationship is long and personal. I first met Newt in 1976 and lived in the basement of his house in 1979 after he was first elected in 1978. My wife and I share a condo in DC with Kathy, his daughter. My roles have changed over years from intern to campaign worker to campaign chairman to lawyer to chair of his businesses to now just adviser and friend. I have not been the lawyer for his operations for several years now (a role filled by Stefan Passantino). As you probably noted, I do not lobby and have never lobbied."
I've also dropped Walker a line and will update this post if I hear back.
UPDATE: Walker writes in an email to the Alley: "There are some lobbyists, not many but some, who believe in and act on reform and transformation, too."
Bob Walker, left of Gingrich with glasses, and Randy Evans, right of Gingrich and behind Callista Gingrich.