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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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Congressman Frank, it just seems to me that this is getting more crazy, this defense by Newt Gingrich, paid a couple of million of dollars to, apparently, persuade conservative Republicans that Freddie Mac is a
great organization, members of Congress on Capitol Hill. He`s saying that that is not lobbying.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, he`s just lying. It is, of course, lobbying. And again, he slipped when he was defending the fee, although he says he can`t remember how much, because he said, Well, after all, I`m a former speaker of the House.

Well, that`s an important credential if you`re hiring a lobbyist. As I understand it, it doesn`t get you tenure at the Yale history department. Having been a former speaker has never been considered an academic

The fact is that what he`s -- this is really symptomatic of the Republicans` effort to kind of blame us for their mistakes, which you see, of course, with the effort to blame Obama for what he inherited from George

Here`s the basic point. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went unregulated for the 12 years during which the Republicans controlled the Congress. They ran it from 1995 to 2006. Chris Dodd and I were in the minority. And people who think I was secretly advising Tom Delay on what to do -- I got to tell you, if I`d made a list of things I wanted -- well, first Newt Gingrich, and then Tom Delay. I`ve said this before. If Tom Delay was
taking my advice during the period when I was in the minority, Bill Clinton wouldn`t have been impeached, we wouldn`t have gone to war in Iraq, and he wouldn`t have gone on the dance show.


FRANK: He didn`t accept my advice on any of those issues. Now, Gingrich is clearly there when they are refusing to do any reform. Read Hank Paulson`s book. Paulson says -- Bush`s secretary of the Treasury --
in 2006, when he became secretary, he talked to me. I was then in the minority, but it looked like the Democrats might take over.

He said, accurately -- he said to me, Can we do something about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if you guys are in the majority? I said, Yes, because I had earlier thought they were OK. By 2004 and 2005, I realized I had been wrong and I was too optimistic.

In 2007, when I first became the chairman, we passed the bill to control Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And in fact, Senator Dodd and I got the legislation through, and as a result of the legislation that was
ultimately signed in 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were put in a conservatorship and now are not losing any new money. They have old losses.

So yes, during the period when Newt Gingrich was first the speaker and then a Republican lobbyist, that`s when there were no regulations. And I must say I was very impressed, though, with how well he was doing because he said that he doesn`t remember how much money he got. Now, if you don`t remember what a single client gave you when it was more than $1.5 million five years ago, then things must have been pretty lucrative.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, here`s Gingrich today with a new theme for the afternoon, arguing he never peddled his influence on behalf of Freddie Mac. Let`s listen to the speaker, former speaker, as of late this afternoon.


NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did no lobbying of any kind. I did no influence peddling of any kind. But the truth is, if you have the reputation -- and I`m not going to use the words because then they`ll distort them and take them (INAUDIBLE). If you just take what people say about me in the debates and say to yourself, Gee, is that a person somebody might have hired for advice? You know, I think it`s hard to argue that they should have hired someone that was truly dumb.


GINGRICH: So I`m happy to tell you I have been a very successful business -- I`m not as successful as Mitt.


MATTHEWS: Well, he`s coming off there as Charles van Doren or somebody, somebody you just hire because of their uniquely high IQ.

FRANK: Well, I would say this. He is clearly the highest paid historian in American history.


FRANK: People complain if you go into the humanities, you don`t make as much money, but this may do a lot for that career path. It`s just nonsense! Advice about what? If it was advice about what kind of policies
to follow, he was very critical of those policies.

Again, I`m just struck by his ability to say things that clearly make no sense. And he also -- I gather he said it was -- the money wasn`t paid to him. That was his other...

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, that dodge.

FRANK: It was paid to the Gingrich Group, not him. Frankly, I thought the Gingrich Group were his wives. I thought that was what that...

MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman, you`re not aware of the new lingo, which is coming from Romney, actually, Mitt Romney, which is, corporations are people, too.

FRANK: That`s right.

MATTHEWS: So we have to understand that way. Anyway, here`s an interesting reaction to the latest news. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who`s back for reclamation -- he, of course, went to jail for three-and-a-half
years on corruption and conspiracy charges...


FRANK: Chris! Chris, don`t you mean historian Jack Abramoff?


MATTHEWS: OK! Here he is with David Gregory yesterday in a taping. Abramoff admits he crossed the line and acted illegally, which is a good start for saying something. He says he wants to sound the alarm about the corruption endemic in our system. On that note, Gregory asked him about Newt`s ties to Freddie Mac.

Let`s listen to this interesting witness, if you will, what he said.


JACK ABRAMOFF, FMR. LOBBYIST: This is exactly what I`m talking about, people who come to Washington, who have public service, and they cash in on it and they use their public service and their access to make money.

And unfortunately, Newt Gingrich is one of them who`s done it. He`s engaged in the exact kind of corruption that America disdains, the very things that anger the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement and everybody who`s not in a movement and watches Washington and says, Why are these guys getting all this money? Why did they go become so rich? Why do they have these advantages? Unfortunately, Newt seems to have played right into that.

DAVID GREGORY, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": You call that corruption,

ABRAMOFF: Yes, indeed.

GREGORY: That`s a heavy charge.

ABRAMOFF: That is -- well, what is it? It is corruption.


MATTHEWS: There he is, Casino Jack, giving his -- sharing the guilt for his lifetime. Let me ask you, Congressman Frank, if you can explain as a respected legislator -- and I mean this -- the way they hire big shots, big feet who come out of Congress or politics generally, they put them in these big law firms or consulting firms, and they don`t actually come to the Hill and lobby in a sense of waiting for you folks outside the chamber, but they basically are directing their traffic. Can you explain how that works for these guys?

FRANK: Well, sure. First of all, you have the knowledge of how things work. You know these people. Remember, Gingrich had been the speaker and left Congress -- actually, he got driven out by the way he had
mishandled things, including the wholly hypocritical impeachment of Bill Clinton for engaging in activity that was less flagrant than Newt was engaging in at the same time.

But you know these people. Remember, the people who are running the Congress eight years later, these are people who served in the leadership with him, Tom Delay, Dennis Hastert, his successor, the leaders of the committees. So you know these people.

Secondly, you don`t have to come and stand in the hall to talk to people. You can call them up. You can meet them at other events. There are all sorts of meetings that people have. So no, it doesn`t mean you
stand outside the door, but you give people advice about how to deal with these individuals, and then you talk to them.

It is inconceivable to me that there weren`t conversations between Newt Gingrich or his aides -- that`s the other way that people work. Look, he was the speaker. People are used to dealing with some of his aides.
You know, he said it was the Gingrich Group. There were people working with him. They go there and say, Gee, Newt thinks this and Newt thinks that.

And again, it is just so clear. And this effort to blame us -- the Republicans were in charge, Newt Gingrich for four years as speaker and then for eight years after that, the people he helped put in the leadership. They were the ones who had control over whether or not there was any regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Now, we know that there were people said it should have been regulated. I was originally wrong on that. I came around by 2004. But it was 2006, a couple years after I was trying to get them regulated, that
Newt was getting close to $2 million or over $1.5 million. And the notion he was getting it for advice -- simply, if that`s the case, the shareholders should have sued them for corporate waste.

MATTHEWS: And he wasn`t out there writing op-ed pieces or giving speeches about the need for reforming Freddie Mac, was he. He says that`s what he was thinking.

FRANK: No, well, he -- it was a well-kept secret. Actually, what he was doing was helping formulate the doctrine, home ownership. And by the way, I was one of those who said, Yes, I want to help low-income people get homes, but primarily rental housing. I have always felt that they`ve overdone the home ownership thing. But Newt acknowledges -- and that was the Freddie Mac rationale and the Fannie Mae rationale, home ownership was such a good thing.

And in fact, what the Republicans generally did was to cut back our efforts to provide good rental housing for people and push them into ownership. And he acknowledges that he was part of this effort to sell home ownership, which was what led people to give loans to people who shouldn`t have gotten them and led people who shouldn`t have gotten the loans to ask for them.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s heart of it. Yesterday, Newt`s opponent, still opponent, Michele Bachmann of the Congress, was quick to jump on the story. Here`s what she said. Let`s watch.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Whether former speaker Gingrich made $300,000 or whether he made $2 million, the point is, is that he took money to also influence senior Republicans to be favorable toward Fannie and Freddie. While he was taking that money, I was fighting
against Fannie and Freddie.


MATTHEWS: Well, I guess she`s not expecting to be nominating him for president next September in Tampa.

FRANK: Or serving in his cabinet. But let me say, to make this very clear, it was not until -- and I know people got kind of mythologized (ph) out of this -- read Henry Paulson`s book, Bush`s secretary of Treasury. It wasn`t until the Democrats took over in 2007 that legislation was passed to restrain Fannie and Freddie. So Newt was very successful.

As long as the Republicans were there, nothing happened. There were disputes among the Republicans, between Bush and Chairman Mike Oxley and Chairman Shelby in the Senate. But we worked with Hank Paulson, and as a result, we got a bill passed in the House in 2007, in the Senate in 2008.

Paulson then put them into receivership. And the man who now runs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who is no friend of the Democrats -- Obama tried to fire him and the Senate saved him -- he says that since the
legislation that we passed, the Democrats in 2008, went into effect, there have been no further losses incurred by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They have been profitable since then.

The losses come from the period when the Republicans were in control and blocked any legislation.

MATTHEWS: Great to have you on, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. Sir, thanks for coming on.

FRANK: Thank you.


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