“For too long, poor people haven’t had a seat at the table in American politics,” said Newt Gingrich. “Now, thanks to their new political action committee, the voices of the poor will be heard.”
Gingrich was speaking in his new capacity as executive director of Poor People of America, a recently formed PAC that visited San Diego to lobby local politicians. Gingrich said the group will be focused on advancing the interests of the nation’s poor and has already raised “a substantial amount of revenue.”
“It’s true that each individual poor person doesn’t have that much money to donate,” Gingrich said. “The thing is we have 47 million Americans living in poverty today, so even tiny little donations add up.”
Stanley Kozwerski, a 55-year-old roofer who has been unable to find work for more than 2 years, said he donated $60 that he saved by taking only half of his prescribed dose of hypertension medication for several months. “It’s not that politicians aren’t willing to help the nation’s poor,” said Kozwerski. “Politicians just haven’t had professional lobbyists to help guide them through the proper legislating, like they have with other issues.”
Lizzy Davenport, 7, said that after saving a portion of her weekly $1 allowance for six months, she was able to donate $12 to Poor People of America. “As a public school student from a family of average means, I donated to make sure my educational interests aren’t neglected in the political process,” said Davenport, who is in the second grade. “After all, in our democracy, money talks and bullshit walks.”
For decades, as a congressman and as a lobbyist, Gingrich has called for cutbacks to virtually every type of assistance for the poor. Still, he doesn’t see any irony in his new role. “You come across a lot of strange bedfellows in Washington, D.C.,” Gingrich said. “I’m happy to have come across America’s poor.”
Documents filed by the political action committee indicate Gingrich’s annual salary will be $350,000.
“Newt is a has-been, not to mention a creep, but his rates are relatively affordable and he still knows some people,” said Davenport, the second-grader. “We need access, and he’s got access.”
Like all political action committees, Poor People of America will be free to spend an unlimited amount of money to advocate for legislation and to influence elections, as long as it doesn’t work directly with any candidates.
Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) — a lobbyist himself until being elected to Congress in 2006 — was the guest of honor at a Wednesday night cigar party thrown by Poor People of America on the Royal Hornblower. Bilbray puffed stogies and sipped cocktails with Gingrich and a team of lobbyists working to win more money for rehabilitation services for homeless people who suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction.
“It’s kind of ironic,” Bilbray said. “Just last week I had some guys from the Alcohol Distributors of America in town, advising me to vote against any ban on those single-serving shots of liquor they sell in the little plastic bottles. Now here I am, talking with other lobbyists about the folks who buy the little bottles. Small world.”
Bilbray added that “for a new PAC, the Poor People [of America] threw a great party” though he said that “the cigars were better at the Distributors’ event.”
Poor People of America also sponsored a trip for Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) and her husband to a conference on medical-bill-induced bankruptcy in St. Bart’s. Before the trip, Davis huddled in her office for two hours with Gingrich and a few of members of his team — as well as four women who recently went bankrupt due to overwhelming medical bills.
“Three of the four women actually had medical insurance but went bankrupt because of gaps in coverage,” Davis said. “And it turns out that same ratio applies to the hundreds of thousands of people who are stricken by medical-bill bankruptcies nationwide.”
Davis said she was “already aware that medical bills are busting a lot of people’s wallets” but was headed to St. Bart’s “because travel to exotic destinations helps the facts really sink in.”