Former Gingrich Ally Claims Republican Leaders Blackmailed Him Over Affair

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David Austin Walsh is the editor of the History News Network.

Gingrich and his now wife, Callista Bisek. Credit: Gage Skidmore

A former ally of Newt Gingrich contends that the Republican Revolution in the 1990s was derailed when the Speaker was blackmailed by opponents of reform in his own party who had learned of his affair with Callista Bisek, now his wife.  

Scot Faulkner, the first Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives, alleges in an article that will be published on the website of the History News Network next week, that Gingrich abandoned reform to keep his affair secret.  

In the article Faulkner singles out Louisiana congressman Bob Livingston, who at the time was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, as one of the people guilty of blackmailing Gingrich.

In his 2008 memoir, Naked Emperors: The Failure of the Republican Revolution, Faulkner also implicated Californian Bill Thomas, the chairman of the House Committee on Administration under Gingrich.

In the book Faulkner recounted that a colleague of an unnamed California businessman had "speculated that Thomas must have something on Gingrich." "There are rumors that Newt has a girlfriend," Faulkner told the businessman, who replied: "Gingrich wants to be president. Exposing his affair would be devastating. Thomas has the upper hand."

Gingrich was in such a weak position by then that Thomas was able to arrange for all House officers (including Faulkner) to report directly to him rather than to the Speaker. "Scot, the revolution is over!" exclaimed Tom DeLay, one of the early Gingrich supporters. Shortly thereafter Faulkner, who had implemented reforms curbing the power and perks of insiders like Thomas, was forced out of his position at Thomas's behest.  

Gingrich, according to Faulkner, also made tactical and strategic errors during his Speakership, which caused the Republicans to lose the government shutdown fight. “[He] did not have a ‘second act’ after his first hundred days [as Speaker]. No one had laid out a strategy for the long haul.” Faulkner told Fox News in 2010 that Gingrich also lacked experience as a legislative “engineer” and author of bills. This lack of foresight and experience left an opening for incumbent moderate Republicans to prevent deep cuts to their own pet spending projects.

Gingrich’s presidential campaign has been dogged by his history of affairs and odd relationships. His first wife, Jackie Battley, was his high-school geometry teacher. He divorced Battley in 1980, while she was recovering from cancer, to marry Marianne Ginter, who caused waves last week when she told ABC News that Gingrich wanted “an open marriage” where he could sleep with other women. Gingrich divorced Ginter in 1999, a year after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, to marry Callista Bisek.

It’s his track record as the morally compromised leader of a failed revolution, Faulkner concludes, that is “the genesis of Gingrich being called undisciplined and immature on the campaign trail, and why most of those who worked closely with him are opposing his candidacy.”

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