Newt Gingrich Takes Italian Vacation While His Campaign Remains in Mop Up Mode

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John W. Adkisson / Getty Images

Former Speaker of the House and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich smiles after touring the Billy Graham Library with his wife, Callista Gingrich, on April 24, 2012 in Charlotte, N.C.

Everyone deserves a holiday, and barking about politicians’ vacations is standard practice (See: President Obama going to Martha’s Vineyard during the recession). But it seems fair to suggest that politicians invite scrutiny of their leisure time when they tweet photos of the fabulous locales they visit–particularly when there’s $4.7 million of unpaid campaign debts back home. Callista Gingrich has been occasionally sharing pictures of their Italian excursion–of vineyards, of lunch overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica–since June 25. Meanwhile creditors have been waiting for payments and, in rare cases, for disputes over bills to be settled.

Conventional wisdom is that those providing services for presidential campaigns can often expect to wait longer that 30 days to get paid: Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential committee still has $245,000 in the red. Some of Gingrich’s creditors are giving him more lenient timetables up front and seem happy enough with the lapse. Roy Oakley, president of Moby Dick Airways, has worked with Gingrich for at least 10 years. According to the latest FEC filing, Gingrich owed the company more than $1 million, though Oakley says the current balance is smaller. “They’ve said that they would pay and that he would personally make sure that it was,” Oakley says. “So I’m comfortable with that.” (He was not aware of a timetable for when that would happen.)

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Moshe Starkman, owner of a technology firm, is less comfortable. He has given the campaign a $95,000 bill that is in dispute. As Fox News reported in April, Starkman joined the Gingrich campaign as a field staffer in December; the campaign did not deny the field work but said that also paying to license the software used in that work would be double-billing. Starkman expects payment for the software and says he is still waiting for answers from the campaign. “This one is at the bottom of the list,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond says of this bill, “as we question whether or not these services were actually delivered.”

In wildland firefighting, there is a “mop up” stage–when the fire has been contained but the crew keeps at work to clear residual heat and smoke: So the campaign is over and Gingrich is taking a breather — and yet the mop up remains. In order to tackle the debt, Gingrich may have to use some of his own funds in addition to the money brought in by the campaign’s broader strategy of email appeals and fundraisers, which Hammond says will occur over the next sixth months. “These processes take years,” Hammond says. “That’s all the campaign is doing, is trying to figure out how it’s going to pay off debt. That’s why the committee is not suspending. That’s why it still exists.”

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