Organizationally, CNAL didn't look much different from Gingrich's last operation or his current presidential campaign. He was at the top as the founder, and Joe Gaylord, his political lieutenant since the late 1980s, was the group's chairman. CNAL's spokesman was Gingrich's former congressional spokesman, Mike Shields, who was also listed as president of one of CNAL's spin-off websites, SocialSecurityPlus.org. Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich 2012 campaign staffer who quit in June and now serves as a senior adviser to the super PAC that is backing Gingrich, was listed as president of another site, Maxtax.org. Both Shields and Gaylord declined to comment for this article.
In addition to Gingrich's people, CNAL also took over more than $100,000 in leftover funds from Friends of Newt Gingrich, which shut down in early 2000, according to a Federal Election Commission report.
Like other Gingrich projects, after a sputter of new websites and lofty goals, CNAL soon disappeared. Its homepage shut down in late 2000. Tyler declined to comment on CNAL's operations except to say that it was dissolved without debts.
For the next six years, Gingrich abandoned his revolving cast of political groups in favor of the private sector, where he made millions as a public speaker, author, consultant and all-around Washington power broker, trading on his experience in Congress. Financially speaking, it was a period of relative calm for Gingrich, who established a nonprofit family foundation during that time but otherwise avoided the temptations of 501(c)3 formation.
In Gingrich's profitable web of private-sector enterprises, all of which seemed to thrive in a way that contrasts sharply with his history of "dot-orgs," Tyler increasingly played an integral role. In 2009, Tyler founded the 501(c)3 nonprofit Renewing American Leadership (ReAL), a group whose mission, according to IRS forms, was "to preserve America's Judeo-Christian heritage." From an address at the Gingrich Group offices in Washington D.C., ReAL in 2010 raised more than $3 million off direct mail appeals, most of which were printed on "Newt Gingrich" letterhead and signed with Gingrich's signature.
Gingrich himself had no official title at ReAL -- the group actually had no full-time employees -- but it did offer him two tangible benefits as he prepared to launch his 2012 presidential bid.
First, it let Gingrich reach potential voters with a pro-Christian message that would eventually dovetail with his campaign. Second, it provided him with the names and addresses of everyone who responded to the donation requests that went out over his signature -- a highly valuable commodity for someone about to appeal for campaign donations.
"For the kinds of people who are responding to direct mail, those are individuals who are going to give because it's Newt Gingrich," said Sunlight's Allison, "and they'll give to anything, whether it's a 527 focused on solutions, a presidential campaign committee or a 501(c)3 focused on leadership. It's about Gingrich. And for Gingrich, the challenge is to find those people."
By the end of 2010, ReAL had a mere $3,404 left of the $3 million. In March 2011, shortly before the group was audited by the state of West Virginia, Tyler left to join Gingrich's presidential campaign.
'IT WAS A SUCCESSFUL VENTURE WHEN GINGRICH WAS HERE'
For his own part, Gingrich founded the 527 political group American Solutions for Winning the Future in 2006 to finance his political comeback. American Solutions raised $50 million in a mere four years, for travel, public speaking engagements, mailings and other expenses, with more than $8 million coming from Adelson, the casino magnate, and his family. Like GOPAC and CNAL, the group was managed by Gaylord.
After Gingrich announced his candidacy for president last year, however, he left the group and took his fundraising prowess with him. Unlike PFF, which survived his departure, American Solutions quickly went bankrupt, having spent $500,000 more in the first half of the year than it took in.
Following the model of so many Gingrich projects before it, American Solutions is now defunct and in legal trouble. This time, however, it's not with the IRS but with the landlord, who sued the group this fall for $19,130 in delinquent rent for office space on Washington's K Street. No one appeared in court on behalf of American Solutions.
According to D.C. Superior Court records, the U.S. Marshals Service was directed to evict American Solutions from the office in late December, but it's unclear whether the order has been carried out.
When asked about the matter, Gingrich's campaign spokesman, R.C.Hammond, said Gingrich had severed all ties with American Solutions in May 2011, so he had nothing to do with its current situation. "It was a successful venture when Gingrich was there," Hammond said. "We are very disappointed that it's no longer successful."
Gingrich still leases space in the building for his other ventures, however, and the willingness of Gingrich and his staff to stand by while an organization he founded and led until last year is hauled into court and evicted for back rent is striking, to say the least.
A spokesman for the landlord, B.G.W. Limited Partnership, declined to comment on the case, as did its attorney. Spokespeople for the U.S. Marshals Service and D.C. Superior Court also declined to comment on the status of the eviction.
Meanwhile, Gingrich's presidential campaign has staggered, soared and plummeted. His win in the South Carolina Republican primary in January was a vindication for the former House speaker, who has dismissed any and all pundits and naysayers who count him out.
That confidence -- however misplaced -- is classic Gingrich and has carried him past all the failed projects that have marked his career, from the fiasco at ALOF in the 1980s through the ethics debacle at GOPAC in the 1990s to the crumbling of American Solutions last year. Despite plunging poll numbers in recent weeks, there are few signs that Gingrich plans to abandon his presidential bid, the latest iteration of his three-decade battle against what he perceives as "the establishment."
Yet bravado alone is unlikely to carry Gingrich all the way to the White House. Even his mega-supporter, Sheldon Adelson, has signaled that he may back another candidate if and when Gingrich no longer seems like a good investment. With expenses mounting, Gingrich's own campaign is poised to become his latest victim.