Turns out that free-market evangelist — and former House speaker — Newt Gingrich is also a paid booster of the heavily government-subsidized ethanol industry. How does taking $300,000 a year to promote an industry that gets billions of dollars in subsidies annually square with Gingrich’s archconservative, small-government views? It’s hard to say, as his spokesman has not returned calls asking for comment. But since Gingrich is considering running for president in 2012, it’s something Americans ought to know. –YL

iWatch News, Center for Public Integrity:

According to IRS records, the ethanol group Growth Energy paid Gingrich’s consulting firm $312,500 in 2009.The former House Speaker was the organization’s top-paid consultant, according to the records. His pay was one of the group’s largest single expenditures, as it took in and spent about $11 million to promote ethanol and to lobby for federal incentives for its use.

In a Growth Energy publication, Gingrich was listed as a consultant who offered advice on “strategy and communication issues” and who “will speak positively on ethanol related topics to media.”

Chris Thorne, a Growth Energy spokesman, said Gingrich was not hired again in 2010. The group was organized by ethanol producers from the Midwest in late 2008, Thorne said. Its members sought Gingrich’s counsel when it started because “they were people who were never involved in DC politics before, and they were looking for someone who knew how to get things done.” The organization’s IRS report for 2010 is not yet available.

Gingrich’s support of ethanol subsidies does not fit well with conservative, free-market theory, said Thomas Schatz, the president of the public interest group Citizens Against Government Waste.

And as voters express concerns over the soaring national debt, many in Congress, from both parties, are questioning the value of the $6 billion tax credit.

“At $6 billion, that is real money, even here in Washington,” Schatz told iWatch News.

“Not only is this tax credit expensive and unnecessary, it has produced many unfavorable consequences including higher food prices, lower fuel efficiency and increased incidences of engine damage in motor vehicles,” CAGW says in a report on its website.

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