A Timeline of Newt Gingrich's Political Life

From his first political gig as a Georgia Congressman to his current run for the White House, relive the highs and lows of one of the leading Republican presidential contenders

The bad thing about today’s 24/7 news cycle is that while we’re all hyper-focused on the headlines of the day and things that candidates have said or done in the last few minutes, it doesn’t help us to remember what candidates have done in their past political lives. Without some context, how do we know who they really are? Have they changed? What did they stand for or get involved in before running for president?

Newt Gingrich has a long political history, but as we’re bombarded with so much information about so many candidates, it might be hard to remember what he was doing back when he landed his first political gig and what baggage he’s picked up along the way. To help you have a better understanding of Gingrich, here’s a timeline of some essential facts:

1978-- First elected to Congress in Georgia at age 35, his third attempt at going to the House of Representatives.

February 1981-- Asks first wife Jackie Battley Gingrich for divorce after she’s diagnosed with cancer.

August 1981-- Marries second wife Marianne Ginther, after having an affair with her while married to first wife. This wasn’t public knowledge at the time.

1988-89-- Gingrich leads efforts to oust then-Speaker of the House Jim Wright, a Democrat, over ethics charges.

1994-- Gingrich leads efforts against President Bill Clinton’s polices with the “Contract with America,” a Republican initiative to introduce government reforms, including a call for a balanced federal budget, an anti-crime initiative, cuts in welfare payments, cuts in the capital gains tax and small business incentives.

1995-- Gingrich becomes Speaker of the House of Representatives, making him the first Republican Speaker in 40 years.

1995-- TIME Magazine names Gingrich its Man of the Year. “All year--ruthlessly, brilliantly, obnoxiously--he worked at hammering together inevitabilities: a balanced federal budget, for one,” Lance Morrow wrote in the December 1995 TIME piece on the House speaker.

1995-- Gingrich leads Republican efforts to shut down the federal government over budget disagreements. Some news reports claim he pushed for the shut-down, in part, over reportedly being snubbed by President Clinton on an Air Force One trip back to the U.S. after attending the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

1997-- House Ethics Committee investigates Gingrich over questionable political action committee contributions and disclosures.

1997-- Fined $300,000 by House Ethics Committee for violating House rules barring use of tax-exempt funds for political purposes.

1998-- Gingrich resigns as Speaker of the House.

1998-- Gingrich publicly condemns President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. (He later admitted he was having an affair with his current wife at that time.)

1998 and beyond -- After leaving the House of Representatives in 1998, Gingrich founds a variety of for-profit companies and non-profit organizations. In 2009 he founded the non-profit Renewing American Leadership which says its mission is, "… to preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage by defending and promoting the four pillars of American civilization: faith, family, freedom, and free enterprise. We are dedicated to educating, organizing, training and mobilizing people of faith to renew American self-government and America’s role in the world." Since Gingrich announced his run for president, Renewing American Leadership has come under fire for alleged financial connections with his for-profit entities.

1999-- Gingrich founds Gingrich Productions, the non-profit Gingrich Foundation and Gingrich Communications.

2000-- Gingrich divorces second wife after her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

August 2000-- Marries third wife, Callista Bisek, after having affair with her while married to his second wife. (The affair became public in 1999.)

2005-- Gingrich is the author of many best-selling books, including one released in 2005 entitled, “Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America.”

May 2011-- Gingrich’s campaign nearly collapses after it is revealed that the champion of budgetary restraint and his wife Callista had two lines of credit at the jewelry store Tiffany’s of up to $1 million.

May 2011-- Gingrich calls Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan to make changes to Medicare “right wing social engineering.” Gingrich goes back on that statement after fellow Republicans go on the attack.

November 2011-- The Washington Post reports that Gingrich and the organizations he’s founded have earned close to $100 million since he left Congress in 1999. Gingrich acknowledges that he charges up to $60,000 per event in speaking fees.

November 2011-- Gingrich claims he’s never been a lobbyist, even though he was paid approximately $1.6 million dollars as a “consultant” to mortgage lender Freddie Mac during the time preceding the mortgage crisis. He also admitted that he spoke with lawmakers about issues on behalf of Freddie Mac.

November 2011-- Gingrich says poor students in poor school districts don’t need better education standards, but would benefit more from being put to work as school janitors to earn cash, have pride in their schools and “begin the process of rising.”

December 2011-- In a move that signals he’s not a fan of an independent judiciary (as called for by the Constitution) Gingrich proclaims that if elected president, he would refuse to follow any judicial rulings he disagreed with, and would subpoena those judges to testify before Congress to justify their rulings.

December 2011-- Despite his rocky personal history, Gingrich agrees to a “fidelity pledge” with conservative group.

Do you have a favorite Newt Gingrich moment?

iVillage contributor Joanne Bamberger writes about the intersection of motherhood and politics at her blog, PunditMom. She is the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics In America, which is on sale now at Amazon.com.

Plus, watch our GOP Cheat Sheet Video: iVillage Chief Correspondent Kelly Wallace and iVillage contributor and Pundit Mom Joanne Bamberger reveal four things you might not know about Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry


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