Who says lawyers can't save the day?
2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich credits his former lawyer, Randy Evans, for keeping him on track during the rough early days of his campaign. After Gingrich announced his 2012 bid in May, he slammed into criticism when he went on a Mediterranean cruise. Many of his staff members left the campaign en masse after the trip, and later, the media pounced on reports of a Tiffany's jewelry store credit line for up to $500,000.
"As some of you know, we had a fairly tough couple of months this summer, and the campaign wasn't as much fun as we had planned," Gingrich said at an event celebrating Evans as the 2011 Republican Lawyer of the Year Wednesday night. The former House speaker added that he considered Evans a valuable counselor during that time, the person who helped him to not sweat the small stuff. "Randy's great strength is he can ignore the rabbits and figure out the elephant," he said. "And he can get you to focus on the elephant."
Evans also came through for Gingrich during his days as speaker of the House. The two had known each other for years by that time: Evans had volunteered for Gingrich's 1979 campaign as a college student, and later was Gingrich's daughter's high school debate coach. Evans even lived with the Gingrich family while interning in the congressman's office, and the two maintained a personal and professional relationship as their careers grew.
So when Gingrich faced ethics complaints in 1996 over misuse of tax-deductible donations and suffered what he called "very bad misrepresentation by my attorneys," he called on his old friend Evans. "At a point in time when my defense as the speaker had been mishandled, Randy stepped in at the last possible minute," Gingrich said. "A few weeks later, it was solved."
The House Ethics subcommittee reprimanded Gingrich, but he was allowed to keep his speakership.
Evans stayed on as outside council for Speaker Dennis Hastert and has served other Washington Republicans, including former Rep. J.C. Watts and former Sen. Zell Miller, as well as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
Gingrich also sees a future national role for Evans, particularly if the candidate wins in 2012. "I suspect in the next administration, whether it's my administration or somebody else's—and I think it's probably going to be mine—but I think he will play a very significant role in helping get this country back on track. And not just on the political side, but also on the legal side," Gingrich said, lobbing criticism at what he has called "activist judges" and at the current administration, which he has railed against over the controversial Fast and Furious gun sting operation at the U.S.-Mexico border and for refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. "We are currently in such a mess, whether it's judgeships or the way the Justice Department is being run, or the confusion in the White House about what is an executive order and what is a law."