I WAS at a $1 million fund-raiser for Newt Gingrich the other evening with Tim Smith, a major contributor to Newt's foundations and political action committees.
He denied that he donated money to Newt in exchange for political favors.
The reason I come to these dinners is because I love the food," Tim said. "You're not going to get a piece of chicken this tasty even at the Four Seasons."
"I never thought of a political fund-raiser as a three-star restaurant," I admitted.
"It's not just the Caesar salad and Baked Alaska that bring me out," Tim said. "I like the good fellowship that goes with a Newt Gingrich affair. Everybody here hates the same things and the same people. All a speaker has to do is mention Connie Chung, and he gets a standing ovation. One joke about pregnant mothers on welfare is worth the $1,000. I love politicians because they put fire in my belly."
I said, "Newt is the most successful fund-raiser in political history. In the last 10 years he has pulled in $17 million. I can't believe that people give him money simply to have a delicious dinner."
Tim grumped, "Are you saying that Newt doesn't care about the food he serves at these benefits?"
"No. All I'm saying is that there are some lobbyists who feel a substantial donation to one of his funds would help him look kindly on their industry."
"That's how dumb you media people are. An insurance company, for example, will give Gingrich money only because it likes the wine he serves at the banquet. Newt doesn't even know how much an insurance company donates to his foundation. As far as he's concerned everyone who gives gets the same wine and great treatment. Gingrich will not do favors for the insurance industry just because it offers to underwrite his college teaching classes."
I said, "According to NBC, the Kohler family gave $757,000 to Newt. As Speaker of the House, wouldn't Newt be more tempted to call a member of the Kohler family if the Capitol toilets won't flush?"
Tim was furious. "That isn't how political fund-raising works. Newt doesn't care about the plumbing in the House. He is concerned about the ridiculous federal plumbing regulations that are hindering his Contract with America. That's where he and the Kohler family are working the same side of the street."
I tried to change the subject. "Do you find this chicken a little tough?" I asked Tim.
"A little, but it's much tastier than the French toast they served at a prayer breakfast for Newt in Atlanta last week."
Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.