How Gingrich (Literally) Cleaned Up Congress

Written by Eli Lehrer on Tuesday November 15, 2011

Newt Gingrich’s surge in the polls raises at least an outside chance that the former House Speaker is going to end up topping the GOP ticket next November. Nobody disputes that Gingrich is very smart and a good debater. He also has the sort of high-level political experience (including foreign policy) that Herman Cain and Rick Perry both lack. But it can be said—not unfairly—that he hasn’t really run anything really, really big.

That said, when it came to the biggest thing he has ever run—the House of Representatives—Gignrich did a good job.

Anybody who spends a lot of time around the Capitol Hill knows that until recently the House and Senate Office buildings were stark contrasts. Dirty floors, broken elevators, poor staff services and barely edible cafeteria food predominated in the Upper Chamber.

House buildings, on the other hand, are almost always immaculate, have good-for-institutional-food cafeterias, well-stocked gift stores, and process just about all staff requests quickly. Even in the U.S. Capitol itself, the House side has tended to be noticeably cleaner and brighter than the Senate side. (The Senate has recently contracted out and improved food services so the differences aren’t as stark as they once were.)

And Gingrich, who devoted a lot of time and effort to managing the House--letting contracts, improving services--in the early days of his speakership deserves some credit for this. True, some of the changes pre-date his speakership--Democrats, under pressure for corruption and cronyism, initially moved towards contracting out food services--but it’s still shows that he cares about how things are run.

I have problems with Gingrich but his record managing the House shows that he’s, at minimum, a decent manager.