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Updated from 2:42 p.m. EST with a statement from the Gingrich campaign



) -- A former

Freddie Mac

official said GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich received at least $1.5 million for consulting contracts with the housing agency from 1999-2002 and 2006-2007.

The official spoke anonymously, according to

The Associated Press

, as that number was significantly larger than the $300,000 the former House Speaker originally was asked about at a presidential debate last week for his work at Freddie Mac.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Gingrich, who has

gained significant ground in the

polls the past month, signed on with Freddie Mac in 1999 as a strategic consultant and held the post until sometime in 2002. Freddie Mac paid $25,000 to $30,000 a month, according to the



Gingrich returned in 2006 to the agency on a two-year contract that paid $300,000 a year, which the

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said was to defend Freddie Mac against attacks by the Republican right wing.

Gingrich's campaign released a statement on Wednesday that said the candidate never lobbied for Freddie Mac and that he offered strategic advice to many clients besides the housing agency.

"The Gingrich Group offered strategic advice to a wide variety of clients about a wide variety of issues," the statement said. "Gingrich Group fees were comparable to that of many consulting firms."

When questioned in the debate about his role, the former House Speaker said he offered Freddie Mac advice on lending practices to do "

precisely what they didn't do."

Other former Freddie Mac executives have disputed this account from Gingrich, the



-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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