December 7, 1995
KWAME HOLMAN: It took 15 months to consider all the charges, but last night, Nancy Johnson and Jim McDermott, the chairman and ranking member of the Ethics Committee, emerged from an all-day meeting to give a brief summation of their findings.
REP. NANCY JOHNSON, Chairman, Ethics Committee: (Last Night) The committee has unanimously voted a resolution of preliminary inquiry and will hire a special counsel in regard to allegations of improper conduct by Rep. Gingrich in connection with a college course and certain foundation--
KWAME HOLMAN: In short, the committee found enough evidence to determine Gingrich may have violated laws by using tax deductible contributions to finance a college course he taught in Georgia. An outside counsel will determine whether to file formal charges against the Speaker, or dismiss the complaint. And the Committee considered other complaints against the Speaker.
REP. NANCY JOHNSON: In some instances, the Committee found violations but will take no further action.
KWAME HOLMAN: Those instances include specific cases in which Gingrich allowed political advisor Joseph Gaylord to use his congressional office for unofficial business, gave out an 800 number on the House floor to promote sales of taped recordings of his college course lecture, and used the House floor to publicize a meeting of GOPAC, Gingrich's Political Action Committee. And in the case of Gingrich's $4.5 million book contract offer from media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, the committee found Gingrich was in "technical compliance with House rules," but sent a letter to Gingrich stating the committee "strongly questions the appropriateness of what some could describe as an attempt by you to capitalize on your office." For his part, Speaker Gingrich had little to say today, instead, issuing a statement saying he's pleased with the committee's action and confident the remaining charge against him will be dismissed; however, other members had plenty to say about the Ethics Committee's decision when the House went into session late this morning.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT, (R) Illinois: The Ethics Committee has finally reached a unanimous conclusion about the wild attacks that have come from liberal Democrats against Speaker Newt Gingrich, much ado about nothing.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT, (D) Texas: Charge: Misuse of the House floor for apparently commercial purposes; finding: Gingrich guilty. Charge: improper promotion of GOPAC; finding: Gingrich guilty. Charge: commingling political and official resources; finding: Gingrich guilty.
REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D) California: No one should be so big, so important, so powerful they can violate the rules of this House and the laws of this country without suffering the consequences.
REP. TOM DeLAY, Majority Whip: This is an effort to change the subject as Republicans try to change the country for the better. To great expense and great fanfare, liberal Democrats have abused the ethics process for political gain.
KWAME HOLMAN: For House Minority Whip David Bonior, the Ethics Committee action marks a milestone in what has been almost a personal crusade against Newt Gingrich.
REP. DAVID BONIOR, Minority Whip: This is a great institution. We're standing right in front of the capitol. I work here. I get thrills when I come to work every day, and I want the person at the top, the third highest person in the land, the Speaker, to act with integrity, to act with respect, and not to be violating rules and laws and plowing the envelope on every regulation and law we have before us that governs his sense of power, personal and political. And I think that's what's been going on.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Majority Leader Dick Armey says the one remaining charge against Gingrich amounts to nothing more than a technical tax question.
REP. DICK ARMEY, Majority Leader: They said this is such a technically complex issue we simply don't know; therefore, we are looking for a special counsel with the expertise in complex tax law. Now, I have to say, I have read a ruling or a judgment given to the Speaker by a former director of the IRS. It's three pages. It's a very complex citation of tax law, that says in the judgment of the former IRS commissioner this was not a violation, as I read that.
KWAME HOLMAN: But the Speaker's troubles may extend beyond this Ethics Committee investigation. Last week, the Federal Elections Commission filed a civil lawsuit against GOPAC based on documents it says indicate Gingrich's Political Action Committee violated federal election laws. Rep. Bonior says he'll soon file a new ethics complaint against Gingrich based on those documents.