JANUARY 31, 1997
Scandal dominated the political scene in Washington this week. Two of the nation's most powerful leaders, President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich, faced tough questions about their election activities. After a background report on the recent ethical charges, the NewsHour's political analysts, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Wall Street Journalist Paul Gigot, debate the charges and if a "double standard" exists for Democrats and Republicans.
MARGARET WARNER: It was another tough week on the ethics front for both Speaker Gingrich and the President.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
January 31, 1997:
Mark Shields and Paul Gigot debate the ethics questions surrounding President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich.
January 28, 1997:
President Clinton takes questions about DNC finances and campaign reform.
January 17, 1997:
Shields, Gigot and Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein discuss Newt Gingrich's agreement to pay $300,000 in fines and be reprimanded by the House.
January 10, 1997:
Shields & Gigot debate the "public blood feud" over Gingrich's ethics case.
January 8, 1997:
NewsHour historians puts perspective on political scandal, in light of the furor over Speaker Gingrich.
January 7, 1997:
Newt Gingrich is re-elected Speaker and apologizes for having "brought controversy" to the House.
January 6, 1997:
Members of Congress debate Gingrich's ethics charges, and whether the allegations will prevent his re-election as Speaker.
January 3, 1997:
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Kate O'Beirne, Washington Editor for the National Review, disagree on the seriousness of the ethical charges against Speaker Gingrich and how solid his support is.
October 29, 1996:
The NewsHour looks at the growing controversy over Democratic National Committee Fund Raising.
Browse past segments of Shields and Gigot
REP. NEWT GINGRICH, Speaker of the House: I would just ask here so that I have instructions from back home.
MARGARET WARNER: Last Saturday Newt Gingrich returned to Georgia. It was his first time to meet with his suburban Atlanta constituents since the House voted to reprimand the Speaker and fine him $300,000 for ethics violations. While the audiences were mostly friendly, some constituents did press the Speaker to explain and defend his conduct. Gingrich offered no apologies.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH: Iíll tell you bluntly, I think there is an amazing double standard. Now, let me give you an example. You can on the left do anything you want, and nobody seems to notice. But if you are a conservative and you follow the law and you hire lawyers and you do what you can, if you make a single mistake, you had better plan to be pilloried because youíre politically incorrect.
MARGARET WARNER: But in Washington on Tuesday President Clinton found he could not escape ethics questions either. It was the first news conference of his second term, and the President had hoped to highlight his latest education proposals. Instead, fully one third of the questions focused on possibly improper White House involvement and Democratic fund-raising activities. The President was asked about some 103 White House coffees held for potential donors in the year and a half before the election. At one event last May sponsored by the Democratic Party more than a dozen bankers met with the President, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and the nationís top banking regulator, Comptroller of the Currency Eugene Ludwig. Some of the bankers later donated a combined $333,000 to the party. Ludwig said last week he had no idea of the partyís involvement in the event. The President agreed Tuesday that in retrospect, Ludwig should not have been invited to the meeting. He also conceded that White House officials may have erred in other ways.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: It costs so much money to pay for these campaigns that mistakes were made here by people who either did it deliberately or inadvertently. Now, others--itís up to others to decide whether those mistakes were made deliberately or inadvertently. Itís up to me to do what I can to clean up the system.
MARGARET WARNER: Questions about the propriety of the bankerís coffees threatened the confirmation prospects of the Presidentís nominee for Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman. Herman previously headed the White House Office of Public Liaison which helped organize the coffee. A further potential problem for the White House erupted two days after the press conference. The Los Angeles Times reported that the White House had maintained at taxpayer expense a computer database of some 350,000 visitors and supporters and then shared that information with Democratic National Committee fund-raisers seeking to identify potential donors. White House officials deny that the DNC was allowed access to the list. Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, began laying the groundwork for an investigation into campaign finance abuses during the Ď96 election.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON, Chairman, Governmental Affairs Committee: Those of us with responsibilities in this area, whether it be the President or members of Congress, cannot let the call for reform serve to gloss over serious violations of existing laws. If we do that, the reform debate will be cast in a totally partisan context and ensure once again that campaign finance reform will be killed.
MARGARET WARNER: Thompsonís committee voted yesterday to ask the Senate for up to $6.5 million for its investigation. Thatís more than the combined cost of the earlier Senate inquiries into Whitewater and the Iran-Contra Affair.