The Long March of Newt Gingrich: Part Six

December 21, 2011
This week, FRONTLINE is putting up excerpts from our 1996 biography, The Long March of Newt Gingrich. This is the final installment; view part one, part two, part three, part four and part five.

“When all other political analysts and even party officials were writing off the chance to win a majority in the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich was there, telling them, ‘No, it can be done.'”

Paul Weyrich, conservative activist

In a remarkable political moment during the 1994 midterm elections, scores of Republican candidates bound themselves to Newt and his ideas, signing a Contract With America that promised congressional reform, welfare reform and a balanced budget.

Following the election, in which Republicans gain control of the House and the Senate for the first time in 40 years, the center of domestic political power shifted from the White House to Newt’s House. The House passed all but one of the contract’s “10 Commandments” in its first 100 days.

But along with the shift in power came the harsh glare of the spotlight. Newt came under criticism for accepting a $4.5 million book advance at the same time he was cutting aid to the poor.  The press raised questions about his personal life, making things awkward for the man who led the “family values” party. The House Ethics Committee, which had investigated former Speaker Jim Wright after Newt’s two-year campaign against him, reprimanded Newt for his book deal and appointed a special counsel to investigate the funding of his satellite history course.

In 1997, the House voted 395 to 28 to reprimand Newt for ethics violations related to Newt’s class, ordering him to pay a $300,000 penalty. It was the first time in its history that the House had disciplined a speaker.

Bonus: “The New Newt, Just Like the Old Gingrich” — National Journal‘s Eliza Newlin Carney on the similarities between Newt’s GOPAC operation and the “complex network of political, consulting, philanthropic, and communications groups that aggressively promote him” today.

Produced by Steve Talbot, The Long March of Newt Gingrich was a co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting. Note: This section of the film was slightly edited from the original due to rights restrictions. Footage of The Magnificent Seven trailer courtesy of Producers Library.

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