Saturday, January 21, 2012

Happy Anniversary, "Mr. Speaker"

Today was the 15th anniversary of Newt Grinrich's formal reprimand by the House of Representatives on ethical violations.
Perhaps it's a good time to review this sorry chapter in our history:

“The House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reprimand House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and order him to pay an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House’s 208-year history it has disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing. … Exactly one month before yesterday’s vote, Gingrich admitted that he brought discredit to the House and broke its rules by failing to ensure that financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.” (“House Reprimands, Penalizes Speaker,” The Washington Post, 1/22/97)

The House Voted 395-28 To Reprimand Speaker Gingrich – With Roughly Nine In Ten House Republicans Voting Against Gingrich. (H.Res. 31, Vote #8: Passed 395-28: R 196-26; D 198-2; I 1-0, 1/21/97)

The House Ethics Committee – Chaired By A Republican Member – Had Previously Voted 7-1 To Reprimand And Sanction Gingrich. “The House ethics committee recommended last night that [Gingrich] face an unprecedented reprimand from his colleagues and pay $300,000 in additional sanctions after concluding that his use of tax-deductible money for political purposes and inaccurate information supplied to investigators represented ‘intentional or … reckless’ disregard of House rules. The committee’s 7 to 1 vote came after 5 1/2 hours of televised hearings … ‘This is a tough penalty,’ Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (R-Conn.), chairman of the ethics panel, said after the vote. ‘I believe it is an appropriate penalty. It demonstrates that nobody is above the rules.’” (John E. Yang and Helen Dewar, “Ethics Panel Supports Reprimand of Gingrich,” The Washington Post, 1/18/97)

The Washington Post: “The House Imposed The Penalty … After Gingrich Acknowledged He Gave The Ethics Committee Untrue Information.” “The House imposed the penalty last year after Gingrich acknowledged he gave the ethics committee untrue information and failed to ensure that financing for two projects, including a college course he taught, would not violate federal tax laws. The penalty was to reimburse the ethics committee for added costs it attributed to investigating Gingrich’s misleading statements.” (Bill McAllister, “Gingrich To Pay Penalty With His Own Money,” The Washington Post, 9/15/98)

“Gingrich Confessed … To Violating The Rules.” “Gingrich confessed December 21 to violating the rules, admitting he should have sought specific legal advice about financing his college course and a town hall television project with tax-exempt donations. He took responsibility for inaccurate assertions that GOPAC, his former political organization, had no role in the college course.” (“Special Counsel Reportedly Recommends Gingrich Be Fined,”, 1/17/97)

Gingrich’s Attorney told the Ethics Committee that his client had made “glaringly inconsistent” statements. “In his final opportunity to defend his client Friday night before the House ethics committee, an attorney for Newt Gingrich conceded that the speaker had made ‘glaringly inconsistent’ statements to the panel’s investigative subcommittee about a politically oriented college course financed with tax-exempt funds. The concession was among the most dramatic of any Gingrich representative.” (Charles R. Babcock and John E. Yang, “Files In Gingrich Case Detail Misstatements,” The Washington Post, 1/19/97)

Gingrich’s Claim That His Ethics Reprimand Was Partisan Was Rated “Pants On Fire”:

Gingrich Dismisses The Reprimand As A Partisan Matter, Saying It “Related More To The Politics Of The Democratic Party Than The Ethics.” GINGRICH: “I think what it does is it reminds people who probably didn’t know this that [Nancy Pelosi] was on the Ethics Committee, that it was a very partisan political committee, and that the way I was dealt with related more to the politics of the Democratic Party than the ethics. And I think in that sense, it actually helps me in getting people to understand – this was a Nancy Pelosi-driven effort.” (Fox News’ “On The Record,” 12/6/11)

PolitiFact, On Gingrich’s Assertion: “Pants On Fire.” “While it’s true that the Gingrich case became a vicious battlefield between the two parties, contemporary accounts and experts familiar with the proceedings agree that it was not ajudicated by ‘a very partisan political committee’ in a way that ‘related more to the politics of the Democratic Party than to ethics.’ The ethics panel’s case only moved forward with the express consent of Republicans, including the committee’s chairwoman, and it was led by a special counsel who was not a Democratic partisan and who focused on substantive legal matters. Most notably, when it became time to vote, the House – including nearly 90 percent of voting Republicans – voted to support the committee’s recommendation. We rate Gingrich’s statement Pants on Fire.” (, 12/7/11)

● “If He Didn’t Believe In The Fairness Of The Process, He Could Have Refused To Admit Wrongdoing…” “In essence, Gingrich is alleging that the investigation of his actions was biased by partisanship and, by extension, that the penalty he agreed to was tainted. … If he didn’t believe in the fairness of the process, he could have refused to admit wrongdoing and taken his chances on the House floor, where he led a sizable majority.” (, 12/7/11) Gingrich’s Claims Are False And “Off Base.” “Newt Gingrich falsely claimed the House ethics panel that voted to reprimand him in 1997 was ‘a very partisan political committee.’ He was also off base when he said the inquiry was ‘a Pelosi-driven effort.’ In fact, the House Committee on Ethics is the only House panel evenly divided by party. And Pelosi was a relatively junior House member and not in a leadership position at the time. … The ethics panel was far from a ‘partisan’ committee.” (, 12/8/11)

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