Gingrich Ethics Investigation

by Kim Weissman on 12/29/96

CONGRESS ACTION:            December 29,1996
Kim Weissman;
SPEAKER GINGRICH: On January 7 the republican majority in the House of
Representatives will elect a Speaker. Despite the two year vendetta by
democrats to bring down Newt Gingrich, it appears that he is headed for
re-election. The democrat attacks, blatant payback for Gingrich's role in
forcing the resignation of democrat Speaker Jim Wright, has finally borne
fruit and the democrats are smelling blood. Of the 74 ethics charges
filed against Gingrich over the past two years, all but one were
dismissed as groundless, but the one that stuck is now being portrayed by
democrats and their sycophants in the press as the equivalent of mass
     It is important to be clear precisely what the House ethics panel
found, and did not find, regarding the charges against Gingrich involving
his political action committee (GOPAC), his college course "Renewing
American Civilization", and what he told the Ethics Committee:
     -- "Under the Internal Revenue Code, an organization which is exempt
from taxation...must be operated exclusively for exempt purposes. [It] is
also prohibited from providing any support to a political action
committee. These prohibitions reflect congressional concerns that
taxpayer funds not be used to subsidize political activity."
     -- "Mr. Gingrich did not seek specific legal advice concerning the
application...of the Internal Revenue Code in regard to [GOPAC's
relationship with his classes]..."
     -- "Although Mr. Gingrich consulted with the House Committee on
Standards of Official Conduct prior to teaching the course, he did not
seek specific legal advice concerning the application...of the Internal
Revenue Code..."
     -- "During the preliminary inquiry the subcommittee consulted with
an expert in the law of tax-exempt organizations. Mr. Gingrich's regard to the course entitled 'Renewing American
Civilization'...were reviewed by the expert. The expert concluded that
those activities violated [their tax-exempt status] that, among
other things, those activities were intended to confer more than
insubstantial benefits on Mr. Gingrich, GOPAC and other Republican
entities and candidates. If the legal advice described (above) had been
sought and followed, most, if not all, of the tax-deductible charitable
contributions would not have been used for (those) activities."
     -- "...on or about March 27, 1995, and on or about Dec. 8, 1994,
information was transmitted to the committee by and on behalf of Mr.
Gingrich that was material to matters under consideration by the
committee, which information, as Mr. Gingrich should have known, was
inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable."
     Essentially, the violations found are two: (1) failure to comply
with the Internal Revenue Code regarding tax exempt organizations, and
(2) submitting a false statement to the Ethics Committee regarding tax
code compliance in connection with tax exempt organizations. The first,
standing alone, would hardly rise to the level of a bad joke. After all,
Internal Revenue Service employees themselves have a hard time
understanding the 7000 pages of the tax code, which is why a large
percentage of taxpayers who call the IRS for advice receive erroneous
information from IRS employees themselves. Further, the ruling stands for
the proposition that tax exempt organizations cannot engage in activity
which has political attributes, which very many obviously do (activist
environmentalist groups being but one example). The second count is more
serious, and may be analogized as similiar to those taxpayers who hire a
professional accountant or tax advisor to prepare their income tax
returns. The taxpayer hires the professional specifically because the
taxpayer cannot understand the code or prepare their own return, yet the
tax return which is filed must contain the signature of the taxpayer,
which amounts to a certification that the taxpayer understands and
accepts responsibility for all the information contained in that return.
If any of that information is wrong the taxpayer, not the preparer, is
responsible to the IRS for any penalties.
     In the case at hand, Gingrich first consulted with the House
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which determined that his
proposals regarding his course "Renewing American Civilization" were
proper. He did not, however, specifically ask about the relation of that
course to the tax exempt status of the colleges involved, with the result
that GOPAC contributed funds to the tax exempt organizations to help them
set up Gingrich's course, and took deductions for charitable
contributions. Gingrich then hired an attorney to file information with
the Ethics Committee about this situation, and signed the filings, thus
certifing that he understood and accepted responsibility for all the
information contained in those filings. There is no question that
Gingrich misled the Ethics Committee, in the same way that the taxpayer
whose return is prepared by an accountant misleads the IRS if that return
contains false information. The question which the Ethics Committee must
now decide is the level of punishment which such violations deserve,
which may range anywhere from a mild reprimand to expulsion from the
     In the many Clinton administration foibles which continue to roll
out of Washington, the standard White House response has been that Bill
has simply been too busy saving the world to bother with petty details,
and that all the questionable activities were the result of some innocent
bureaucratic snafu by underlings. As the Washington Post put it, "...the
principal beneficiary of the questionable activity was just too busy
doing other high-minded things to have been involved in the nitty-gritty
daily business of keeping an eye on the store. We've heard this one
elsewhere recently too (although the Post studiously avoids reminding its
readers exactly WHERE this excuse was heard before, over and over again),
and it doesn't sound any more plausible coming from the speaker." The
core of the matter has to do with the acceptance of responsibility, and
the Post is partially correct, although not in the way it thinks: simply
because the President refuses to accept responsibility for himself and
for the actions of those subordinate to him is no reason for the Speaker
to adopt a similiar childish attitude.
     To his credit, Gingrich has not tried to evade responsibility. In
his statement released last weekend, he said, "I was overconfident, and
in some way, naive. With deep sadness, I agree. I did not seek legal
counsel when I should have in order to ensure clear compliance with all
applicable laws, and that was wrong. Because I did not, I brought down on
the people's house a controversy which could weaken the faith people have
in their government. In responding to complaints in this matter, I did
not manage the effort intensely enough to thoroughly direct or review
information being submitted to the committee on my behalf. In my name and
over my signature, inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable statements were
given to the committee, but I did not intend to mislead the committee. I
accept responsibility for this, and I deeply regret it."
     The question remains: What should be the result? Before considering
sanctions, it would be useful to put the Gingrich violations into
perspective. Ongoing analysis of the evidence amassed against the Clinton
administration by The American Spectator and others has produced a
summary of the laws allegedly violated by Bill Clinton and his minions,
to which the standard democrat response has always been "So what?".
Briefly review the depth of the hot water which has been alleged:
     Perjury and subornation of perjury, attempting to influence
testimony in civil and criminal cases, concealing material facts in civil
and criminal investigations, misuse of appropriations, converting state
and federal appropriations and property to private use, obstruction of
justice, trading financial reward for public office, solicitation of
bribes, acceptance of bribes, making false statements on federal
applications for loans, conspiring to defraud the federal government,
conspiring to defraud a financial institution, witness tampering,
destroying records material to civil and criminal investigations,
destruction of business records with the intent to defraud, knowingly
filing false tax returns, conspiring to prevent federal offices from
discharging their official duties, fraudulent creation of false business
records, creating false records with the intent to deceive the FDIC,
using false names to make political contributions, concealing the true
source of political contributions, accepting political contributions from
foreign nationals, facilitating the employment of a federal officer who
is the agent of a foreign government or principal, selling influence over
governmental policy, promising and withholding government benefits in
exchange for political activities or contributions, soliciting or
accepting campaign contributions by a federal officer while on federal
property used for official duties, false statement in connection with any
matter within the jurisdiction of a federal agency, interference with
criminal investigations, financial transactions designed to avoid
compliance with the reporting requirements of the Federal Election
Commission, sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, obtaining
confidential records under false pretenses, threats of violence and
intimidation of federal officers, abuse of power.
     Democrats who have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the far more
serious Clinton scandals summarized above are hardly in a position now to
treat the Gingrich violations as the end of democratic government in the
modern world. And that portion of the voting public which just re-elected
the most corrupt administration in the history of the nation, with the
attitude that character doesn't matter, are not themselves in a position
now to suddenly claim that character in our elected representatives is,
after all, important. Any such claim from democrats or Clinton voters is
tantamount to saying that sleaze is the best that can be expected from
democrats, but that a higher standard is expected of republicans. The
temptation certainly exists for conservatives and republicans to adopt
the democrat attitude in regard to Newt Gingrich and to respond,
"Compared to Bill Clinton's violations, So what?" Conservatives, those
who believe that character does indeed matter, cannot, however, hide
behind such platitudes and evasions of responsibility. In an ideal world
where truth and character matter, and where virtue and integrity are the
minimum expected of officials holding the public trust, Gingrich should
withdraw his name from consideration for the post of Speaker of the
House. We live, however, not in such an ideal world but in the world of
politics, where the pursuit of power is paramount. Democrats have
repeatedly demonstrated that, to them, truth and integrity are empty
words, irrelevant to their own pursuit of power (Exhibit One being the
recent election). Are honor, truth, and integrity mere words to
conservatives also, or are they guiding principles to live by? So it must
be asked whether Gingrich should put himself at a disadvantage in the
battle against those who have no scruples? For we are indeed in a war, a
Culture War, and the stakes are indeed high: the very survival of our
culture. In pursuit of that noble goal, should Gingrich adopt the tactics
of his enemies, arguing that the end justifies the means? Is it better to
wage a battle with underhanded tactics so as to improve the odds of
winning the war; or is it better to wage the battle with principled
tactics and thereby risk losing the war?
     "The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without
fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do
good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom." -- Sun Tzu
(The Art of War)
Kim Weissman ***
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