Surprise: Gingrich ethics files are public info

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, December 6, 2011 10:22 EDT
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Former House Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D) and Newt Gingrich (R) in an advertisement about climate change. Image: Screenshot via YouTube.
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A trove of documents detailing the shady dealings of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) are actually public domain, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Monday night after Gingrich threatened to have her brought up on charges if she disclosed information related to his House ethics violation in the 1990s.

Pelosi had told a reporter with Talking Points Memo that she knew quite a lot about Gingrich, having sat on the House committee which investigated him. “I know a lot about him,” Pelosi said. “I served on the investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of his stuff.”

The remarks triggered a sharp reaction on Monday, essentially elevating the discussion into the upper-echelons of U.S. media. “If she’s suggesting that she’s going to use materials that she developed when she was on the ethics committee, that is a fundamental violation of the rules of the House, and I would hope that members would immediately file charges against her the second she does it,” Gingrich replied.

He also suggested that Pelosi’s comments were an “early Christmas present” to Republicans eager to gain footing in the national dialogue.

Tough luck for Gingrich: Pelosi now says she was talking about files that are already public.

She was referring to the years-long episode during which the former Speaker was subjected to a $300,000 fine by the House after he was discovered using tax-exempt groups to finance and support his political agenda. The scheme ultimately helped Republicans wrestle control of the House back to their side during the Clinton administration.

During the investigation, Gingrich reportedly lied to the ethics committee about using tax-exempt, ostensibly non-partisan organizations to further Republican causes — although he was not alone in committing these violations. Donors to these groups were simultaneously supporting their favored Republican causes and gaining a tax rebate, which is patently illegal.

Gingrich ultimately admitted that some of his statements to the committee were “inaccurate,” insisting his real crime was ignorance, and that he simply had not consulted a lawyer about the tax code.

After he paid the fine for violating House ethics, Gingrich was cleared of all but one of the 84 charges against him, namely because the House could not find any further ongoing violations.

The Progress and Freedom Foundation, one of the tax-exempt groups that helped finance a college course taught by Gingrich, was also cleared after an Internal Revenue Service audit.

(H/T: Talking Points Memo)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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