Congressional Accountability Project
1322 18th Street NW, Suite 36
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 296-2787
fax (202) 833-2406

February 13, 1995

Representative Nancy Johnson
Chairwoman
House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

RE: Request For Investigation of Speaker Newt Gingrich For Possible Violation of Federal Law and House Ethics Rules.

Dear Chairwoman Johnson:

We are asking that the Committee conduct a thorough, public investigation of Speaker Newt Gingrich's employment of Joseph Gaylord to perform what appears to be official duties. Mr. Gaylord is paid with GOPAC funds. This arrangement appears to violate Federal law and House Rules prohibiting the use of private resources to finance official activities.

A: Speaker Gingrich's Employment of Mr. Gaylord Likely Violates Statutory Prohibitions Against the Private Financing of Official Expenses.

Many credible accounts indicate that Joseph Gaylord appears to play an official role for Speaker Newt Gingrich. Phil Kuntz of the Wall Street Journal described Mr. Gaylord's role in the Gingrich office:

Though not a government employee, he [Gaylord] also has a fair amount of influence over Mr. Gingrich's congressional operations. He regularly attends meetings in which House GOP leaders and staff plot the transfer of power from the Democrats.

"Other than his wife and family, Joe Gaylord is the most important person in Newt's world," says Frank Luntz, a pollster who has worked with both men.

...

Today, Mr. [Eddie] Mahe [a top Republican operative] calls Mr. Gaylord "the master coordinator of the totality of Newt's life. " Indeed, one former Gingrich aide calls Mr. Gaylord a "super-chief of staff." Often seen in Mr. Gingrich's Capitol Hill offices, he has been known to pass on instructions from the Congressman the morning after a late-night chat with the boss. This year, Mr. Gaylord managed Mr. Gingrich's "Contract With America" project, which developed and marketed the House GOP's legislative agenda, "from its inception to its conclusion," says Mr. Luntz.(1)

Other descriptions of Mr. Gaylord's role within the Gingrich official offices include:

* Roll Call describes Mr. Gaylord as a "close associate of the new Speaker -- perhaps the closest. Gaylord is a regular attendee at meetings of the House Republican leadership, and Gingrich relies on him heavily for political advice." The article portrays Gaylord as an "outsider who performs certain roles akin to a Congressional staffer."(2)

* A Dallas Morning News story states that "Joe Gaylord, an adviser to Mr. Gingrich, was combing Capitol offices looking for a new table for the new speaker's working office. It seems the one already there wasn't up to the heavy workload planned."(3)

* National Journal quotes a GOP source stating that "Joe is the closest to Newt...He is the overseer of Newt's world...Joe helps to select his [House] staff and to fix the payroll." The article states that according to "some Gingrich associates," Mr. Gaylord "has become the Speaker's most important adviser."(4)

Mr. Gaylord is not on Speaker Gingrich's Congressional payroll. He is a consultant to GOPAC, which is a political action committee controlled by Speaker Newt Gingrich. This use of private funds to finance official House business is fraught with serious ethical problems. A 1977 House of Representatives Commission on Administrative Review explained:

The Commission strongly believes that private funds should be used only for politically related purposes. Official allowances should reflect the necessary cost of official expenses. Increasing official allowances... to eliminate reliance on private sources represents a small cost to the public for the benefits to be derived. To suggest otherwise would be to accept or condone the continuation of a system which, at the very least, allows for the appearance of impropriety, and, at worst, creates a climate for potential "influence peddling" through private financing of the official expenses of Members of Congress.(5)

Federal law prohibits the use of private funding to support official activities.

2 U.S.C. 59e(d) states that:

No Senator or Member of the House of Representatives may maintain or use, directly or indirectly, an unofficial office account or defray official expenses from -

(1) funds received from a political committee or derived from a contribution or expenditure (as such terms are defined in section 431 of this title);

(2) funds received as reimbursement for expenses incurred by the Senator or Member in connection with personal services provided by the Senator or Member to the person making the reimbursement; or

(3) any other funds that are not specifically appropriated for official expenses.
 
 

31 U.S.C. 1342 contains a similar provision prohibiting the use of funds not appropriated by the federal Government:

An officer or employee of the United States Government or of the District of Columbia government may not accept voluntary services for either government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law except for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.

B: Speaker Gingrich's Employment of Mr. Gaylord Likely Violates House Rule 45 Prohibiting The Private Financing of Official Expenses.

House Rule 45, Clause 2 states that "no funds may be paid into any unofficial office account." The meaning of the term "unofficial office account" is quite broad, and encompasses in-kind contributions also. House Select Committee on Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 6 stated that:

The Select Committee finds that no distinction can be made between in-kind and monetary contributions. Whether the private support alluded to in the Commission's report is in the form of a monetary contribution or in the form of an in-kind service is not relevant in the view of the intended prohibition against the private financing of official business. Moreover, it can hardly be argued that donation of in-kind services is any less an infusion of private support for official business than is the donation of money.

At least two precedents for treating in-kind services as monetary contributions are found in regulations promulgated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Those regulations require the inclusion of in-kind donations as contributions to unofficial office accounts, thus confirming the Select Committee's understanding that money and in-kind contributions should be treated the same.(6)

C: Conclusion

Public trust in Congress is diminished by the appearance and actuality that private funds are used to influence the actions of members of Congress. Both Federal law and House rules prohibit the use of private funds to fund official services, because of the potential for influence-peddling and other types of improper influence over the federal legislative process. There is reason to believe that Speaker Gingrich has violated these prohibitions by accepting an in-kind contribution from GOPAC to fund Mr. Gaylord's official activities for Speaker Gingrich.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.
 
 

Sincerely,
 
 
 
 

Gary Ruskin
Director
 
 
 

Ralph Nader


Certificate of Service

This is to certify that I have today, by hand delivery, provided an exact copy of this complaint to the Respondent in this matter, Congressman Newt Gingrich, at the following address:

Congressman Newt Gingrich
2428 Rayburn House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
 
 

Gary Ruskin
Complainant


Endnotes

1. Phil Kuntz, "Joseph Gaylord, Newt Gingrich's 'Eyes and Ears' Is Expected to Play a Major Role in Washington." Wall Street Journal, December 8, 1994.

2. Benjamin Sheffner, "Top Gingrich Aide Not Even A Staffer." Roll Call, January 15, 1995.

3. Dallas Morning News, January 4, 1995.

4. Richard Cohen, "Joseph R. Gaylord: 'The Closest To Newt.'" National Journal, January 14, 1995 at 73.

5. House Commission on Administrative Review, Financial Ethics, House Doc. No. 95-73, 95th Congress., 1st Sess. 18 (1977). Quoted in the House Ethics Manual at 218.

6. House Select Committee On Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 6, Issued May 9, 1977. House Ethics Manual at 233.