Congressional Accountability Project
1322 18th Street NW, Suite 36
Washington, DC 20036
fax (202) 833-2406
December 22, 1995
Honorable Nancy Johnson
Honorable Jim McDermott
House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
RE: Special Counsel Investigation of House Speaker Newt Gingrich
Dear Chairwoman Johnson and Vice-Chairman McDermott:
Now that the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has finally appointed a Special Counsel in the Gingrich case, it is critical that the Committee provides the Special Counsel with the support necessary to perform his duties adequately.
The investigatory phase of the Congressional ethics process is usually the most sensitive and important. Its purpose is to gather evidence and develop a complete written record, so that decisions can be made about the veracity of the charges, and possible levels of sanction. Such decisions rest critically upon the quality and thoroughness of this written record. Without a thorough investigation and complete written record, the Committee, and perhaps ultimately, the Congress and the American people, would lack the information needed to make judgments about the various activities of Speaker Gingrich that are under question.
Consequently, the Congressional Accountability Project strongly urges you to allow the Special Counsel to investigate all leads that stem from the Committee's charge to:
determine if there is reason to believe that Representative Gingrich's activities in relation to the college course "Renewing American Civilization" were in violation of section 501(c)(3) or whether any foundation qualified under section 501(c)(3), with respect to the course, violated its status with the knowledge and approval of Representative Gingrich...(1)
If the Special Counsel is hamstrung, hampered, or otherwise prevented from pursuing legitimate leads that emerge directly from the charge as defined by the Committee, then the shaky trust that Americans harbor about the Congressional ethics process will be further eroded.
Clearly, the Special Counsel will have to investigate the Progress and Freedom Foundation and the Kennesaw State College Foundation to determine whether their activities constituted legitimate charitable activities, or whether the foundations acted as an improper vehicles to employ tax-deductible funds for partisan purposes.
The purview of the Special Counsel must also include an investigation to determine, among other matters, whether the contributors to these foundations received any political favors or other political "payback" for their contributions.
Regarding the complaints against the Speaker still pending before the Committee, the Committee should vote at its next meeting to turn these complaints over to the Special Counsel for investigation. Now that the Committee has named a Special Counsel, there is no reason for the Committee to undertake any further investigatory activities regarding these charges.
The complaint that the Congressional Accountability Project filed on November 15, 1995, forwarded to the Committee by Rep. George Miller, regarding the Speaker's use of Donald Jones, a telecommunications entrepreneur, as de facto office staff on telecommunications issues raises many troubling questions. Mr. Jones gave at least $125,000 to the Republican party, and $25,000 to GOPAC. That Jones was permitted to act as de facto staff within the Speaker's office on matters of direct financial interest to him raises questions about the rewards that may have been given to large contributors to GOPAC.
Lastly, the Ethics Committee should give over to the Special Counsel the amended complaint of December 14, 1995 signed by House Minority Whip David Bonior and four other House Democrats. That amended complaint, accompanied by over 8,000 pages of documents, raises serious questions concerning Gingrich's activities in relation to GOPAC. In particular:
And there is one other question, not a part of the most recent amended complaint: did Gingrich or
the Progress and Freedom Foundation or the Kennesaw State College Foundation violate the
private inurement rules that apply to charitable organizations by allowing Gingrich to use
foundation-owned or foundation-copyrighted materials in Gingrich's book, "To Renew America,"
without fairly compensating those foundations?
Given the well-documented ties that some members of the Committee have to GOPAC, as well
as the assistance that GOPAC has likely given to political opponents of other members of the
Committee, there cannot be a trustworthy investigation of these charges except by the Special
Counsel. The credibility of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as well as
public confidence in the self-regulation of Congressional ethics is at stake in these matters.
1.House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Resolution of Preliminary Inquiry, December 6, 1995.