Congressional Accountability Project

CAP Home | Ethics Index


For Immediate Release: For More Information Contact:

Wednesday, March 29, 1995 Gary Ruskin (202) 296-2787

Open Letter From Ralph Nader to Representative Nancy Johnson

Concerning Authorizing an Independent Counsel to Investigate Charges

Against Speaker Newt Gingrich

I am writing to request that you immediately halt House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct deliberations on ethics complaints pending against House Speaker Newt Gingrich until you authorize an independent counsel to investigate the charges against him.

Several news articles indicate that your Committee may have completed an initial review of the charges pending against Mr. Gingrich. This is a serious and indefensible breach of tradition by the Committee. Since 1980, the Committee has authorized independent counsel for every significant ethics investigation. Why do you insist on breaking with this tradition?

The Committee does not have sufficient credibility among the American people to warrant your proceeding with a review of the long list of credible charges against Speaker Gingrich. Your own partisan ties to him, as well as your early support for his candidacy for House Minority Whip, and your monetary contribution to his campaign committee raise doubts about whether the charges against Speaker Gingrich will receive a full, thorough investigation, or a sweetheart whitewash. The charges against Speaker Gingrich are serious; they do not belong in your hands -- until after a non-partisan independent counsel of unquestioned integrity is appointed.

Speaker Gingrich has demonstrated a serious disregard and contempt for some basic ground rules upon which our democracy is built. The attached list of alleged violations of law, and House Rules is indicative. Perhaps to him these laws and rules are a species of ethical "gnats" which buzz meaninglessly in the wind. But to taxpayers and voters, they provide what feeble protection we have against the overwhelming influence of money on politics. These laws and Rules are expected to prevent members of Congress -- and the entire federal government -- from being bought or rented.

Mr. Gingrich himself said it best when calling for an independent counsel to review the more limited charges facing then-Speaker Jim Wright:

The more he has been scrutinized by the news media, the more questions about his possible unethical behavior there are to be answered...The volume of published evidence clearly calls for investigation, and, as the questions raised against the Speaker are serious, it is imperative that this cloud no longer hang over this great institution. It is vital that the Ethics Committee hire outside counsel and pursue these questions thoroughly. The trust of the public and the integrity of the House will accept no lower standard. (Newt Gingrich news release 5/26/88).

Without an independent counsel, whatever decision the Committee might make regarding the profusion of serious and credible charges against the Speaker will be tainted by the partisan ties that you and several other Committee members have to Mr. Gingrich, as well as the justifiable perception that Congress is a "good ol' boys" club whose members lack the integrity needed to police themselves.


Ethics Complaints Pending Against Speaker Newt Gingrich

The Audio and Video College Class

Documents obtained under the Georgia Open Record Act indicate that Speaker Gingrich's "Renewing American Civilization" college class was closely linked to GOPAC, and that Congressional resources -- supported by tax dollars -- may have been used to assist the formation of the class.


Ben Jones, 9/7/94; as amended 1/26/95.


"Gingrich's College Course Linked to Republican PAC," Glenn Bunting and Alan Miller, Los Angeles Times, 2/21/95.

"Gingrich Didn't Give Ethics Panel Full Story," Associated Press/Washington Times, 3/13/95.

"Nancy Johnson and the Gingrich Case," Albert Hunt, Wall Street Journal, 3/2/95.

"Gingrich Aided Pharmaceutical Firm That Later Contributed to Foundation," Glenn Simpson, Roll Call, 1/5/95.

Remaining Questions:

Did Gingrich's Use of GOPAC staff to support the class violate House Rules and federal law?

What did Gingrich do in exchange for the $25,000 contribution the Progress & Freedom Foundation received from Richard Berman, Executive Director of the Employment Policies Institute? The attached note says: "Newt -- Thanks for your help on today's committee hearing."

Did Gingrich violate House Rules and tax law by soliciting tax deductible funds for partisan purposes?

Did Gingrich improperly peddle his video and audio tapes to the Business Roundtable and the Managed Futures Association?

Did Gingrich improperly intervene with White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta on behalf of Direct Access Diagnostics? Direct Access Diagnostics, its president Elliott Millenson, and its parent company Johnson and Johnson, all contributed to the Progress & Freedom Foundation.

The Book Deal

Speaker Gingrich's proposes to sign a contract with Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins Publishing to produce two books. Murdoch currently faces a Federal Communication Commission investigation concerning foreign media ownership, and has several matters pending before Congress. Murdoch and his chief lobbyist met with Gingrich at the time when the book arrangement was taking shape.


Ben Jones, as amended 1/26/95.


"Independent Counsel for Gingrich Book," Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, 1/22/95.

"Do Unto Gingrich," Richard J. Phelan, New York Times, 1/3/95.

"Speaker Says Meeting Murdoch, Fox Lobbyist Was Not Improper," Kevin Merida, Washington Post, 1/18/95.

"Gingrich Book Deal Stir More Calls For Probe," Michael Ross, Los Angeles Times, 1/13/95.

"Murdoch Lobbyist Explains Meeting With Gingrich," Phil Kuntz, Wall Street Journal, 1/16/95.

"Bidders and Losers," David Streitfeld, Washington Post, 1/13/95.

"Aide Says Murdoch Discussed TV Case With Gingrich Before Big Book Offer," Phil Kuntz, Wall Street Journal, 1/13/95.

Remaining Questions:

Did Gingrich signal any likely favors for Rupert Murdoch in exchange for the book contract?

Joe Gaylord

Several recent news articles suggest that Joe Gaylord, who is a GOPAC consultant, appears to be performing official duties within Speaker Gingrich's office. Federal law and House Ethics Rules prohibit the use of private funds to finance a Congressional office.


Ralph Nader and Gary Ruskin, 2/13/95.


"Top Gingrich Aide Not Even a Staffer," Roll Call, 1/16/95.

"Joseph Gaylord, Newt Gingrich's 'Eyes and Ears,' Is expected to play a Major Role in Washington," Phil Kuntz, Wall Street Journal, 12/8/94.

"Joseph R. Gaylord: 'The Closest to Newt," Richard Cohen, National Journal, 1/14/95.

Remaining Questions:

Does Joe Gaylord perform official duties for Gingrich?

Has Gaylord been involved in any Congressional decision-making related to any of the donors to GOPAC?

The Jones Intercable Gift

Speaker Gingrich received 20 free hours of television time from Jones Intercable, Inc. The gift is worth approximately $150,000-$200,000. Gingrich will use this time to broadcast his video college course. Jones Intercable has several matters pending before Congress, including cable deregulation, and telecommunications reform. Glenn Jones, owner of Jones Intercable, has also expressed interest in purchasing local public television stations that might become insolvent if the Corporation for Public Broadcasting were defunded.


Reps. Pat Schroeder, Harry Johnston, and Cynthia McKinney, 2/23/95.


"Special Counsel for Gingrich's Cable Dealings," Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times, 3/7/95.

Remaining Questions:

Did Gingrich accept an illegal gift?

Did Gingrich promise anything in return for the $150,000-$200,000 gift?

Was there any connection between Gingrich's advocacy for defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the gift from Jones Intercable?

Misuse of Official Resources to Promote College Course

Gingrich has used the House Floor and the Congressional Record on five separate occasions to advertise his video and audio college course. Last April, he even gave out a "800" number from the House Floor so that C-SPAN viewers and others could order his line of video and audio tapes. Gingrich was warned in 1990 by the House Ethics Committee that any future "improper use of mail and resources may result in more severe Committee action."


Rep. David Bonior, 3/8/95.


"Gingrich Promoted College Course on House Floor Despite Warning," Serge Kovaleski, Washington Post, 3/5/95.

Remaining Questions:

Does Gingrich's use of House Floor and the Congressional Record to advertise his video and audio college course constitute a violation of House Rules?

More Questionable Conduct By Newt Gingrich


The Federal Election Commission is suing GOPAC because it failed to register as a federal political action committee, and did not file required financial reports of contributors and expenditures for several years.


FEC v. GOPAC, Inc., Civil Action No. 94-0828, pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Gingrich Used Congressional Staff, Materials for His Campaign and Other Political Purposes?

"Gingrich and his staff appear to have routinely skirted the spirit -- if not the letter -- of House rules that separate the government's resources from the outside pursuits of members..." argues an LA Times article. The article also quotes former Gingrich district administrator Dolores Adamson stating "Newt's attitude was: The rules don't apply to me." Also, the article asserts that "the lawmaker's staff members, former employees say, were frequently assigned to do campaign work on government time, top aides and Gingrich's congressional letterhead were used to maintain a college course he taught as a sideline; the Georgia Republican himself pitched partisan and personal projects on the House floor, and his clerical staff was assigned to help produce a book for which Gingrich and his wife received $24,000 in royalties."


"Questions Raised About Gingrich's House Ethics," Glenn Bunting and Alan Miller, Los Angeles Times, 3/20/95.

Remaining Questions:

Did Gingrich violate the False Claims act by falsely certifying that his Congressional office funds had been applied to official purposes -- when some had been used for campaign or other political purposes? (31 U.S.C. 3729-31)

Did Gingrich submit a false statement to the government by falsely certifying that his Congressional office funds had been applied to official purposes -- when some had been used for campaign or other political purposes? (18 U.S.C. 1001)

Did Gingrich misuse appropriated funds? (31 U.S.C. 1301(a))

Did Gingrich instruct his Congressional employees to violate prohibitions against the campaign use of official Congressional resources?

Did "two top House aides on the Congressional payroll openly [run] Gingrich's re-election campaign from his district office" in 1984?

Did "a top congressional aide [work] on Gingrich's campaign 'all the time' out of the district office while on the government payroll" in 1986?

How much time did Gingrich staff spend during working hours on Gingrich's video and audio college course?

Gingrich Misleads Ethics Committee?

Rep. Gingrich apparently omitted GOPAC's role in financing and promoting his "Renewing American Civilization" course when he asked the House Ethics Committee for approval and clearance to teach the course.


"Gingrich Didn't Give Ethics Panel Full Story," Associated Press/Washington Times, 3/13/95.

"Gingrich's College Course Linked to Republican PAC," Glenn Bunting and Alan Miller, Los Angeles Times, 2/21/95.

Remaining Questions:

Did Gingrich mislead the House Ethics Committee to gain their approval to teach his college course?

Marianne Gingrich and IEDC

Speaker Gingrich promoted an Israeli free trade zone in meetings with Israeli officials. His wife, Marianne Gingrich, was subsequently given a job with the Israel Export Development Co., which is seeking support from U.S. businesses for such a zone. Mrs. Gingrich has no experience in international trade. Her most recent previous employment was as a image consultant for BeautiControl Cosmetics. Her only relevant background in economic development came in the 1970's as a county planner in Ohio.


"Gingrich's Wife Was Hired by Investors After He Backed Their Proposal in Israel," Phil Kuntz, Wall Street Journal, 2/6/95.

Susan Baer, Baltimore Sun, 2/10/95.

Public i, Center for Public Integrity, 3/95.

Remaining Questions:

Did Gingrich do any favors for IEDC so that they would hire his wife?

Did Gingrich improperly cash in on his position by encouraging IEDC to hire his wife?

Did Marianne Gingrich accept employment from IEDC in order to, in part, evade a House Ethics Committee ruling preventing her from travelling to Israel at IEDC expense "since it might be misconstrued as a gift."

Gingrich Does Favors For Big Donor?

Solvay Pharmaceuticals gave $30,000 to the Progress and Freedom Foundation for study on speeding FDA drug approvals. Gingrich wrote the Food and Drug Administration on behalf of a Solvay Pharmaceuticals drug application on July 22, 1994. Gingrich also introduced two bills to aid Solvay on July 27, 1993 and a third bill in May, 1994 to assist Solvay. Gingrich only introduced nine bills during the 103rd Congress.


"Gingrich Interceded With FDA for Firm That Had Donated Money to Foundation," Phil Kuntz and Laurie McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 2/2/95.

"Gingrich Introduced Legislation to Aid Firm That Was Donor to Think Tank," Phil Kuntz, Wall Street Journal, 2/3/95.

Remaining Questions:

Did Gingrich intercede with the FDA on behalf of Solvay in exchange for a $30,000 contribution to the Progress & Freedom Foundation?

Did Gingrich introduce legislation on behalf of Solvay in exchange for a $30,000 contribution to the Progress & Freedom Foundation?

Mutual Back-Scratching With College Dean?

Kennesaw State College Dean Timothy Mescon wrote a letter to Gingrich in September, 1992 requesting assistance in landing U.S. Agency for International Development contracts for his business, the Mescon Group. Gingrich provided this assistance in October, 1992. On March 24, Dean Mescon extended an offer to Gingrich to teach his college course at Kennesaw State College.


"Gingrich Paper Chase Led to Teaching Job," Associated Press/Washington Times, 1/31/95.

Remaining Questions:

Did Gingrich improperly provide favors to Dean Mescon to US AID so that Mescon might allow him to teach his video and audio college course at Kennesaw State College?

Did Gingrich Use College and Dean for Political Gain?

Kennesaw State College dropped Gingrich's college course after discovering the involvement of GOPAC's political resources in the course. Dean Mescon said that the arrangement is "just not appropriate on a state university campus...In hindsight, we would never do this again. There's no question about that....I feel horrendous about this thing, and it's embarrassing."


"Gingrich's College Course Linked to Republican PAC," Glenn Bunting and Alan Miller, Los Angeles Times, 2/21/95.

Remaining Questions:

Was Gingrich's use of Kennesaw State College serious enough to warrant a charge that he violated the House Code of Official Conduct by not "conduct[ing] himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives?

Big Donor Let Off The Hook: No More House Investigation

A House Energy and Commerce Committee investigation of Golden Rule Insurance was dropped after Speaker Gingrich's ascension. Last year, Rep. John Dingell said that Golden Rule "routinely engages in extraordinary practices designed to intimidate, coerce, and frighten...and scares consumers with doomsday predictions shored up by misinformation and threats of canceled policies." Golden Rule executives have contributed $117,076 to GOPAC, $42,510 to Gingrich's campaign committee, and an undisclosed amount to the Progress & Freedom Foundation.


"Firm's Investment in Congress is Paying Off," David Dahl, St. Petersburg Times, 2/26/95.

Remaining Questions:

Was Gingrich involved in terminating a House investigation of Golden Rule Insurance?

What Exactly Does This Money Buy?

One GOPAC fundraising letter last year signed by Gingrich states "Will you help me draft the Republican legislative agenda for the 104th Congress?" A "Request for Funding" letter sent to potential donors to Gingrich's college course states that $50,000 donors to the Progress & Freedom Foundation "will work directly with the leadership of the Renewing American Civilization project in the course development process." And $25,000 donors will be "invited to participate in the course development process."


"Has Gingrich Gone Too Far With GOPAC?" Eliza Newlin Carney, National Journal, 10/1/94.

"Gingrich's College Course Linked to Republican PAC," Glenn Bunting and Alan Miller, Los Angeles Times, 2/21/95.

Remaining Questions:

What do GOPAC and Progress & Freedom Foundation donors receive in exchange for their contributions?

Has Gingrich done favors for any of these donors?

Is it appropriate for Gingrich to invite big GOPAC donors to help "draft the Republican legislative agenda for the 104th Congress"?