Congressional Accountability Project

CAP Home | Ethics Index

April 10, 1997

Speaker Newt Gingrich

2428 Rayburn House Office Building

U. S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Gingrich:

On January 21, 1997, in lieu of more deserved sanctions, the U. S. House of Representatives reprimanded you, and ordered you to pay a $300,000 fine.

Nearly three months have passed, yet you have not paid your fine. Taxpayers deserve to know when you intend to pay. How long will you be a scofflaw against the House of Representatives, of which you are the elected leader. Will you take so long that the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct must, once again, take action against you? Your stalling is wrong; it degrades the stature of the office of the Speaker of the House.

The federal government and its Treasury rest on the timely compliance of citizens who voluntarily pay their taxes, fees, fines, and other assessments. You have already set a poor example by failing to promptly pay your penalty. Have you considered the example you -- the third highest constitutional officer in the country -- are setting for those who owe money to the government, whether for taxes, child support, or any other obligation? Perhaps those who owe taxes or child support will claim that they want to pay under the "Gingrich plan" -- and take as long as they wish. If you continue to hold out, your example will become that much worse.

Furthermore, you have not declared whether you will pay your fine from personal funds, or from another, more objectionable source, such as a campaign or legal defense fund. Nor have you ruled out claiming your $300,000 penalty as a tax deduction.

Your attorney, J. Randolph Evans, has indicated that you may still take months before you decide how to pay. But this decision ought to be easy. You must pay from your own pocket. You have preached long and hard on the virtue of personal responsibility. For example, in your book, To Renew America, you wrote that "[i]f you are not prepared to shoulder personal responsibility, then you are not prepared to participate in American civilization." Personal responsibility means accepting the consequences of your actions. The question is, Speaker Gingrich, will you live up to your own words? Will you shoulder your own burden? Or will you allow others to bear your burden, and pay your penalty, for you?

In addition, on March 30, Russ Baker wrote in the Los Angeles Times that, "for years," political consultant Joseph Gaylord "has effectively run Gingrich's office -- in violation of House rules, since he is not a House employee and, therefore, not subject to provisions governing conflicts of interest and other concerns" (article attached). Following the Congressional Accountability Project's complaint on this matter, the Ethics Committee explicitly told you on December 6, 1995 that "Such activities, if they are continuing, should cease immediately." Baker writes that "They haven't." You owe an explanation to the American people about what, precisely, Joe Gaylord does for your Congressional offices (including the Speaker's office, your own House office, and the House Republican Conference) and whether you continue to flout a crucial House Rule enacted to prevent influence-peddling.


Ralph Nader

cc: Rep. James Hansen, Chairman,

House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct

Rep. Howard Berman, Ranking Minority Member,

House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct

P.O. Box 19312

Washington, DC 20036