Congressional Accountability Project

1322 18th Street NW Suite 36

Washington DC 20036

(202) 296-2787

fax (202) 833-2406

April 22, 1996

Representative Nancy Johnson

Chairwoman

House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct

HT-2

The Capitol

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

RE: Ethics Complaint Against Speaker Newt Gingrich and Request for Reopening the Matter of Donald Jones

Dear Chairwoman Johnson:

This letter constitutes a formal ethics complaint against House Speaker Newt Gingrich based on new allegations of improper conduct, and a call to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct ("Ethics Committee") to reopen the matter of Donald Jones. Three recent news articles cite statements by Speaker Gingrich that raise new questions about possible violations of federal law and House Rules by Speaker Gingrich in the Donald Jones case. These new statements by the Speaker, reported by Roll Call, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press, call into serious question the thoroughness of the investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct into our November 15, 1995 ethics complaint against Speaker Newt Gingrich, which was officially transmitted to the Ethics Committee by Representative George Miller(1).

We are writing to urge the Committee to investigate these new allegations which have not been previously reviewed. Furthermore, we urge the Committee to reopen the investigation of our previous complaint in light of these new statements by Speaker Gingrich, as well as the transparent failure of the Ethics Committee to interview important witnesses in the Donald Jones case. We strongly urge -- given the investigative failures of the Ethics Committee in this Donald Jones matter -- that any investigation into this new complaint and the Donald Jones matter be conducted by special counsel.

A: Did Speaker Gingrich Violate Federal Law and House Rules Prohibiting the Use of Official Resources for Unofficial Purposes?

An April 2, 1996 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that "Gingrich said that Jones spent 95 percent of his time on a limited project -- the Earning by Learning reading program for at-risk children..."(2) Similarly, an Associated Press article reported that:

House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday that a Wisconsin businessman whose use of his congressional office was criticized by the House ethics committee spent nearly all his time on a reading program for children....

Rep. Gingrich said...[that Jones] was actually working on the Speaker's Earning by Learning program...(3)

Earning By Learning is a non-profit organization with no official ties to the United States House of Representatives. Speaker Gingrich's comments suggest that he may have improperly allowed Donald Jones to use the Speaker's official resources for unofficial purposes. Federal law broadly prohibits such misuse of official resources for unofficial purposes. 31 U.S.C. 1301(a) states that:

Appropriations shall be applied only to the objects for which the appropriations were made except as otherwise provided by law.

Similarly, the House Ethics Manual states that:

No outside organization may use official funds or resources, including House office space, the frank, and staff time.(4)

The House Ethics Manual also states that:

Official and unofficial activities must remain absolutely separate. By statute as well as regulations of the Committee on House Administration, official resources may not be used to assist the work of an outside organization.(5)

In the "investigation" of the Donald Jones matter, did the Ethics Committee determine whether Donald Jones used official resources in support of Earning By Learning? Did Donald Jones use a desk, office space, or secretarial help in the Speaker's offices? Did he use official photocopiers or fax machines for Earning By Learning activities? Was this matter ever investigated? If not, why not? If the matter was not investigated, the Ethics Committee surely must now conduct such an investigation. That investigation, to surmount minimal standards of thoroughness and credibility, must include questioning, under oath, Speaker Gingrich, Donald Jones, Daniel Meyer, and any other witness possessing material information about the activities of Donald Jones within the offices of Speaker Gingrich.

B: Did Speaker Gingrich Provide Improper Favors and Benefits to Donald Jones?

Speaker Gingrich's comments as reported in the April 2, 1996 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicate that Donald Jones contacted parties in New Zealand, on behalf or Republicans in Congress, regarding privatization issues. The article states that "Gingrich said Jones' role was limited to helping Republicans make some basic contacts with New Zealand, which recently had embarked on privatization efforts Republicans wanted to observe." Damon Chappie and Juliet Eilperin of Roll Call wrote that:

Speaking to business leaders in his district, Gingrich said on Monday that as far as telecommunications issues worked on by Jones, "his primary contribution was to get in touch with New Zealand, whose government had recently" embarked on a privatization effort.(6)

Did Donald Jones personally benefit from making these New Zealand contacts through the Speaker's office? While Donald Jones was making New Zealand contacts for the Congressional Republicans, and enjoying the privilege of possessing an official Congressional ID card, he was also trying to establish a $13 million fiber optic cable network in New Zealand. According to a June 16, 1995 Information Access Company Newsletter:

Cyberstar Networks, is preparing to issue tenders for a $13 million fibre optic cable network in the Nelson region in the north west of New Zealand's South Island....Cyberstar founder, Donald Jones, was reportedly in New Zealand last month for meetings with the prime minister.(7)

The April 4 Roll Call article reported that:

Jones, in fact, traveled to New Zealand last May and met with senior government officials, including Prime Minister Jim Bolger. A spokeswoman for the New Zealand embassy here confirmed that Jones had met with Bolger "several times" in 1995, including during a trip by Bolger to the United States. Cyberstar sought and received network operator status from New Zealand's Commerce Ministry.

Were any of Jones's business ties for Cyberstar Networks made through calls from the Speaker's office? How did Donald Jones represent himself in those business conversations with New Zealand authorities? Did Speaker Gingrich allow Jones to exploit for personal gain the stature of the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives?

During the same period that Jones was a volunteer in the Speaker's office, and was trying to complete his cable deal in New Zealand, he was selected to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Jones said to the Senate subcommittee:

My company, Cyberstar, is in the advanced stages of developing full service fiber optic cable television networks in New Zealand....The Cyberstar team, of which I am the Leader of Change, is excited about investing in the New Zealand telecommunications industry and the opportunities it presents.(8)

That plan to build a full service fiber optic network has collapsed, according to an October 20, 1995 article in the Information Access Company's Newsletter.

If Gingrich allowed Donald Jones -- who has contributed at least $125,000 to the Republican Party and $25,000 to GOPAC -- to use the Speaker's office to improve his own stature and further his business dealings in New Zealand, that is an improper use of the Speaker's office for private benefit, as well as an improper favor provided to an important campaign contributor. Similarly, if the Speaker allowed Donald Jones to ostensibly run an international business out of the Speaker's office, that, too, is a misuse of official resources for non-official, commercial purposes.

C: Did Speaker Gingrich Mislead the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Regarding Donald Jones's Activities?

The March 29, 1996 Ethics Committee letter to Speaker Gingrich stated that the Speaker "office took caution to ensure that Mr. Jones performed no official duties..."(9) Roll Call reported on February 26, 1996 that "Gingrich and Jones both deny that Jones acted as anything other than an 'informal advisor'..."(10)

However, the Roll Call and Atlanta Journal-Constitution articles strongly suggest that Jones did in fact perform official duties within the Speaker's office by contacting New Zealand government officials on behalf of Congressional Republicans who were interested in telecommunications privatization issues.

Do the Speaker's comments contradict the Speaker's statement to the Ethics Committee about the Jones matter? Since the Speaker's statement in the Donald Jones matter has not been publicly released, we do not know contents of the statement. But we assume it reflects the Committee's conclusion that the Speaker's "office took caution to ensure that Mr. Jones performed no official duties..." If Speaker Gingrich misled the Ethics Committee about Mr. Jones's role and activities within the Speaker's office, then he has likely violated House Rule 43, Clause 1, which states that:

A Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives shall conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives.

The House Committee of Standards of Official Conduct has previously disciplined a House Member for making false statements to the Ethics Committee.(11)

Similarly, does the Speaker's statement to the Ethics Committee describe the extent of Donald Jones's activities in Gingrich's offices on behalf of Earning By Learning? If not, why did the Speaker omit this key fact?

We strongly urge the Ethics Committee to publicly disclose the Speaker's statement in the matter of Donald Jones, so that citizens can independently evaluate its accuracy, completeness, and veracity.

D: Failure of the Ethics Committee to Interview Parties Knowledgeable About Jones's Activities in Gingrich's Office, and Other Investigative Failures

Paul Davis, the attorney representing Donald Jones's former partners, sent a letter to you, Chairwoman Johnson, and to Ethics Committee Ranking Minority Member Jim McDermott on March 6, 1996, conveying the willingness of his clients to provide testimony about Jones's activities within the Speaker's office. That letter stated that his clients:

believe that a full review of this record will reveal a pattern of conduct emanating from within the office of a member of Congress that has damaged their civil interests. My client[s] have information that will help to ensure that their actions are not cast in a false light and that the Members of your Committee are not mislead in their investigation of the case involving Donald G. Jones. They are willing to cooperate in appropriate ways to ensure that the truth is revealed.(12)

On April 4, Roll Call reported that subsequent to the March 6 letter:

Davis told Roll Call that he was contacted by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), the ethics panel's ranking member, who inquired about the evidence Davis had. McDermott told Davis to collect the information and send it to ethics Chairwoman Nancy Johnson (R-Conn). Davis said he prepared a packet and sent it to Johnson but never received any communication from her or the ethics committee staff.

The packet sent by Davis to you, Chairwoman Johnson, contained, according to Roll Call, "evidence, including documents and phone records, that demonstrated that Jones was working on telecommunications issues for the Speaker." It also contained a cover memorandum that stated:

My clients are prepared to provide information concerning the business activities of Mr. Jones during the period that he was operating out of the office of Speaker Gingrich. In effect, they are prepared to provide specific substantiation for claims included in the attached Jones memo.(13)

The failure of the Ethics Committee to request and receive testimony from Davis's clients, Tim Brown and Jeff Coleman, calls into question the thoroughness of the Ethics Committee investigation into the Donald Jones matter. Why did you not ask Brown and Coleman for their testimony? Will you immediately receive and consider their testimony? If not, why not?

On April 22, Roll Call reported on the contents of a new Donald Jones memorandum:

Donald Jones, a Wisconsin telecommunications entrepreneur who was granted Congressional staff privileges by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga) last year, cited the business interests of a family that has contributed heavily to the Speaker in a briefing to Gingrich on government regulation of the Internet.

Jones, whose controversial role as a quasi-Gingrich staffer advising the Speaker on matters on which he had a business interest...wrote in a memo that he told the Speaker "about concerns that entrepreneurs have making investments facing the possibility of government controls and cited Cam, Atlanta, and MindSpring."

Cam refers to Campbell Lanier, a Georgia telecommunications mogul....Lanier and his family have been generous to Gingrich, providing more than $56,000 over the past fiver years to Gingrich's campaign and GOPAC...(14)

Apparently, the Ethics Committee did not obtain this memorandum until after it had issued its March 29 ruling in the Donald Jones matter. Why did the Ethics Committee fail to uncover it?

Equally enigmatic is the failure of the Ethics Committee to obtain the notes of House leadership meetings on telecommunications legislation and the Speaker's meetings with telecommunications executives to determine whether in fact Donald Jones was a participant, or present at the meetings. How could the Ethics Committee possibly evaluate Donald Jones's claim to have attended these meetings on telecommunications legislation without reviewing contemporaneous notes of the meetings?

According to the March 29, 1996 Ethics Committee letter to Speaker Gingrich, "the Committee...considered your [Gingrich's] response of December 22, 1995, which included an affidavit of Donald Jones, and letters from Daniel Meyer and Jack Howard of your staff." However, Adam Clymer of the New York Times noted that, aside from this submitted testimony, "no one was questioned, and no documents were requested."(15) The Committee's failure to question witnesses or request documents seriously undercuts the credibility of the Ethics Committee "investigation" of the Donald Jones matter. We believe you owe the American people a complete explanation and accounting for what appears to be a slipshod "investigation" in this case.

This is not the first time that this House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has been criticized for failure to thoroughly investigate credible leads regarding the Gingrich ethics complaints. This House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has repeatedly faltered and stumbled in its duties to undertake professional, impartial, non-partisan investigations in the ethics complaints brought against House Speaker Newt Gingrich. These failings include:

With less than a week until the deadline its head had set for disposing of the charges against Speaker Newt Gingrich, the House ethics committee has yet to question many of the most obvious witnesses about a college course Mr. Gingrich taught, a book contract or other allegations of misconduct.

Spokesmen for the political action committee Mr. Gingrich headed and the college where he taught a course that has been criticized as an illegal, partisan use of tax-exempt funds said no information had been sought from them. So did a publisher who publicly charged that the original $4.5 million deal for Mr. Gingrich's book was improper, and a business organization from which Mr. Gingrich was accused of improperly soliciting personnel.(16)

After making initial inquiries into the bulk sales of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's (R-Ga) book "To Renew America" more than a month ago, the ethics committee is no longer probing the matter, the panel's chair told Roll Call last week.

In an interview Thursday, ethics committee Chairwoman Nancy Johnson (R-Conn) said the panel "didn't find any information of interest at this point" on the bulk-sales issue.

"The issue was raised," Johnson said. "The staff did some work on it. At this point, it's not being pursued."

Interviews by Roll Call with the five organizations that have been publicly identified as having purchased bulk orders of Gingrich's book found that none of them were contacted by ethics staffers or Members as part of the probe.(19)

the Committee has found that your use of Mr. Joseph Gaylord was in violation of House Rule 45...Specifically, the Committee found that Mr. Gaylord's activities during the transition of interviewing prospective staff violate our rules and that his regular, routine presence in congressional offices, while in and of itself not a violation of House rules, creates the appearance of the improper commingling of political and official resources.(20)

The Committee merely found that Joe Gaylord's activities preceding the 104th Congress were a violation of House Rule 45. Elizabeth Drew, in her book Showdown, strongly suggests that Gaylord's was performing official duties during the 104th Congress. She writes:

A close Gingrich associate said, "Joe is really the chief of staff,"....A close associate said, "Joe Gaylord has line authority for everything in Newt's life." Another said, "Gaylord has complete control over Newt's schedule" -- and then he added "along with Dan Meyer."... Gaylord was Gingrich's chief political strategist, and was also known to chair substantive meetings on matters of interest to Gingrich. A close associate said, "Newt delegates to Joe, and Joe calls other members of Newt's staff and gives instructions. Joe sits in staff meetings where he's present and Newt is not, and the next ranking person is Dan Meyer."...When there was a substantive issue that involved politics -- and few didn't -- Gaylord was often in the room....In 1995, aware that eyes were on his role, Gaylord's physical presence was reduced, but not his influence.(21)

Another passage in Showdown describes a meeting on the House Republican Medicare legislative proposal:

Gingrich had been deeply involved in the details of the Republican proposal. On September 11, a meeting in Gingrich's office with the relevant subcommittee chairmen and Gingrich advisers, including Joe Gaylord, had gone on until 1:45 A.M., where the group went through the proposal line by line.(22)

The Ethics Committee made no mention of this evidence of Gaylord's official activities during the 104th Congress in its letter to the Speaker. Apparently, the Ethics Committee did not uncover this evidence in its investigation into the Joe Gaylord matter.

Given these failures of the Ethics process in the Gingrich cases, we request that the Ethics Committee release the statements of Speaker Gingrich, Daniel Meyer, Donald Jones, and Jack Howard regarding the Donald Jones case, so that the public can independently assess the veracity and completeness of their statements.

E: The Ethics Committee has Repeatedly Criticized Speaker Gingrich's Conduct

When considering what level of sanction is appropriate in this case, the Committee should bear in mind that it has repeatedly criticized Gingrich for violations of House Rules or other blameworthy conduct:

Based on this Committee's construction of House Rule 45, Mr. Jones' participation in your office as an "informal advisor" did not comply with applicable guidelines issued by this Committee governing interns or volunteers.(23)

...the Committee strongly questions the appropriateness of what some could describe as an attempt by you to capitalize on your office. As recent events demonstrate, existing rules permit a Member to reap significant and immediate financial benefit which appears to be based primarily on his or her position. At a minimum, this creates the impression of exploiting one's office for personal gain. Such a perception is especially troubling when it pertains to the office of the Speaker of the House, a constitutional office requiring the highest standards of ethical behavior.(24)

...the Committee has found that your use of Mr. Joseph Gaylord was in violation of House Rule 45, which prohibits the use of unofficial resources for official purposes.(25)

...the Committee has found a misuse of the House Floor....The House Floor should not be used for commercial purposes, and since a caller to this number was offered only the option of buying a set of tapes, the Committee finds the use of a 1-800 number to be an improper solicitation. (26)

...the Committee has found a similar violation in your references on the House Floor in 1990 regarding a nationwide town meeting sponsored by GOPAC.(27)

The Committee concludes that you were remiss in your oversight and administration of your congressional office, which gave rise to the improper correspondence cited in the complaint. Accordingly, you are directed to immediately take steps to preclude recurrence of the type of improper activity here involved. You are further placed on notice that a future recurrence of improper use of mail and resources may result in more severe Committee action.(28)

The Committee has also determined that the acquisition of certain real estate with your daughter, as well as the underlying liability you incurred, should have been reported on your Financial Disclosure Statements for the appropriate calendar years.(29)

Incredibly, given this history of violations of House Rules and other improper conduct by Speaker Gingrich, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has yet to apply any sanction to Speaker Gingrich.

F: Conclusion

The House Ethics Committee has a responsibility to the American public to conduct thorough investigations of possible violations of federal law or House Rules by House Members. Failure to conduct thorough investigations undercuts the legitimacy and moral authority of the Congress.

As it stands, the House Ethics Committee's "investigation" into the Donald Jones matter is incomplete and transparently inadequate. Given Speaker Gingrich's contradictory statements about Donald Jones's activities within the Speaker's office, and the apparent failure to receive testimony from Tim Brown and Jeff Coleman or to question anyone in the case, the House Ethics Committee must immediately take steps to complete the investigation into the Donald Jones matter. The Committee must send this new complaint and our November 15, 1995 complaint to special counsel for investigation. Anything less will further jeopardize the future of the self-regulation of Congressional ethics.

Lastly, by failing to punish Speaker Gingrich for his various wrongdoings, the Ethics Committee sets an extremely bad precedent. The import is this: that members of Congress who repeatedly break rules will escape unscathed from Ethics Committee action. Such a precedent is highly destructive to the House Ethics Committee, and to the Congress.

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. See Attachment #1, which includes the November 15, 1995 ethics complaint. Phil Kuntz, "Gingrich Backer Had Unusual Access As a Volunteer in the Speaker's Office." Wall Street Journal, November 10, 1995. Memorandum from Donald G. Jones, "Six Months of Newt's '95 Revolution," June 30, 1995. Robert A. Jordan, "Conflict of Interest Cloud Looms Over Gingrich." Boston Globe, October 15, 1996. Jack Anderson and Michael Binstein, "Gingrich Adviser May Have Crossed Line." Washington Post, December 7, 1995.

2. Kathey Alexander, "Gingrich Downplay's Donor's Role." Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 2, 1996. See Attachment #2.

3. "Speaker: Former Volunteer Was Working on Reading Program." Associated Press, Marietta Daily Journal. April 2, 1996. See Attachment #3.

4. House Ethics Manual at 314.

5. House Ethics Manual at 100.

6. Damon Chappie and Juliet Eilperin, "Gingrich Reveals New Evidence About Jones Case." Roll Call, April 4, 1996. Attachment #4 also includes "Wrist-Slapping," editorial, Roll Call, April 4, 1996.

7. "US Company Plans NZ Fibre Network," Information Access Company Newsletter Database, Stuart Corner & Assoc. Exchange, June 16, 1995. See Attachment #5, which also includes Cyberstar memorandum from Donald Jones, May 10, 1995. "US Cable TV Operators to Set up in New Zealand," Information Access Company Newsletter, January 27, 1995. "US Operator Pulls Out of NZ Cable TV Market," Information Access Company Newsletter, October 20, 1995.

8. Prepared Statement of Donald G. Jones, President and Leader of Change, Cyberstar, Before the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, March 29, 1995. See Attachment #6.

9. Correspondence from Reps. Nancy L. Johnson and Jim McDermott to Newt Gingrich, March 29, 1996.

10. Juliet Eilperin, "'Informal' Gingrich Adviser Got Congressional ID Card." Roll Call, February 26, 1996. See Attachment #7.

11. In the Matter of Representative Charles H. Wilson of California, H. Rep. No. 95-1741, 95th Cong., 2nd Sess. 4-5 (1978). See also House Ethics Manual at 12-14.

12. See Attachment #8.

13. Memorandum from Paul Davis to U.S. Representative Nancy Johnson Re: Donald G. Jones activity in Speaker's office, March 14, 1996. See Attachment #9. The "attached Jones memo" referred to by Paul Davis is the June 30, 1995 memorandum by Donald Jones titled "Six Months of Newt's '95 revolution" which is included in Attachment #1.

14. Damon Chappie and Juliet Eilperin, "Jones Offered Gingrich Campaign Giver's View on Internet Regulation." Roll Call, April 22, 1996. Attachment #10 also includes Donald G. Jones personal memo, May 17, 1996. Phil Kuntz, "Memo Outlines Gingrich's Discussion of Internet Issues With Entrepreneur." Wall Street Journal, April 19, 1996.

15. Adam Clymer, "Gingrich Gets a Mild Rebuke in Ethics Case." New York Times, March 30, 1996. See Attachment #11.

16. Adam Clymer, "Little Work Done, Ethics Panel Will Miss Deadline on Gingrich." New York Times, June 29, 1995. See Attachment #12.

17. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Rule 15(f).

18. Adam Clymer, "House Ethics Panel Throws Out New Complaint Against Gingrich." New York Times, January 27, 1996. See Attachment #13.

19. Juliet Eilperin, "Ethics Panel Stops Inquiry of Bulk Sales for Speaker Gingrich's Book." Roll Call, November 13, 1995. See Attachment #14.

20. Correspondence from House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Chairman Nancy Johnson and Ranking Democratic Member Jim McDermott to Speaker Newt Gingrich, December 6, 1995.

21. Elizabeth Drew, Showdown: The Struggle Between the Gingrich Congress and the Clinton White House. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996) pp. 52-53. See Attachment #15.

22. Elizabeth Drew, Showdown, p. 316. See Attachment #16.

23. Correspondence from House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Chairman Nancy L. Johnson and Ranking Democratic Member Jim McDermott to Speaker Newt Gingrich, March 29, 1996. See Attachment #17.

24. Correspondence from House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Chairman Nancy L. Johnson and Ranking Democratic Member Jim McDermott to Speaker Newt Gingrich, December 6, 1995. See Attachment #18.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Correspondence from House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Chairman Julian C. Dixon and Ranking Minority Member John T. Myers to Representative Newt Gingrich, March 8, 1990. See Attachment #19.

29. Ibid.