For Immediate Release: For More Information Contact:

Tuesday, May 23, 1995 Gary Ruskin (202) 296-2787

Nader Criticizes House Ethics Chairwoman Nancy Johnson for

"Stonewalling" Gingrich Investigation

Following reports that all Republicans on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct rejected appointing an outside counsel to investigate charges against Speaker Newt Gingrich, Ralph Nader said "this is a sweetheart whitewash in the making. Nancy Johnson and the House Republicans are demonstrating why the public does not trust politicians and why politicians can't be trusted to police themselves."

The Washington Post reported on Saturday, May 22, that Ethics Committee ranking Minority Member Jim McDermott had moved to appoint an outside counsel to investigate the ethics complaints against Gingrich. But the motion failed when all five Republicans on the ten Member panel voted against the measure. Tie votes block a measure.

"Nancy Johnson is turning the ethics process into a sham to protect House Speaker Newt Gingrich," Nader said. "Johnson has permitted herself to become a mouthpiece for partisan cronyism and business as usual to block any effort to get at the truth regarding these charges," Nader said. "This just shows the bankruptcy of the Congressional ethics process as currently constituted."

Since 1979, the Ethics Committee has appointed an outside counsel to investigate every serious ethics case against a House member. These outside counsel investigations include: Rep. Charles Diggs (1979), Abscam (1980), Rep. George Hansen (1984), House page scandal (1983), Rep. Fernand St. Germain (1987), Rep. Jim Wright (1989).

"Johnson is breaking House precedent by refusing to appoint outside counsel in the Gingrich case," Nader said. "She should simply follow established precedent by appointing an outside counsel who will independently evaluate the charges against Gingrich."

Speaker Newt Gingrich is the subject of five ethics complaints. The charges against him include: soliciting tax-deductible, charitable contributions to support the preparation and dissemination of a college course which he taught and knew was partisan (Ben Jones 9/7/94; as amended 1/26/95); violating House conflict of interest rules by entering into a profitable agreement to provide two books to Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins Publishers at a time when Murdoch has an enormous financial stake in matters pending before Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (Jones 1/26/95); soliciting for the Progress & Freedom Foundation (which sponsors his course) a large contribution from a drug company on behalf of which he engaged in regulatory advocacy (Jones, 1/26/95); violating federal law and House Rules by using private resources to finance his Congressional office (Ralph Nader and Gary Ruskin, 2/13/95); violating House Rules by accepting 20 free hours of television time from Jones Intercable, Inc., worth approximately $150,000-$200,000, to broadcast his video college course. (Reps. Pat Schroeder (D-CO), Harry Johnston (D-FL), and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), 2/23/95); using official resources to promote his political training course (Rep. David Bonior (D-MI), 3/8/95); and using official resources to further GOPAC activities (Rep. David Bonior, 5/15/95.)