House ethics committee investigates Gingrich

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Chair of Ethics Committee, Nancy Johnson (REP CT) reduced unilaterally a five-day hearing schedule to one day—the Friday afternoon before the Presidential inauguration.
Excerpts of hearings: Nancy Johnson discusses penalty to be imposed upon Gingrich for using non-profit educational organizations for improper political purposes. Johnson recaps the Ethics Committee findings of 12/21/96: 1 Gingrich violated 43.1, which requires member acts at all times reflect credibly on House. 2 Gingrich failed to seek and follow legal advice regarding use of tax exempt organizations (Section 501(c)3) of US Tax Code). 3 Gingrich didn’t ensure organizations followed US Tax Code. 4 Gingrich submitted to investigators information that he should have known was unreliable, incomplete, and inaccurate. Johnson states that Gingrich admitted to charges and waived right to disciplinary hearing; thus, the hearing to impose penalty, not discuss basis of charges.

Maryland Democrat Benjamin Cardin discusses troublesome issues of Speaker of House being penalized for violating ethics code.

Special Counsel James M Cole explicates case against Newt Gingrich: Partisan political goals of projects violate 501c3. Gingrich’s first 501c3 project: Gingrich developed the television show American Opportunities Workshop (AOW) in May 1990. Gingrich designed the program to develop a citizens’ movement to recruit apolitical citizens and non-voters for the Republican Party. Gingrich deliberately framed the issues to align with Republican ideology without mentioning the Republican Party, so that it would not trigger the cynical apathy of the apolitical target audience. GOPAC formed AOW, but because AOW was sapping GOPAC resources, Gingrich moved AOW to a 501c3 organization named the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation (AOLF). AOLF was an empty shell organization that was filled with AOW to engender tax-deductible funding. AOLF used GOPAC staff, offices, and facilities to broadcast American Citizens Television (ACTV). Three programs were broadcast from ACTV. Another program, which was deemed too political to broadcast from a 501c3 organization, was broadcast from a 501c4 organization.

Gingrich’s second 501c3 project: Gingrich developed the college course “Renewing American Civilization” as an element of his political movement of the same name, which focused on moving America from a welfare society—which he tied to the Democratic Party—to an opportunity society—which he associated with the Republican Party. The heart of his movement was achieving a Republican majority and attracting voters to Republican Party. His message, which aligned with his campaign strategy, was that the welfare state had failed and must be replaced by opportunity society based on “Five Pillars of American Civilization.” To overcome GOPAC financial difficulties, Gingrich used the course to disseminate his message without cost to GOPAC. Gingrich’s two-hour lectures for the course were broadcast over satellite and cable television and were disseminated by video recordings through the Renewing American Civilization Project. Expenses to disseminate were paid with 501c3 funds, which amounted to $1.2 million over 3 years. Jeffrey A. Eisenach, of the Washington Policy Group and Progress and Freedom Foundation, took over management of Renewing American Civilization Project. Because the course was viewed as a partisan tool, the course was forced to move from Kennesaw State to private, non-state school Reinhardt College. Reinhardt College refused to provide any funding, as Kennesaw State had. Vote 7-1 [Lamar Smith the only dissenting vote] recommend reprimand and $300,000 fine negotiated with Gingrich and his attorney

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