Gingrich Claims He was “Exonerated” on Ethics Investigation

Gingrich at Clinton's State of the Union address in 1997, right after he was reprimanded for ethics violations

For a man who presents himself as a historian, Newt Gingrich has problem keeping history straight.

Gingrich has announced that the $300,000 he paid after a Congressional ethics investigation in 1997 was for a reimbursement of expenses. Gingrich is correct but not in the context that he wants people to believe. The ethics committee on December 21, 1996 called for “a reprimand and the payment of $300,000 toward the cost of the preliminary inquiry.”

Gingrich can call it what he wants, but that is a fine. He was fined by Congress for an ethics violation. Gingrich makes it sound like he volunteered to pony up $300K so the government wouldn’t have to bear the costs of the investigation.

Gingrich also claims “on every single count, I was exonerated.” That isn’t quite true. Gingrich was reprimanded for teaching a class at Kennesaw State College in which the organizers sought tax-exempt status. Here are the details from Politifact:

Gingrich’s ethics violations date back to the 1990s, when Gingrich taught a course at Kennesaw State College while serving in Congress.

The organizers of the course solicited financial support from “individuals, corporations and foundations,” promising that the project qualified for tax-exempt status. But an ethics committee investigation concluded that the course was “actually a coordinated effort” to “help in achieving a partisan, political goal” — something that would run afoul of its tax-exempt status.

A further problem for Gingrich was that during the investigation, he submitted letters from his lawyers for which “the subcommittee was unable to find any factual basis.” Gingrich “should have known” that the information in the letters “was inaccurate, incomplete, and unreliable,” the investigation found.

For Gingrich, every single count means not counting everything.

Gingrich also tries to convey the impression that the vote making him the first House Speaker to be sanctioned was just a formality. Gingrich said that “I personally asked House Republicans to vote ‘yes’ because we had to get it behind us to get back to the things that mattered.”

That is very brave of Gingrich to take a bullet in the name of politics. That just isn’t the way it happens in Washington though. Every single Congressmember fights tooth and nail not to be blamed for anything. Politicians don’t let their reputations be tarnished so the country’s agenda can move forward. Gingrich knew he had lost this battle and wanted to get it behind him as quick as possible because it was a dirty stain on his reputation.

Gingrich is not through though. He announced that the real culprits in this ethics reprimand were his lawyers. When everything else fails, then it is time to blame the lawyers. That is where Gingrich is at now.

Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping might be bad, but no one has truth stretching nailed down like Gingrich.

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