Gingrich Faces Reprimand, $300,000 Penalty -- Jan. 17, 1997
More Partisan Wrangling Over Gingrich Case
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 19) -- With the House set to vote Tuesday on the ethics committee's punishment for House Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethics violations, Republicans and Democrats continued to spar over the case this weekend.
The House Democratic leadership has indicated it will support the committee's recommended punishment a reprimand and a $300,000 penalty which would allow Gingrich to continue as speaker. But Gingrich's most pointed critics, including Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.) and Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), continued to press for Gingrich to step aside as speaker.
Both sides were waiting to gauge the impact on public opinion of six hours of televised public hearings Friday, when independent prosecutor James Cole laid out his case against Gingrich. Cole painted a grim picture of "reckless" behavior leading to broken tax laws and inconsistent statements to the ethics committee.
Democrats said Gingrich should pay the $300,000 out of his own funds, not from his campaign war chest. A key Gingrich ally, John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed. "I think legally and ethically he could pay for this out of campaign funds," he told CBS' "Face the Nation" today. "Politically, is it the right decision? Probably not."
Meanwhile, Republicans were suggesting Sunday that Bonior and Rep. Jim McDermott could face investigations over their role in handling the possibly-illegal tape recording of a cellular phone conversation that included Gingrich.
There are "some very serous difficulties with what went on around the tape," ethics committee chairwoman Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) said this morning on Fox-TV's "Fox News Sunday." And, she said, the ethics process had suffered from too many frivolous complaints. (290K AIFF or WAV sound)
"The House cannot go on using the ethic committee as a field on which to play out political differences or personal animosities," Johnson said.
Over seventy ethics charges filed against Gingrich by Bonior and other Democrats were eventually dismissed. Johnson and other Republicans suggested a "loser pays" reform to avoid frivolous ethics complaints in the future. "Somebody needs to pay for these charges," GOP House whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said separately on CBS.
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