Gingrich Faces Reprimand, $300,000 Penalty - Jan. 17, 1997
Final Report Due Today On Gingrich Ethics Case - Jan. 16, 1997
Gingrich Reprimand Vote Set Today
WASHINGTON (Jan. 20) -- With the outcome all but certain, Speaker Newt Gingrich faces his punishment from colleagues in the House of Representatives this afternoon: a reprimand and a $300,000 penalty for his admitted ethical lapses.
Gingrich's punishment was set last week, when the House ethics committee voted 7-1 to recommend the so-called "reprimand plus" sanctions for Gingrich's aggressive use of tax-exempt financing to support a college course he taught, and for providing inaccurate, misleading information to the ethics committee.
The speaker is not expected to attend today's debate, set to begin shortly after noon ET. A vote could come by 1:30 p.m. ET.
Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), who chairs the ethics committee, said it's time "to try to put this era of animosity and divisiveness and partisanship behind the House."
On NBC's "Today" show, Johnson said: "We've got to move on and focus on the people's business and the challenges that face us."
Today's vote will cap two years of controversy and a year-long investigation marked by partisan rancor on both sides. Gingrich surprised some of his followers on Dec. 21 when, in the House's version of a plea bargain, he admitted that he had failed to seek appropriate tax law advice and had provided the committee with misleading information during its probe.
The $300,000 penalty is meant as an assessment to cover the costs of the additional investigation made necessary by Gingrich's misstatements. The speaker is still deciding whether to use campaign funds or personal funds to pay the penalty. Establishing a legal defense fund, similar to the one operated for Bill and Hillary Clinton, is another option for him.
The reprimand would allow Gingrich to retain his speakership post, which he was re-elected to on Jan. 7.
Today's vote won't end all aspects of the case, though. The Justice Department is still looking into how a private telephone call between Gingrich and GOP leaders was intercepted and recorded. A partial transcript of the call, in which Gingrich is discussing a strategy to respond to the ethics charges, later showed up in The New York Times. His remarks appear to have violated an agreement with the ethics committee, although the committee decided not to press the issue so the sanction agreement could go forward.
The Associated Press reported that the FBI is conducting interviews in the case. Rep. James McDermott (D-Wash.), who Republicans suspect leaked the tape, declined comment on Monday when asked whether the FBI had talked with him.
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