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Gingrich Gave False Information To Ethics Committee

By Bob Franken/CNN


WASHINGTON (Dec. 19) -- A key ally of Newt Gingrich announced that the House speaker had provided false statements to a House committee investigating the ethics of his tax-exempt college course. Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) called it an innocent mistake, but even some Republicans aren't so sure.

The admission came one day after word came that the tax attorney who had been representing Gingrich quit on Saturday. Linder made the disclosure today, saying that Gingrich's false statements were accidental, due to an error by the lawyer, Jan Baran.

In a statement, Baran insisted his firm "did not submit any material information to the ethics committee without Mr. Gingrich's prior review and approval." Baran has not been available for further comment. Nor has Gingrich, who is out of town with his family.

The speaker's principal foil in Congress, Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.), was quick to pounce.


"It's always a sign of trouble when a client fires his attorney," Bonior told reporters. "But when an attorney fires his client, that's about as bad as it gets. It's time for Newt Gingrich to come clean with the American people."

Pressure for disclosure of the entire ethics case against Gingrich is also coming from his fellow Republicans, notably Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, who says he will abstain from voting for Gingrich as speaker in January without all the information.

Shays tells CNN, nevertheless, that in spite of this latest disclosure, "I believe he will be elected speaker, because it won't be serious. But we need to know."

With no word from Gingrich, Linder faulted Baran for "saying Newt should have caught" the errors. "He's the attorney," Linder told The Associated Press. "Newt was paying him not to make errors."

It was not immediately known why Baran left Gingrich, a long-standing client. Congressional sources told AP that the speaker has retained legal malpractice attorney Randy Evans of Atlanta.


"This is very serious business," said CNN's Robert Novak. "What makes it serious is for the first time, I'm picking up a buzz on Capitol Hill from Republicans wondering whether the speaker might step aside until this thing is finally settled... For the first time you're hearing the same kind of buzz among Republicans that I heard many years ago about [former House Speaker] Jim Wright with the Democrats. Doesn't mean the same thing is going to happen."

Wright resigned from Congress after an ethics investigation, spearheaded by Gingrich, found he had violated House rules.

The ethics committee has been investigating whether Gingrich had misused tax-free foundation money to finance the college courses he claimed to be non-political. The six-member panel, comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats, is scheduled to complete its investigation by Jan. 7, 1997.

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics."

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