The ethics committee must vote on the suggested $3000,000 fine
and formal punishment.
* * * *
The outside counsel hired to investigate ethics charges against
House Speaker Newt Gingrich recommended Friday that the GOP leader
be formally reprimanded by the House and penalized an unprecedented
There has never been a House speaker who has been reprimanded
by the House. The highest fine ever paid by a member of Congress as
a result of ethics violations was $124,000 by former Sen. Dave
Durenberger, R-Minn., in 1990.
The eight-member ethics committee, composed equally of
Republicans and Democrats, was expected to vote late Friday to
adopt counsel James Cole's recommendation for punishment.
A vote by the House on a punishment is set for Tuesday. Rep.
Dana Rohrabacker of California and several other GOP lawmakers -
with the tacit backing of House Republican leaders - are organizing
an effort to vote down a reprimand in favor of a milder "letter of
A reprimand would not require Gingrich to step aside as
speaker, unlike the more severe penalty of "censure." Cole said the
seriousness of Gingrich's actions in the case merited a punishment
"somewhere between reprimand and censure," and a decision was made
in the committee to recommend a reprimand and a fine.
Democratic lawmakers and aides said Cole had recommended to the
commi ttee earlier this week that the evidence be referred to the
Justice Department for investigation of possible criminal
violations but that the recommendation was dropped under pressure
from GOP committee members.
Instead, the 213-page report by Cole recommends that the
documents in the case be made available to the IRS. The IRS already
Rep. Steve Schiff, R-N.M., a member of the committee, denied
there had ever been a recommendation for a referral to the Justice
Coming in the midst of one of the most bitterly partisan
atmospheres lawmakers said they can remember, Cole's conclusions
carry special weight because he is viewed as a neutral arbiter.
"Over a number of years and in a number of situations, Mr.
Gingrich showed a disregard and a lack of respect for the standards
of conduct that applied to his activities," Cole said.
Cole told the House ethics committee at a public hearing that
Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, took part in a scheme to
finance partisan polit ical activities aimed at furthering his
political ambitions and electing a Republican majority to Congress. …