Newt Calls The Kettle Black

Recently, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appointed himself the “arbiter of ethics.” Here is a sampling of what Gingrich had to say about Congressional ethics in the last few days:

“The system has grown, I think, so out of whack”¦And you now have this kind of really intermeshed relationship between incumbents, staffs and lobbyists in a way that I think is very unhealthy.” [Fox News, 1/5/06]

“I think that the Abramoff scandal is the latest signal of just how unhealthy and how dysfunctional Washington, DC, has become and the political process has become, the lobbying process.” [CBS, Evening News, 1/4/06]

“I think this whole system has grown, frankly, a little sick with insiders raising money for insiders to re-elect insiders to do favors for insiders.” [CBS, Face the Nation, 1/1/06]

How quickly we forget. Gingrich was beset by serious ethical problems as Speaker during the 1990s. Below is a summary of Gingrich’s actions that brought him a rare House rebuke and a $300,000 fine:

HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE PENALIZED GINGRICH $300,000 FOR THE “INTENTIONAL OR”¦RECKLESS” DISREGARD OF HOUSE RULES: “The House ethics committee recommended last night that House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) face an unprecedented reprimand from his colleagues and pay $300,000 in additional sanctions after concluding that his use of tax-deductible money for political purposes and inaccurate information supplied to investigators represented ‘intentional or . . . reckless’ disregard of House rules.” [Washington Post, 1/18/97]

GINGRICH USED CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS TO FUND PARTISAN POLITICAL ACTIVITIES: “The heart of the ethics committee case against House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) involves his use of charitable organizations to subsidize his partisan political activities”¦ Gingrich and his top advisers have tried repeatedly to use tax-deductible donations to help promote their political goals”¦ [T]he availability of groups that could take tax-deductible donations was integral to his ultimately successful plan to wrest control of the House from the Democrats.” [Washington Post, 1/7/97]

GINGRICH’S LAWYER ADMITTED HIS CLIENT GAVE “GLARINGLY INCONSISTENT” STATEMENTS TO HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE: “In his final opportunity to defend his client Friday night before the House ethics committee, an attorney for Newt Gingrich conceded that the speaker had made ‘glaringly inconsistent’ statements to the panel’s investigative subcommittee about a politically oriented college course financed with tax-exempt funds.” [Washington Post, 1/19/97]

FULL HOUSE VOTED TO REPRIMAND GINGRICH; FELLOW HOUSE REPUBLICAN SAID HE HAD “EMBARRASSED THE HOUSE”: “The House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reprimand House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and order him to pay an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House’s 208-year history it has disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing.” The House voted 395-28 to approve the punishment. “Newt has done some things that have embarrassed House Republicans and embarrassed the House,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI). “If [the voters] see more of that, they will question our judgment.” [Washington Post, 1/22/97; CNN.com]