January 2, 1997
House Should Not Re-Elect Gingrich Before Completing Ethics Process
Public Release of Documents and Gingrich Sworn Testimony Essential
Public Citizen today called on the House not to re-elect Speaker Newt Gingrich before the Ethics Committee and the full House has meted out punishment for the ethical violations the Speaker admitted last month. In a letter to every Member of the House, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said: “The Speaker of the House is a constitutional office with enormous power and responsibility, second in the line of presidential succession. . . .It would be unconscionable for the House to elect Mr. Gingrich to this position while he faces a possibly serious ethics sanction.” Claybrook suggested that the Republicans should elect an acting Speaker on January 7 if they wish to leave open the possibility of re-electing Speaker Gingrich after the ethics proceeding is completed.
Claybrook also asked the House to ensure that all relevant documents on the Gingrich matter are released to the public and that Speaker Gingrich testify under oath before the Ethics Committee prior to final House action on the case. According to Claybroo k, “these steps will assure the public that the serious charges to which the Speaker has admitted are not being swept aside in a partisan power play.” She stated that the public must have “accurate, complete, and reliable information,” which Speaker Gin grich has admitted he did not provide to the Ethics Committee, in order to hold the Speaker and the Congress accountable for their actions.
Claybrook said that extensive public hearings and sworn testimony from Speaker Gingrich are essential because of questions raised by the Speaker’s admission of unethical actions. In particular, she expressed skepticism over the Speaker’s assertion that h e never requested legal advice about the use of non-profit organizations to fund his political activities: “The need to keep tax exempt activities and partisan politics separate is almost as well known as the separation between church and state. This is not an ?arcane’ concept.”
Claybrook also noted that public hearings would allow the House and public to evaluate Speaker Gingrich’s explanation that his lawyers were responsible for submitting false statements to the Ethics Committee. Claybrook told the House: “This explanation rings hollow. In light of the number and specificity of the instances cited by the Subcommittee, the misrepresentations appear intentional.”