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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What Really Happened In The Gingrich Ethics Case?

What Really Happened In The Gingrich Ethics Case?

“After an exhaustive, 3 year investigation, Gingrich was cleared of all wrong-doing - even by the IRS.  So why is the Romney campaign sinking this low to do exactly what they accused Democrats of doing in 1995” - DRH

By Dell Hill

Having no dog in the fight - at least not yet - it’s fairly easy to stay in the box seats and watch the entire show without having to be accused of publishing stories in favor of a ‘pet candidate’.  Such is the case today.

I certainly recall the events surrounding the congressional investigation of Newt Gingrich back in the mid-nineties.  After reading thousands of words that were heavily slanted against him, and after hearing Dan Rather pound on Gingrich seemingly every night for months, I formed the opinion that Gingrich was a bad dude.  As it turns out, that’s exactly what Dan Rather, the New York Times and every other Democrat propaganda outlet wanted me to think.

The evidence, after all, was totally damning, and every media outlet was all over this case like stink on skunk.

There’s a very well-written synopsis out today, written by Byron York, who toils as the Chief Political Correspondent for the Washington Examiner.  I’d like you to read it so that you, too, can become fully aware of what happened then and what’s happening now.

What really happened in the Gingrich ethics case?

“The Romney campaign has been hitting Newt Gingrich hard over the 1990s ethics case that resulted in the former Speaker being reprimanded and paying a $300,000 penalty.  Before the Iowa caucuses, Romney and his supporting super PAC did serious damage to Gingrich with an ad attacking Gingrich's ethics past.  Since then, Romney has made other ads and web videos focusing on the ethics matter, and at the Republican debate in Tampa Monday night, Romney said Gingrich "had to resign in disgrace."

In private conversations, Romney aides often mention the ethics case as part of their larger argument that Gingrich would be unelectable in a race against President Obama.

Given all the attention to the ethics matter, it's worth asking what actually happened back in 1995, 1996, and 1997.  The Gingrich case was extraordinarily complex, intensely partisan, and driven in no small way by a personal vendetta on the part of one of Gingrich's former political opponents.  It received saturation coverage in the press; a database search of major media outlets revealed more than 10,000 references to Gingrich's ethics problems during the six months leading to his reprimand.  It ended with a special counsel hired by the House Ethics Committee holding Gingrich to an astonishingly strict standard of behavior, after which Gingrich in essence pled guilty to two minor offenses.  Afterwards, the case was referred to the Internal Revenue Service, which conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter.  And then, after it was all over and Gingrich was out of office, the IRS concluded that Gingrich did nothing wrong.  After all the struggle, Gingrich was exonerated.
I wrote about the matter at the time, first in a 1995 article about Gingrich's accusers and then in a 1999 piece on the Internal Revenue Service report that cleared Gingrich.  (Both pieces were for The American Spectator; I'm drawing on them extensively, but unfortunately neither is available online.)

At the center of the controversy was a course Gingrich taught from 1993 to 1995 at two small Georgia colleges.  The wide-ranging class, called "Renewing American Civilization," was conceived by Gingrich and financed by a tax-exempt organization called the Progress and Freedom Foundation.  Gingrich maintained that the course was a legitimate educational enterprise; his critics contended that it had little to do with learning and was in fact a political exercise in which Gingrich abused a tax-exempt foundation to spread his own partisan message.

We knew him best as ‘Cooter Davenport’

The Gingrich case was driven in significant part by a man named Ben Jones.  An actor and recovered alcoholic who became famous for playing the dim-witted Cooter in the popular 1980s TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, Jones ran for Congress as a Democrat from Georgia in 1988.  He won and served two terms.  He lost his bid for re-election after re-districting in 1992, and tried again with a run against Gingrich in 1994.  Jones lost decisively, and after that, it is fair to say he became obsessed with bringing Gingrich down.
Two days before Election Day 1994, with defeat in sight, Jones hand-delivered a complaint to the House ethics committee (the complaint was printed on "Ben Jones for Congress" stationery). Jones asked the committee to investigate the college course, alleging that Gingrich "fabricated a 'college course' intended, in fact, to meet certain political, not educational, objectives."  Three weeks later, Jones sent the committee 450 pages of supporting documents obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act.

That was the beginning of the investigation.  Stunned by their loss of control of the House -- a loss engineered by Gingrich -- House Democrats began pushing a variety of ethics complaints against the new Speaker.  Jones' complaint was just what they were looking for.

There's no doubt the complaint was rooted in the intense personal animus Jones felt toward Gingrich.  In 1995, I sat down with Jones for a talk about Gingrich, and without provocation, Jones simply went off on the Speaker.  "He's just full of s--t," Jones told me. "He is.  I mean, the guy's never done a damn thing, he's never worked a day in his life, he's never hit a lick at a snake.  He's just a bulls--t artist.  I mean, think about it.  What has this guy ever done in his life?…Gingrich has never worked.  He's never had any life experience.  He's very gifted in his way at a sort of rhetorical terrorism, and he's gifted in his way at being a career politician, someone who understands how that system works and how to get ahead in it, which is everything that he has derided for all these years.  So I think he's a hypocrite, and I think he's a wuss, and I don't mind saying that to him or whoever.  To his mother -- I don't care."

At that point, Jones leaned over to speak directly into my recorder.  Raising his voice, he declared: "HE'S THE BIGGEST A--HOLE IN AMERICA!"

This is the point in this report where it gets extremely interesting.  I invite you to read the rest of it by clicking right here.

Dell’s Bottom Line:

It’s really sad when you’ve had the time to get all of the facts and all of the details and realize you’ve been taken in by a political movement that extends so much further than you ever realized.  When the very people you depend on to report the news are the people making the news.  That’s what Dan Rather did.  That’s what the New York Times did.  And there were many more media outlets that did exactly the same thing; use their pulpit to advance a political bias.

Since that time, I’ve watched and read numerous other very similar “reports” from the lame-stream-media.  The difference today is that I’m fully aware of what they’re trying to do and why.

The target today is Newt Gingrich.  The original complaints are being echoed by the Romney campaign in an effort to discredit a political opponent.  Exactly the same thing Democrats and the complicit media did 17 years ago.  It’s a shameful exhibition, to say the least.

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