Gringrich rebuked after admitting he broke ethics rules of congress


THE Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Newt Gingrich, has admitted the "violation" of congressional ethics rules. He will be seeking re-election in just two weeks.

The Speaker is second in succession to the President but is now weakened in his authority even if he survives.

While Democratic opponents have called for Mr Gingrich's resignation, Republicans have closed ranks behind him and tried to dismiss the breaches of the rules as minor.

Democrats are still resentful of Mr Gingrich's actions in forcing the resignation of Democratic Speaker Mr Jim Wright in 1989 for breaching ethics rules. They clearly want revenge.

The House minority whip, Mr David Bonior, said. "It is inconceivable to me that a person who has been found guilty of such serious violations, including repeatedly lying to the committee of Congress, could continue as Speaker of the House."

He said the charges should be investigated by the Justice Department and the FBI.

Mr Gingrich's admission comes after a one year investigation by the House ethics sub-committee into complaints filed by Democrats. The main complaint was that Mr Gingrich improperly funded a college course he taught from charitable trusts, which are tax free.

Democrats claimed that the course on "Renewing American Civilisation" promoted the political aims of the Republican Party. But Mr Gingrich insisted the televised course was about "ideas, not politics".

The sub committee has now ruled that the aim was to further Republican aims.

Mr Gingrich was also accused of providing the sub-committee with false information. He has now admitted doing so unwittingly but has blamed his lawyer, who recently resigned from the case while insisting that Mr Gingrich approved all submissions to the sub-committee.

The report of the sub-committee now goes to the full Committee of Standards of Official Conduct, which will decide whether to recommend disciplinary action.

A severe censure could result in the Speaker having to resign his post. But the feeling is that it will be a minor reprimand.

In a contrite statement Mr Gingrich, said. "I did not seek personal gain, but my actions did not reflect creditably on the House."

In what was in effect a plea bargaining statement to avoid further investigation, the Speaker said that in his zeal to "inspire the American people to take control of their destiny" he had been "over confident and in some way naive."

What may save Mr Gingrich from political disgrace is the bipartisan sub-committee's decision to refrain from outright condemnation of his actions. It rebuked him for not seeking legal advice to ensure that his college course was in accordance with the tax code.

Mr Gingrich was previously investigated by the sub-committee for accepting a $4.5 million advance on a book on politics while Speaker. He was rebuked for this and forced to refuse the advance from the publishing firm.