The Truth behind Gingrich's Ethics Case and Subsequent Exoneration by the IRS

In an article published on Townhall (Romney’s defacto home base) Byron York made a decent attempt at uncovering what really happened to Gingrich’s Ethics case. With Townhall very much in the running against the NRO to see who annoints Romney the quickest, one has to wonder why would they allow such an article to be published. My best guess is that TPTB having determined that Newt is so far behind that he is no longer a threat decided that Townhall could use a little bit of reporting on the other side to give some semblance that they are still a fair and balance organization, unlike the NRO and Fox News. The significance of uncovering the truth is huge, given the fact that the Romney campaign had used the Ethics Investigation and the $300,000 “fine” to devastating effect against Gingrich in the Florida primary. Even on RS, there are a few diarists who routinely cite those against the former Speaker.

One of the most prominent ad involves Tom Brokaw on NBC news saying that Speaker Newt Gingrich was fined $300,000 in the ethics violation case. Interestingly, Tom Brokaw and NBC had asked the Romney campaign to stop using that particular newsclip in its ad. Rush Limbaugh took NBC to task for not doing enough. They should have come out and corrected an error in reporting because Newt Gingrich was totally exonerated by the IRS and that Newt was cleared of all but two of the charges in the Ethics case. On the Thursday before the Florida Primary, the Drudge Report was innundated with massive headlines attacking Newt Gingrich in an attack that Rush described as orchestrated. A few conservatives came to Newt’s defence, including Rush, and Mark Levin. Elliot Abrams hack piece on the Drudge Report was deemed a smear but the attack ads continued. Romney went on to beat out Newt in the Floridian primary. 

The Republican Establishment continues to turn a blind eye towards Romney’s negative and patently false attacks on Newt. The $300,000 continues to be called a fine instead of a reimbursement of the cost of hiring an outside lawyer to investigate Newt. No one ever talks of the IRS exonerating Newt of all the 85 charges, including the one he pleaded guilty to (in order to bring the case to a close) misleadingly claiming the course he taught was not political but educational. In the end, the IRS confirmed the course was educational.  Byron did a good job and I would include the conclusion to his article here. You all should read his article in its entirety. Well worth your time!


“It is hard to convey today how much the media became preoccupied with the case, and how much pressure fell on Gingrich and Republicans to end the ordeal. In January 1997, Gingrich agreed to plead guilty to the previously unknown offense of failing to seek sufficiently detailed advice from a tax lawyer before proceeding with the course. (Gingrich had, in fact, sought advice from two such lawyers in relation to the course.) Gingrich also admitted that he had provided “inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable” information to Ethics Committee investigators. That “inaccurate” information was largely Gingrich’s contention that the course was not political — a claim the IRS later would support.

Why did Gingrich admit wrongdoing? “The atmosphere at the time was so rancorous, partisan, and personal that everyone, including Newt, was desperately seeking a way to end the whole thing,” Gingrich attorney Jan Baran said in 1999. “He was admitting to w hatever he could to get the case over with.”

It was a huge victory for Democrats. They had deeply wounded the speaker. But they wanted more, and they pressed the IRS to investigate.

Experts examined every word Gingrich spoke in every class; they examined the financing and administration of the course; and they examined how the course might have fit into Gingrich’s political network.

In the end, in 1999, the IRS released a highly detailed 74-page report that concluded the course was, in fact, a legitimate educational exercise. “The ‘Renewing American Civilization’ course was educational … and not biased toward any of those who were supposed to be benefited,” the IRS concluded.

bottom line: Gingrich acted properly and violated no laws. Of course, by that time, Gingrich was out of office, widely presumed to be guilty of something, and his career in politics was (seemingly) o ver. Now he’s having to fight the fight all over again.”