WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House ethics committee said Thursday it found ″no adequate basis″ to investigate Republican Whip Newt Gingrich, but criticized his failure to disclose a home purchase and his loose control over his staff.
The report concluded that even if most allegations made against the Georgia Republican were true, they would not violate House rules.
The No. 2-ranking House Republican, who was the chief accuser in the ethics case that triggered Democratic Speaker Jim Wright’s resignation last year, has called the case filed against him a political retaliation.
Gingrich said Thursday the report demonstrated the charges filed by Rep. Bill Alexander, D-Ark., were ″politically inspired nonsense.″
He contended the ″political smear″ cost taxpayers at least $300,000 and himself more than $100,000 in legal fees. Jan Keyes, spokeswoman for the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct - the ethics panel’s formal name - said she could not verify the $300,000 cost.
Gingrich was criticized by the committee for failing to report on his annual disclosure forms his joint purchase, with his daughter, of her home in Fulton County, Ga. in 1986.
He also was criticized for his staff’s use of his official letterhead in December 1986 and January 1987 to promote a for-profit cruise.
Gingrich was ordered to ″promptly amend″ his disclosure statments to reflect purchase of the house and was warned of ″more severe committee action″ if he fails to prevent future misdeeds by his staff.
But Alexander’s complaint was also criticized. ″Some of the assertions are pure speculation,″ the committee concluded. ″Others advance unusual legal arguments not supported by prior committee interpretations.″
The most publicized issue in the case was whether Gingrich violated outside income limits and rules against receiving gifts from those with a direct interest in legislation.
The allegations focused on the ″COS Limited Partnership″ Gingrich formed to promote a book, ″Window of Opportunity,″ he wrote with his wife and a third author. Alexander also questioned Gingrich’s royalty arrangement.
The committee found Gingrich properly listed as royalties the $24,036 he and his wife received from book sales and advances. Alexander questioned whether Gingrich exceeded outside income limits with the payments, but the committee concluded the royalties were exempted from the ceiling.
The committee also rejected Alexander’s allegation that the $105,000 raised from the 21 ″COS″ investors to promote the book could be considered ″gifts″ from people seeking legislative favors from Gingrich.
″The partners may simply have been seeking, in addition to making investments, advancing the political or philosophical policies which Rep. Gingrich advocated in the book,″ the committee said. Gingrich is the leader of conservative Republicans in the House.
″In sum, the committee is of the firm view that no adequate basis exists for initiating a preliminary inquiry″ in the case, the panel said, referring to the first phase of its investigative process.
The committee set up what amounted to an initial investigation when it hired a Chicago law firm last July for advice on whether to pursue the case. The firm recommended last October the case should be dismissed due to lack of evidence that rules were broken.
The panel wrote Gingrich a letter on the home purchase and the travel promotion, which paralleled its findings in the report.
″You were remiss in your oversight and administration of your congressional office,″ the committee wrote in criticizing the letters promoting the cruise for senior citizens.
Gingrich on Thursday blamed the travel-promotion letters on a staffer - ″a young man who made a mistake in judgment.″
The panel also wrote Gingrich that the joint purchase of his daughter’s home ″as well as the underlying liability you incurred, should have been reported on your financial disclosure statements.″
The panel said it considered - and rejected - Gingrich’s contention that he was only a guarantor of the loan and signed documents only as an accommodation for his daughter.
Gingrich said Thursday he failed to report that he co-signed the mortgage stemmed because he misread of House rules.