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Gingrich’s constituents chew on Dole loan over breakfast

April 18, 1997

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) _ Tim Mitchell had just finished his fried eggs and was sipping coffee when news of House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s $300,000 loan from Bob Dole came over the television at the Eastside Deli.

``If Newt Gingrich wanted to raise the $300,000 from his constituents, he could raise it in two days,″ said Mitchell, a staunch Gingrich supporter with a heavy appetite for politics.

Like many constituents in the speaker’s heavily Republican district north of Atlanta, Mitchell has never understood all the fuss surrounding the ethics case and the $300,000 penalty. He is not worried about how Gingrich gets the money he needs to put the controversy behind him.

``To the folks who live around here, Newt’s our hero,″ said Mitchell, a mergers and acquisitions specialist. ``He did something wrong and I’m sure he’ll make it right.″

At the deli _ where two eggs, hash browns and toast cost $2.69, coffee is $1 and CNN is free _ owner Eric Gillman said he was worried that Democrats would try to use the loan to inflict further damage on Gingrich.

``A lot of people who are not involved or educated politically will think negatively about it,″ Gillman said. ``Personally, I don’t think it’s a big deal. If I could loan out $300,000 to a friend at 10 percent and get it back, why not?″

John Biga, a salesman from Woodstock, simply shrugged when he heard the news while munching a piece of toast. ``I always heard that you never borrow money from friends,″ he said.

``That’s all I can say.‴

But Mitchell’s sympathetic comments seemed the prevailing here, to the surprise of no one.

Never mind all that cash. As far as Mitchell is concerned, Gingrich could squeeze some additional political clout out of his loan from Dole, the former Senate majority leader who made personal integrity a cornerstone of his presidential campaign.

``It substantiates the fact that Newt’s a reputable, high-class individual,″ said Mitchell, who was having breakfast with his brother at the deli across the street from Gingrich’s district office. ``He’s probably the most intelligent person I’ve seen in Congress in my lifetime.″

Gingrich announced in Washington that he will pay the penalty with $300,000 borrowed from Dole, repaying the loan at 10 percent annual interest over eight years, with the first payments due in 2005.

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