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Washington, DC.

The Select Committee on Ethics met, pursuant to call, at 3:23 p.m. in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Nancy L. Johnson (chairman of the committee) presiding.

Present: Representatives Johnson, Goss, Schiff, Smith, Cardin, Borski, Pelosi, and Sawyer.

Staff present: Theodore J. Van Der Meid, Chief Counsel; Virginia H. Johnson, Counsel; David H. Laufman, Counsel; Bernard Raimo, Counsel; John E. Vargo, Counsel; Charles J. Willoughby, Counsel; Joanne White, Administrative Assistant; and Margarita Mestre, Staff Assistant.

Also present: James Cole, Esq., Special Counsel; Kevin Wolfe, Esq., assistant to Special Counsel; J. Randolph Evans, Esq., Counsel to Representative Newt Gingrich; and Ed Bethune, Esq., CoCounsel to Representative Gingrich.

The CHAIRMAN. As a quorum is present, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct will come to order.

We are here today to provide full and complete public disclosure to Congress and the American people of the facts in the case against Representative Gingrich. Today, copies of the committee's report were sent to all 435 Members of the House of Representatives and made available to the public. This afternoon, the committee will conduct a hearing on the appropriate penalty for violations of House rules by Representative Gingrich.

The penalty recommendation the committee will consider is tough and unprecedented compared with past cases. The committee's decision will be guided by its belief that the Speaker of the House must be held to the highest ethical standards. No one is above the rules of the House.

This investigation began on December 5, 1995, when the committee voted to establish a subcommittee and to appoint a special counsel to investigate the allegations that Mr. Gingrich was using nonprofit, educational organizations for improper, political purposes. Representative Porter Goss was named the Chairman of the Investigative Subcommittee, and attorney James Cole of the Washington law firm Bryan, Cave, was hired as special counsel.


The subcommittee conducted a thorough investigation of the allegations, interviewing numerous witnesses and reviewing thousands of documents. I want to commend Representative Porter Goss and the other members of the subcommittee, Representatives Ben Cardin, Steve Schiff and Nancy Pelosi, for their extraordinary dedication and endurance throughout this process. I particularly want to commend the members of the subcommittee for their ability to carry out their responsibilities in a collegial, nonpartisan manner in a difficult environment.

I want to express my appreciation as well to Mr. Cole, his assistant counsel, Kevin Wolf, and the committee counsel, Virginia Johnson, for their exemplary work on this investigation. Mr. Cole's thoroughness, patience, and commitment have enabled the Members to understand a complex situation and draw thoughtful conclusions in this case.

On December 21, 1996, the subcommittee adopted a statement of alleged violation, in which it found that Representative Gingrich had violated House Rule 43, clause 1, which requires a Member to conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives. The subcommittee based the alleged violation on its determination that Mr. Gingrich failed to seek and follow legal advice regarding the use of tax exempt organizations, and that he did not take appropriate steps to ensure that those tax exempt entities acted in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and the subcommittee also found that Mr. Gingrich and his representative provided information to the committee that Mr. Gingrich "should have known was inaccurate, incomplete, and unreliable."

Mr. Gingrich admitted to the charges. He also waived his right to a disciplinary hearing.

Mr. Gingrich's admission, and the full committee's acceptance of his request to waive his right to a disciplinary hearing, means that this hearing is not about Mr. Gingrich's guilt or innocence. Mr. Cole's lengthy final report, which the committee has released, provides a detailed explanation of the committee's findings and the basis for the charges against Mr. Gingrich. Rather, the purpose of this hearing is to determine what penalty to impose on Mr. Gingrich.

The Chair recognizes that because no disciplinary hearing occurred, it is important to provide complete information to the American people about the facts of this important case. In that regard, Special Counsel Cole will provide a summary of the committee's findings, and explain the basis for the sanctions recommended by the subcommittee.

Thereafter, counsel for Mr. Gingrich will make a presentation, and Mr. Cole will then comment shortly.

Following the presentations by counsel, I will recognize the members of the Investigative Subcommittee for an hour of additional explanation.

Next, there will be a round of questions by all members of the committee. Pursuant to my discussion with Mr. Cardin, by unanimous consent, each member of the committee will have 15 minutes to question in the first round, rather than the 5 minutes provided by the House.

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I would now like to recognize my Ranking Member, Mr. Cardin. I would also like to thank him for his work with me in these recent days and for his dedication to the goals of the Ethics Committee throughout these two long years of hard work.

Mr. Cardin.

Mr. CARDIN. Thank you, Mrs. Johnson.

Let me begin by saying how proud I am of the work of the Investigative Subcommittee. In my judgment, all four members of the subcommittee worked diligently to produce a work product that deserves the full support of this committee, the House and the American people.

We have worked together in a bipartisan manner, maintaining our commitment to a process that was fair to the respondent, as well as to the House and its rules. I want to commend the Chairman, Mr. Goss, for his outstanding leadership of that subcommittee, as well as my fellow members, Steve Schiff and Nancy Pelosi. I also want to comment and compliment the committee's special counsel, Jim Cole, for his splendid work in shepherding us through this process. He has never wavered in keeping us on track, in keeping us focused on the issues before us. He has prepared a report on all the issues in about one-half the time he originally expected to have in order to prepare that report, and he is here today with no time to prepare and no sleep.

As I have said, he has the patience of a saint. Unfortunately, he has had to use all that patience. He has been completely impervious to the political winds swirling around him, and we have had our storms. For all of that, this committee and country owe him a great debt of gratitude.

In addition, I want to recognize the outstanding work of attorney Kevin Wolf, his assistant, Mr. Cole's assistant, for the great work that he did for our committee.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not also recognize the work of Virginia Johnson of our committee. Her contributions to the work of the subcommittee have been innumerable and invaluable and she has my deep appreciation.

Now the process moves to the full committee. The Investigative Subcommittee has set an outstanding example of bipartisan cooperation. Again, I am very proud of the work product and the fact we were able to reach a unanimous 4-zero_vote. Throughout our year-long investigation, Chairman Goss, Representative Schiff, Representative Pelosi and I worked closely together to build consensus and understand the issues underlying the charges against Representative Gingrich.

During the past 2 days, Mrs. Johnson and I have communicated regularly in an effort to make the best possible use of the time that remains under the deadline set by the House on January 7th. The objective of the full committee must be to follow the example set by the subcommittee. We must work together to send a bipartisan recommendation to the full House and give the Members of the House the best opportunity now available before they vote to understand the sanctions recommended by this committee.

In my view, speaking for the Democrats on the panel, it is vitally important that members of the committee concentrate on the work at hand. Accordingly, until we have completed our recommenda

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