Listening to Newt Gingrich yesterday at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum describe his run-in with the House Ethics Committee, you’d have thought Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) led the House at the time, he was found innocent of all charges, no Republicans found him to have behaved improperly and the House didn’t overwhelmingly vote to exact the biggest fine in House history. In fact none of those things is true, and Gingrich’s comments simply confirm that the New Newt, in his ability to deny reality, is the same as the Old Newt.
A quick Google search turned up a helpful CNN chronology of Gingrich’s ethics problems. You can review it in full, but here are a few excerpts:
Sept. 26, 1996 — The ethics committee votes to expand investigation into whether Gingrich provided false information to the committee about GOPAC’s relationship with his college course.
Sept. 28, 1996 — Ethics committee votes to dismiss two charges against speaker, but refuses to sideline four charges dealing with alleged illegal campaign contributions and gifts
Nov. 10, 1996 — GOP Rep. Steve Largent of Oklahoma says it would be a good idea for Gingrich to step aside until the ethics issues are resolved. Separately, Reps. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.) echo that sentiment.
When caught redhanded misrepresenting facts to the committee Gingrich blamed his lawyer, a highly respected D.C. attorney who promptly fired his client and made clear that Gingrich had reviewed everything submitted to the House committee.
In the end, Gingrich lost the support of the overwhelming number of members in his own party:
Jan. 17, 1997 — [Committee attorney Jim] Cole and lawyers for Gingrich agree that the speaker’s punishment should be a reprimand plus a $300,000 penalty to reimburse the ethics committee for time wasted due to his inconsistent statements. The panel holds a public hearing into Gingrich’s violations, then votes 7-1 in favor of the judgment.
Jan. 21, 1997 — The House votes 395-28 in favor of ethics committee’s recommended punishment for Gingrich — a reprimand plus a $300,000 penalty, which allows him to remain as House speaker.
Jan. 22, 1997 — The Los Angeles Times, citing House ethics committee documents, reports that GOPAC urged donors to contribute “dues” to the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation, which were forwarded to GOPAC, which in turn contributed them to Republican political candidates. Gingrich has not responded to the allegation.
Jan. 25, 1997 — Gingrich returns to Marietta, Ga., and tells a mostly supportive crowd that his misstatements to the ethics committee were his lawyer’s fault. He asserts that “You can on the left do anything you want and nobody seems to notice,” but as a conservative, he was “politically incorrect.”
April 22, 1997 — Ending months of speculation, Gingrich announces he will pay the $300,000 penalty using a loan from former GOP presidential candidate and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.
You can say this was a long time ago. You can even say Gingrich wasn’t guilty of everything he was charged with. But what you can’t say is that Gingrich learned his lesson, accepted blame and is a changed man. Yesterday’s denial of the facts shows that he’s learned nothing, accepted nothing and has not changed his propensity to bend the facts to avoid responsibility for his actions.