IV. Ethics Committee Approval of Course
On May 12, 1993, Mr. Gingrich wrote the Committee asking for "guidance on the development of an intellectual approach to new legislation that will be different from our normal activities." (Ex. 131, p. 1). He said that he wanted "to make sure that [his] activities remain within a framework that meets the legitimate ethics concerns of the House." (Ex. 131, p. 1). He went on to describe a course he was planning to teach in the fall of 1993 at Kennesaw State College.
The course would be based on his January 25, 1993 Special Order entitled "Renewing American Civilization." (Ex. 131, p. 2). It would be "completely non-partisan" and, he hoped, would include ideas from many people, including politicians from both parties and academics. (Ex. 131, p. 2). He stated that he believed the development of ideas in the course was a "crucial part" of his job as a legislator. (Ex. 131, p. 3). He ended his letter with a request to the Committee to meet to discuss the project if the Committee had any concerns. (Ex. 131, p. 3).
In June 1993, counsel for the Committee, David McCarthy, met with Mr. Gingrich, two people from his staff (Annette Thompson Meeks and Linda Nave) and Mr. Eisenach to discuss the course. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 7; 7/10/96 Meeks Tr. 13). Mr. McCarthy's initial concern was whether Mr. Gingrich could qualify for a teaching waiver under the House ethics rules. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 16). When he learned Mr. Gingrich was teaching without compensation, the issue of a teaching waiver became, in his opinion, irrelevant. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 16). Mr. McCarthy then asked questions regarding whether any official resources would be used to support the course and whether Mr. Gingrich planned to use any unofficial resources to subsidize his official business. Mr. McCarthy did not see any problems pertaining to these issues. Mr. Gingrich indicated that he might repeat the lectures from the course as Special Orders on the floor of the House. Mr. McCarthy suggested that Mr. Gingrich consult with the House Parliamentarian on that subject. (Ex. 132, p. 1).
One issue raised with Mr. McCarthy was whether the House Ethics Rules permitted Mr. Gingrich to raise funds for a tax-exempt organization. Mr. McCarthy's conclusion was that since KSCF was a qualified tax-exempt organization, Mr. Gingrich could raise funds for KSCF as long as he complied with the relevant House rules on the subject. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 17). Mr. Eisenach raised the issue concerning the propriety of his being involved in fundraising for the course in light of the fact that he also worked for GOPAC. According to Mr. McCarthy, his response to the issue was as follows:
[T]o my knowledge of tax law, the issue of whether the contributions in support of the course would keep their tax-deductible status would turn not on who did the fundraising but on how the funds were spent, and that the educational nature of the course spoke for itself. I told him that I was aware of no law or IRS regulation that would prevent Eisenach from raising charitable contributions, even at the same time that he was raising political contributions. In any event, I advised him, I expected the Committee to stick by its advisory opinion in the Ethics Manual and not get into second-guessing the IRS on its determinations of tax-exempt status.(Ex. 132, p. 2).
Mr. McCarthy said in an interview that his statement regarding the Committee's "stick[ing]" by its advisory opinion pertained only to whether Mr. Gingrich could raise funds for the course. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 19). The discussion did not relate to any other 501(c)(3) issues. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 19). While Mr. McCarthy was aware that the course lectures would be taped and broadcast (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 16), neither Mr. Gingrich nor his staff asked for Mr. McCarthy's advice regarding what activities in that regard were permissible under 501(c)(3) and Mr. McCarthy did not discuss such issues. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 19; 7/18/96 Gingrich Tr. 375-376; 7/10/96 Meeks Tr. 15). Mr. McCarthy did not recall any discussion regarding a Renewing American Civilization movement. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 16). Mr. McCarthy did not recall any discussion of GOPAC's use of the Renewing American Civilization message. (7/18/96 McCarthy Tr. 12-13). The discussion pertaining to Mr. Eisenach and GOPAC was brief. (Ex. 132, p. 2).
During the meeting with Mr. McCarthy, there were no questions posed about 501(c)(3) or what could be done in regard to the course, aside from the fund-raising issue under 501(c)(3). (7/18/96 Gingrich Tr. 375-376). Mr. Gingrich did not believe that it was necessary to explain to Mr. McCarthy his intended use for the course.
Mr. Cole: We are focusing, however, on your intended use of the course. And your intended use of the course here was in a partisan political fashion; is that correct?
Mr. Gingrich: My intended use was, but I am not sure I had any obligation to explain that to the [C]ommittee. As long as the course itself was nonpartisan and the course itself was legal and the course itself met both accreditation and tax status, I don't believe I had an obligation to tell the Ethics Committee what my political strategies were. I think that's a retrospective comment. And maybe I am wrong.
I don't think -- the questions were: Was it legal? Did I use official funds? Had we gotten approval? Was GOPAC's involvement legitimate and legal? Was it an accredited course? Was I getting paid for it?
I mean, none of those questions require that I explain a grand strategy, which would have seemed crazy in '94. If I had wandered around and said to people, hi, we are going to win control, reshape things, end the welfare entitlement, form a grand alliance with Bill Clinton, who is also going to join us in renewing America, how would I have written that?
(11/13/96 Gingrich Tr. 89-90).
On July 21, 1993, Mr. Gingrich wrote the Committee to provide additional information about the course he planned to teach at KSC. The letter did not discuss how the course was to be funded or that there was a plan to distribute the course nationally via satellite, videotape, audiotape and cable, or that GOPAC's main theme was to be "Renewing American Civilization." The letter also did not discuss GOPAC's role in the course. (Ex. 133).
On August 3, 1993, the Committee, in a letter signed by Mr. McDermott and Mr. Grandy, responded to Mr. Gingrich's letters of May 12, 1993 and July 21, 1993, regarding his request to the teach the course and his request to present the course materials in Special Orders. (Ex. 134, p. 1). The Committee's letter also notes that Mr. Gingrich had asked if he could help KSC raise funds for the course. The Committee's guidance was as follows:
1. Since Mr. Gingrich was teaching the course without compensation, he did not need the Committee's approval to do so;(Ex. 134, p. 1). The Committee, however, advised Mr. Gingrich to consult with the FEC regarding whether election laws and regulations might pertain to his fundraising efforts. The Committee's letter to Mr. Gingrich did not discuss any matters relating to the implications of 501(c)(3) on the teaching or dissemination of the course or GOPAC's relationship to the course. (Ex. 134, p. 1).
2. It was within Mr. Gingrich's "official prerogative" to present the course materials in Special Orders;
3. Mr. Gingrich was permitted to raise funds for the course on behalf of charitable organizations, "provided that no official resources are used, no official endorsement is implied, and no direct personal benefit results."
Other Sections of the Gingrich Ethics Report
I. Introduction II. Summary of Facts Pertaining to American Citizens Television III. Summary of Facts Pertaining to "Renewing American Civilization" IV. Ethics Committee Approval of Course V. Legal Advice Sought and Received VI. Summary of the Report of the Subcommittee's Expert VII. Summary of Conclusions of Mr. Gingrich's Tax Counsel VIII. Summary of Facts Pertaining to Statements Made to the Committee IX. Analysis and Conclusion X. Summary of Facts Pertaining to Use of Unofficial Resources XI. Availability of Documents to Internal Revenue Service Appendix