The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today plans to ask the Postal Service to investigate allegations that a political action committee (PAC) chaired by Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) collected more than $217,000 in campaign funds to support conservative House candidates but spent only about $3,000 for that purpose.
"We're basically saying that it's a sham," said Rep. Beryl Anthony Jr. (D-Ark.), who chairs the DCCC. "They obtained these monies under false pretenses. They waved the flag, obtained the money and then used the money internally with very little allocated toward candidates."
The complaint, which in essence seeks a civil mail-fraud finding, asks the Postal Service to investigate and, if warranted, force the PAC to cease fund-raising.
Gingrich, who serves as honorary chairman of the committee, known as Conservatives for Hope and Opportunity (CHO), was not available for comment.
The PAC's president, political consultant Robert R. Weed, said the committee spent little on direct contributions to conservative House candidates because fund-raising "dried up."
"Most of the money did go to fund-raising costs," said Weed. "When we started off we were doing very well and then it crashed . . . . Had it continued the way we wanted, we would have had a lot of money for candidates."
Weed said the fund is about $20,000 in debt, and that its future is uncertain.
Based on reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, the DCCC charged that the PAC collected $217,860 during 1985 and 1986, but spent only about $3,000 on behalf of conservative House candidates. The PAC distributed about $900 directly to candidates, and spent another $2,100 on campaign travel expenses for Gingrich.
In a fund-raising letter sent in April 1986, Gingrich appealed for help to "break the liberals' hold" on Congress. "CHO is trying to provide vital campaign funds to as many candidates as possible who share our conservative philosophy," he wrote.
Gingrich, a prominent member of the GOP's conservative wing in the House, has long been a thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership. Last year he was the leader of an effort to highlight what some Republicans charged was a pattern of corruption by House Democrats, including Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.).
Asked if Gingrich's guerrilla attacks on House Democrats were a factor in the request to the Postal Service, Anthony replied, "Our responsibility is to look to the broad range of opposition and make sure they are playing by the rules . . . . We think that if you have an organization that raises money under what would be equivalent to mail fraud . . . that that casts aspersions on all fund-raising activities."