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  •   Gingrich to Pay Penalty With His Own Money

    By Bill McAllister
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, September 15 1998; Page A19

    House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has abandoned plans to borrow money from former Senate majority leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) to pay the $300,000 ethics penalty the House imposed on him last year, officials announced yesterday.

    Instead, Gingrich, whose income has been buoyed by book sales, said he will pay the entire penalty "through wholly personal funds." In May of last year, the speaker cut in half the funds he said he would need to borrow from Dole, now a Washington lawyer, saying he would need no more than a $150,000 loan.

    The speaker has paid $100,000 of the levy for violating House ethics rules and is due to make two remaining payments in November and January, the House Committee of Official Conduct said in a brief statement. It also disclosed that Gingrich had formally released Dole from their earlier loan agreement.

    As a result, the ethics committee said it has dropped the lobbying restrictions it placed on Dole during the loan. Now a partner in the Washington law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, Dole said through a spokeswoman that he has "no intention" of registering as a lobbyist.

    The former senator, whose presence at the law firm has coincided with its rise as a major lobbying force in Washington, consistently has declined to register for lobbying on Capitol Hill. Dole has said he has restricted himself to offering strategic advice to the firm's clients rather than personally pushing their cases before lawmakers, actions that do not require him to register.

    Dole "feels relieved that he can now talk to his old friends" in Congress without worrying about the ethics committee's restrictions, said Dole spokeswoman Joyce Campbell. Dole had deliberately shunned some contacts with his former colleagues because of concerns that he might be seen as lobbying, she said.

    As for the promised loan, Campbell quoted Dole as saying: "That's what friends are for."

    The House imposed the penalty last year after Gingrich acknowledged he gave the ethics committee untrue information and failed to ensure that financing for two projects, including a college course he taught, would not violate federal tax laws. The penalty was to reimburse the ethics committee for added costs it attributed to investigating Gingrich's misleading statements.

    At the time, some of Gingrich's GOP colleagues said they had insisted that he pay the fine from personal funds, not from contributions from others. If he had not agreed to that he might have lost the speakership, they said.

    Gingrich's press secretary, Christina Martin, issued a brief statement saying that the Dole loan was "an extra step to ensure he could meet his obligation to reimburse taxpayers in full with personal funds. He was being very careful and very prudent. It is now clear that a loan will not be required. . . . The speaker is grateful to Senator Dole for offering his assistance both in the name of friendship and party loyalty."

    The ethics committee once again referred to the penalty as a "$300,000 cost assessment," a term GOP leaders have used to describe the sum Gingrich must pay. They say that ethics rules call for fines in cases in which the violator was seeking "personal financial benefit" and that Gingrich had reaped no financial benefit from his actions.

    According to income statements filed with the House, Gingrich has received large royalty payments from books he has written. "To Renew America," published in 1995, produced royalties of $1.2 million that year and $185,109 in 1996.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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