WASHINGTON — Charging that House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) may have violated anti-bribery laws, a former congressman asked the House Ethics Committee Thursday to investigate Gingrich's controversial book deal with a publishing company owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch.
Amending his original complaint to include the book deal and other questions that have arisen recently about Gingrich's relationship with lobbyists, former Rep. Ben Jones (D-Ga.) filed a new request for a full-scale investigation into the complex matrix of political and academic organizations that Gingrich has assembled to promote his political influence in recent years.
Jones, who lost to Gingrich in the November elections, charged that the book deal was a conflict of interest as well as a violation of House rules that limit a member's income from writing for publication to "the usual and customary value of such services."
The book deal provoked a storm of criticism when it was disclosed last year that Gingrich would receive a $4.5-million advance from HarperCollins, the New York publishing firm owned by Murdoch, who also owns a television network and other ventures that could profit from legislation pending before Congress this year.
Gingrich subsequently agreed to forfeit the advance. But the controversy took on new life when it was disclosed that Gingrich met privately with Murdoch after the Nov. 8 elections.
Gingrich's office would not comment on the specific allegations in Jones' new complaint. But Gingrich spokesman Tony Blankley dismissed the complaint in general terms as "frivolous . . . and without merit."
In his amended complaint, Jones charged that a note attached to a contribution made by a Washington lobbyist to an academic course Gingrich teaches raised questions of possible criminal wrongdoing by suggesting that the congressman had used his influence on behalf of the lobbyist at a 1993 congressional hearing.
Enclosing a check for $25,000 on behalf of the Employment Policies Institute, Washington lobbyist Richard B. Berman wrote in the postscript of a July 1, 1993, letter to Gingrich: "Newt--Thanks again for the help on today's committee hearing."