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Tax-Law Report on Gingrich Is Sent to House Ethics Panel

September 06, 1996|JANET HOOK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The special counsel hired to investigate allegations of tax-law improprieties against House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has completed his preliminary work and filed a report with the House Ethics Committee, members of the panel said Thursday.

Lawmakers refused to comment on the content of the report, which contains summaries of witness interviews but draws no conclusions.

The announcement was an important milestone in the long-running investigation. It comes at a time of growing speculation that the inquiry would drag on beyond the end of this session of Congress. That would allow Gingrich to stand for reelection this fall before a judgment had been handed down by the committee.

At issue are allegations that Gingrich violated tax laws by using a nonprofit foundation to finance a college course he taught from 1993 to 1995. Critics said that the arrangement was improper because the content of the course was partisan and should not have been financed by a tax-exempt foundation.

The matter had been referred by the committee to special counsel James M. Cole, who has submitted his work to the ethics panel's investigative subcommittee.

Subcommittee Chairman Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) told reporters Thursday that Cole had "substantially completed his preliminary work" and had delivered a "draft discussion document."

The subcommittee, which will review Cole's findings and make recommendations to the full Ethics Committee, "has drawn no conclusions," Goss said.

Tony Blankley, Gingrich's press secretary, complained Thursday that Democrats had tried to manipulate the press by suggesting that Cole's report contained conclusions about the propriety of the speaker's actions.

"This latest round of misrepresentation of the facts . . . is one more example of the orchestrated effort by the Democrats to smear Newt's character," he said. "Their attempts to destroy Newt are unconscionable."

The developments come at a time of increasing pressure on Gingrich, who has been dogged by ethics controversy since the fall of 1994, when his political opponents first leveled charges against him.

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