Newt Gingrich, shown speaking at a primary night rally Saturday in Columbia,… (T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty…)
Reporting from Charleston, S.C. — Newt Gingrich on Sunday minimized the ethics probe that resulted in a record $300,000 fine during his term as House speaker and, slapping back at Mitt Romney, said all the pertinent information is available for public consumption.
"Anybody's who concerned, go read the 1,300 pages," Gingrich said. "It's online, for free."
Gingrich, who took a Sunday morning victory lap on the political chat shows after his landslide South Carolina primary win, was asked about the 1997 ethics report on CNN's "State of the Union."
Romney, under pressure to reveal his tax returns, has sought to turn the disclosure issue back on Gingrich by calling for him to release all documents he submitted to the House Ethics Committee in connection with its probe of his fundraising activities.
The investigation resulted in an overwhelming bipartisan vote to sanction Gingrich and the speaker was forced to repay $300,000 in costs.
But Gingrich minimized the vote. He said he was exonerated after separate examinations of his case by a federal judge, the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission. He said he urged fellow Republicans to join Democrats in the sanction vote "because we had to get it behind us to get back to the things that mattered," such as balancing the budget and reforming government.
"I would just point out ... for Gov. Romney to decide to make this a big issue when he won't release his taxes, when his staff apparently cleaned the computers when they left the governorship and when we know nothing about how they developed Romneycare, I think is starting a fight in an area that he isn't ... necessarily going to prosper in."
Gingrich took a milder tone in a later appearance on NBC's "Meet The Press" after learning that Romney, in an interview on "Fox News Sunday," announced plans to release his 2010 federal returns on Tuesday, along with an estimate of his 2011 taxes.
"I think that's a very good thing he's doing and I commend him for it," Gingrich said. "As far as I'm concerned that particular issue is now set aside."