Ethics panel asks Gingrich to explain his college course

November 13, 1994|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The House ethics committee has asked Rep. Newt Gingrich, the Georgia Republican expected to be the next speaker of the House, to explain the connections between a Republican political action committee he runs and a college course he taught.

The course, which Mr. Gingrich taught at Kennesaw State College near Marietta, Ga., last year, examined contemporary political issues through a conservative lens.

But Ben Jones, the Democrat whom Mr. Gingrich defeated in the general election Tuesday, said in a complaint being reviewed by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct that the real purpose of the course might have been to disseminate partisan theories and to encourage students to join and work for the Republican Party.

Mr. Gingrich had gone before the ethics committee in early 1993 seeking approval to teach the class. At that time, he said the material would have no partisan bias.

Yesterday, he repeated that statement on the CNN program "Evans and Novak."

"This is the most bizarre thing I've been involved in in my career," he said. He also denied that there were any links between his course and the Republican political action committee, called GOPAC, he has run since 1986.

Mr. Gingrich said that a "fairly large amount of financing" was needed to make the course available on television and on video. "Now, GOPAC provided some initial ideas on who might be interested in financing the course," he said. "That's all they did."

His spokesman, Tony Blankley, said yesterday that Mr. Gingrich would respond to the ethics committee's questions at the bipartisan group's next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 29.

Mr. Jones, in filing his complaint with the committee, submitted a sheaf of documents that the ethics committee is now reviewing to see if there are problematic links between the course's financing and its content.

The documents indicate that GOPAC supported the course by recruiting students and helping to disseminate Mr. Gingrich's ideology.

The course, called "Renewing American Civilization," was canceled at Kennesaw this year after college officials passed a regulation barring politicians from lecturing or teaching there while still in office.

This year, Mr. Gingrich teaches the class at Reinhardt College in Canton, Ga. His lectures are distributed by satellite to 132 other locations. And he encourages nonstudents to tune in as well.

On Friday, Mr. Gingrich told a gathering of business leaders to call an 800 number to obtain copies of his lectures. A set of 10 lectures costs $119.95.

In its letter to Mr. Gingrich, first reported yesterday in the Washington Post, the ethics committee questions GOPAC's involvement in the course, asking why a relationship was not disclosed to the House panel in 1993.

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