Gingrich lawyer issues Notice and Demand Regarding Advertisements Concerning Speaker Newt Gingrich
Re: Dear Sir or Madam:
Romney SuperPAC and Official Romney for President Advertisements
This letter issues on behalf of Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (the “House”), Republican candidate for President of the United States, and his principal campaign committee, Newt 2012, Inc.
It has recently come to our attention that your station has either been asked to run, or may soon be asked to run, various advertising spots produced by the Mitt Romney aligned SuperPAC “Restore Our Future” or Romney for President, the principal campaign committee of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Included among the Romney advertisements submitted to your station for broadcast are likely to be various advertisements which specifically mention Speaker Gingrich and purport to quote or reference the findings of a 1997 report issued by the House Select Committee on Ethics (the “Report”).
The content of these advertisements state and/or suggest that, Speaker Gingrich was “fined” $300,000 for “violations” of congressional rules. These statements are NOT TRUE. In fact, ANY statement, suggestion, or innuendo that Speaker Gingrich was assessed a congressional fine for violations of House Ethics Rules is fundamentally false and misleading. If published after your receipt of this letter, it will be a knowing publication of a false statement. As such, it represents a defamatory communication which exposes this station to potential civil liability. In turn, we do hereby DEMAND that your station immediately REFUSE, and if started, CEASE airing any such advertisements and refrain from broadcasting their content until such time as the libelous statements have been removed.
FALSITY OF CONTENT
Any statement or suggestion of a ‘fine’’ is false. Even a cursory review of either the Report itself or the Congressional Record associated with its presentation to the body of the House undeniably establish the falsity of this statement.
Let us be clear – no fine was ever levied against Speaker Gingrich by the U.S. House of Representatives in connection with the House Ethics Committee’s investigation of his actions. Indeed, it was explicitly not selected by the Committee. Indeed, it was overtly rejected.
As the Report itself clearly denotes, Speaker Gingrich was asked to reimburse the House $300,000 to offset some costs of the Committee’s investigation. No fine was ever levied against the Speaker, as the language of the Report reveals:
“Accordingly, the Subcommittee and the Special Counsel recommend that the appropriate sanction should be a reprimand and a payment reimbursing the House for some of the costs of the investigation in the amount of $300,000. Mr. Gingrich has agreed that this is the appropriate sanction in this matter.”
In light of the specific findings of the Report, it is wholly inaccurate to characterize Speaker Gingrich’s payment as a fine. In fact, neither the initial Statement of Alleged Violation presented against Speaker Gingrich, nor the formal communications of the Committee itself ever referenced or mentioned levying a fine. Likewise, neither the House Resolution regarding Speaker Gingrich, nor the Chair of the House Select Committee on Ethics ever referenced or mentioned a fine.
In fact, numerous statements from elected officials and other individuals associated with the Committee’s investigation make it clear that the sanction levied against Speaker Gingrich was nothing more than a cost assessment. In presenting the Report to the Members of the House, former Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (R-CT) characterized the Speaker’s payment in the following manner:
“Likewise in past cases where the committee imposed monetary sanctions on a Member, the committee found that the Member had been personally enriched by the misconduct. The committee made no such finding against Representative Gingrich, yet recommends that a cost reimbursement of $300,000 be paid to the House by him.”
Likewise, Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), a member of the Investigation Subcommittee, described the Report findings in the Congressional Record as follows:
“Based upon the allegation, the violations we found, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct on a 7-to-1 vote, full committee now, entire committee, recommended the following penalty. It recommended a reprimand and a cost assessment of $300,000. . . . We set $300,000 as the estimated costs of that portion of the investigation that dealt with clearing up the misstatements that we received, which may be begun to be prepared in Mr. Gingrich’s law firm, but for which he is responsible as Member of the House.”
Indeed, even Democrat Congressman (now Senator) Ben Cardin (D-MD) agreed on the proper classification of the Speaker’s $300,000 payment. In his remarks to the House urging adoption of the Ethics Committee Report and Resolution, then-Congressman Cardin described the proposed sanction against Speaker Gingrich in the following manner:
“It provides a reprimand plus a required $300,000 contribution by Mr. Gingrich to the cost of these proceedings.”
Moreover, in the transcript of the sanctions proceedings before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Special Counsel to the House Ethics Committee James Cole could not have made it more clear when he responded to questions from Congressman Thomas Sawyer (D-OH) as follows:
“In addition, this is not a fine that we are recommending. The rule book says that a fine is an appropriate sanction when a member has received personal gain. And as Mr. Smith had asked and as I told him, no, we did not find that.”
In sum, there was never any fine levied against Speaker Gingrich as a result of the findings of the House Ethics Committee Report referenced in the subject advertisements. Any statement to the contrary in any broadcast communication produced on behalf of Governor Romney, any other presidential candidate, or any SuperPAC is all at once false, misleading, and defamatory. And, given the fact that both the Report itself and the associated Congressional Record are clear matters of public record, we are left with no other conclusion but to assume that such communications are made with either knowledge or reckless disregard of their inherent falsity.
Through the above repudiation of the inaccurate statements included in the script of the subject advertisements, your station has been given notice and absolute knowledge of the malicious falsity and defamatory nature of the aforementioned political communications. As such, any further attempt to broadcast or communicate such advertisements or any of their
inaccurate content to the general public will expose your station to potential liability for both libel and false light invasion of privacy. In turn, and as previously stated above, we do hereby request that your station immediately cease airing any such false advertisements and completely refrain from broadcasting their content until such time as the aforementioned defamatory statements have been removed.
Please govern your actions accordingly. We look forward to receiving your prompt reply to this correspondence and request that any questions regarding its contents be directed to my attention.
Very truly yours,
Stefan C. Passantino National Counsel, Newt 2012