The Corner

Ex-Pols: Gingrich Supported Gang of Seven

Last night, Rick Santorum accused Newt Gingrich of ignoring the House banking scandal to further his political ambitions. “You knew about it for — for ten or 15 years,” Santorum charged:

Because you told me you knew about it. And you did nothing, because you didn’t have the courage to stand up to your own leadership, the Democratic speaker of the House, take to the floor of the [House], demand the releasing of the checks that were being kited by members of Congress, risk your political career, risk your promotion within the ranks and do what was right for America.

But members of the Gang of Seven, the group of Republican congressmen who publicized the scandal, say Gingrich supported their efforts.

In 1992, news broke that members of Congress had abused their privileges with the House bank, an institution that dated from the Civil War. Unlike a regular bank, the House bank functioned as a credit union. A member could deposit his paychecks in the institution and then write checks on his account. And, crucially, any check a member wrote would be covered with whatever funds the bank possessed — even if the member’s individual account lacked sufficient funds. As a result, hundreds of members kited checks.

Reform-minded Republicans used the story to make the case that the Democratic majority was corrupt. Seven Republicans who emphasized the issue in particular — John Boehner, John Doolittle, Scott Klug, Jim Nussle, Frank Riggs, Rick Santorum, and Charles Taylor — became known as the Gang of Seven.

“Newt provided tacit support,” Riggs tells NRO. “There was an article in USA Today [about the scandal]. . . . Newt sent a copy of that article to, I believe, each of us and wrote in the margin, ‘Change takes courage and effort. Keep up the good work.’ He was very much there in the background as Rick suggested, but closely monitoring events.”

“I actually remember Newt being fairly supportive,” adds Klug. “He thought it was a way to attack the Democrats.”

“It is true that Newt didn’t blow the whistle,” says Frank Gregorsky, a former aide to Gingrich. “But Newt was not a bystander, and he took one of the bolder positions.”

In an interview with John McLaughlin in March 1992, Gingrich called on the House Ethics Committee, which had released the names of only the 22 worst offenders, to release the names of all members involved.

“I’m going to do everything I can to insist that we name and expose the details of the 55 who were the serious abusers and that we at least name the 44 [others involved] who had extraordinary bad judgment,” he said.

He himself was among them, making 22 overdrafts, including one $9,463 check to the IRS in 1990. Then the Republican whip, Gingrich almost lost his seat in 1992, when a primary challenger mounted an aggressive campaign based on charges of ethical misconduct. Gingrich won the Republican nomination in his district by only 980 votes.

Most Popular


Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More