Gingrich Indicates House to Probe Rep. McDade
Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), condemning corruption by either political party, suggested Monday that the House Ethics Committee will look into “very troubling allegations” concerning a veteran GOP congressman’s fees from a defense contractor whose executives have pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the government.
“You can expect something to happen,” Gingrich told reporters, in the case of Rep. Joseph M. McDade (R-Pa.), who is in his 14th term in the House. Gingrich, who was elected last month to be the second-ranking House Republican leader, was the moving force behind charges of ethical violations against House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.).
The FBI is investigating whether McDade violated election or bribery laws by accepting more than $45,000 in campaign contributions and speaking fees from officials affiliated with United Chem-Con Corp. The FBI is also investigating McDade’s use of United Chem-Con aircraft and two Delaware beach homes rented by the company.
Six executives of the company pleaded guilty last November in federal court to charges of conspiracy to defraud the Defense Department of more than $12 million. The executives were accused of inflating operating costs and using the excess money from Navy contracts to finance a lavish life style, including private jets and limousines.
The Wall Street Journal, which first disclosed the federal investigation of McDade, reported that he had used his influence as ranking Republican on both the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense and the Small Business Committee to channel Navy contracts to United Chem-Con.
Gingrich, interviewed at a luncheon session with a group of reporters, said that he is “not comfortable” talking about the McDade case now that he ranks second in the Republican leadership. But he said that he intends to take up the case with McDade himself and with House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois.
McDade’s office reported Monday that he was out of town and unavailable for comment. A senior McDade aide, when told of Gingrich’s comments, declared: “Good heavens. Obviously we don’t feel that way.”
The aide, who asked not to be identified, said: “We thought the (FBI) investigation was just a fishing expedition. I’m surprised Gingrich made those comments.”
Gingrich, who promised to raise ethics as a principal issue in future House election campaigns, said that Congress needs “a more aggressive Ethics Committee” and a standard procedure for filing charges of ethical violations against its members.
The Ethics Committee is expected to release its long-awaited report on the Wright investigation late this week or next week. A finding of a serious violation of House rules, if confirmed by the full House, could cost Wright his post as Speaker.
Gingrich said that such a finding would make members of Congress “absolutely obligated” to remove Wright from his post. He said that he would be “surprised” if Rep. Thomas S. Foley of Washington, the House majority leader, has not succeeded Wright as Speaker by the end of June.
On other issues, Gingrich said that President Bush “can’t afford” to seek consensus the way President Dwight D. Eisenhower did. The conservative movement, he said “is too strong for that, there would be an insurgency.”
In the past, Gingrich has expressed admiration for Oliver L. North, the former White House aide now being tried for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. But for the first time, he expressed reservations Monday about some of North’s actions.
“You can’t set a standard that the President’s men can lie,” declared Gingrich. He added that he thought North “got caught up in all the talk of patriotism” at the White House and got “overextended” in his zeal to carry out Administration policy.
Reagan himself got so caught up in patriotic fervor and an “us vs. them” attitude toward Congress, Gingrich said, that when leaving Washington aboard Air Force One the President would joke about “how tempting it would be to bomb the Capitol.”
Gingrich, who said he was traveling aboard Air Force One with Reagan when he made the remark, said that the President’s attitude was that “we patriots are going to save the West, and those guys on the Hill don’t understand.”