House Speaker Jim Wright's chief accuser, Assistant Minority Leader Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), said Tuesday that he and his wife, Marianne, together earned more than $35,000 by co-authoring a book in 1984 and then soliciting more than $100,000 from 21 prominent Republicans to help promote it.
Gingrich acknowledged that soliciting money to promote the book was highly unusual but he denied that it violated House rules in any way. He also insisted that there can be no comparison between this arrangement and the scheme used to market Wright's book, which has been criticized by the House Ethics Committee.
"There's a difference between doing it correctly and doing it in a way that's not correct," he said. " . . . We went overboard to make sure that we followed every rule."
The couple discussed the book at an emotional news conference called to answer ethics allegations filed against them by Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who contends that there is a similarity between the two book deals. When reporters pressed them about the alleged comparison with Wright, Gingrich's wife ran from the room in tears.
Wright, who authored a 117-page book of personal essays entitled "Reflections of a Public Man," has been accused by Gingrich and the Ethics Committee of selling the book in bulk to special interest groups to evade the House-imposed limit on outside earned income.
Gingrich, who co-authored "Window of Opportunity" with his wife, is accused by Alexander of evading the limit on outside income by soliciting money from investors who, like some of those who purchased Wright's book, had direct interest in legislation. The Ethics Committee has not yet reviewed the charges against Gingrich.
The list of Gingrich's investors, which he made public for the first time Tuesday, included prominent Republicans such as Joseph Coors and Howard H. (Bo) Calloway, as well as business people in Georgia. Gingrich acknowledged that he has sought legislative and other government benefits for some of his home-district investors, but denied that it had any connection to their willingness to kick in $5,000 to help promote his book.
Gingrich said that the partnership, which was organized by his wife to promote the book, was created in a vain attempt to turn the volume into a best-seller. Although the investors never realized a cent, they were able to write off the loss on their taxes.
He described the scheme as "new and different, but honest."
Despite the partnership's expenditure of $51,571 to advertise and promote the book from 1984 through 1986, the publisher reported a net loss of $6,259.
According to documents released by Gingrich, he and his wife each got a $5,000 advance for the book, they each received $7,018 in royalties, Mrs. Gingrich got $10,000 for her work in establishing the partnership and she also received $1,500 for work she has done for the partnership since it was created. The partnership also reimbursed Gingrich for his travel expenses in promoting the book.
Gingrich said that the partnership was a legitimate business deal--not a clever way to collect personal contributions from people with interest in legislation. Unlike Wright's book, he noted, his was published by a mainline publishing firm and under a routine royalty agreement.
He and his wife each received 3% royalties on paperback sales from St. Martin's Press; Wright's royalty agreement with his publisher and friend, William Carlos Moore, was for 55%.