Monday, January 23, 2012

Thanks Mitt

Mitt Romney has done the nation a favor by revisiting the 1990's ethics charges against Newt Gingrich. The person who should be most thankful for the trip down memory lane is Newt Gingrich.
Prior to 1994 Newt Gingrich was working tirelessly to lay the foundation for a Republican victory and Mitt Romney was working tirelessly to build his fortune. In 1994 the Republican party won 54 seats and claimed a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. In 1994 Mitt Romney lost his campaign to defeat Ted Kennedy as U.S. Senator for Massachusetts. In a recent debate Mitt Romney downplayed his run against Kennedy as something done as a favor to the party who needed a candidate rather than a serious attempt to defeat Kennedy. To be kind, that is a distortion.

1994 was a year where the Republicans were expecting to make gains and Kennedy was seen as especially vulnerable. It was the 25th anniversary of Kennedy's deadly disgrace at Chappaquiddick. Kennedy had just gone through his nephews rape trial which further weakened his public appeal. In the Republican primary there were six candidates including two other millionaires. Romney's father was Governor of Michigan, his mother ran for the Senate from Michigan, his sister-in-law ran for the Senate from Michigan, and his brother ran for Michigan Attorney General. Mitt Romney's campaign against Ted Kennedy was no favor to the party. It was a genuine opportunity for a victory for a man with longtime political ambitions. Mitt could have won.

Mitt Romney had the overwhelming support of the Republican establishment and in September, just six weeks from election day, the race was effectively a dead heat. At least two polls showed Romney leading Kennedy by a couple of points. Then Kennedy attacked Romney as a flip flopper who changed his position on abortion and questioned Romney's job creation claims. Romney began to fall behind. Next Kennedy brought out the big guns and questioned Romney's record with Ampad where he bought the company for $5 million, layered it with $400 million in debt, took out $100 million, and then sent the company into bankruptcy. Romney cratered and lost badly. Now he wants to do it at a higher level.

Mitt Romney wanted to surf a Republican wave that was created by the hard work and commitment of real leaders like Newt Gingrich. With his Contract for America Newt developed a surge that captured 54 house seats and 8 senate seats. Mitt Romney was one of the few Republicans who couldn't reach the shore that year. Weighed down by his flip flopping, and his questionable record as a capitalist, Mitt Romney failed in the year of the most lopsided Republican victory ever. The contrast in effective leadership, in accomplishing change, couldn't be more stark.

Newt Gingrich paid a price for breaking the Democrat stranglehold in the House and recapturing the Senate. He became a target of the left and they pursued a scorched earth policy. A total of 84 ethics violations were filed against Gingrich. In the end, all but one of the charges were dropped. In the light of time, the remaining charge, the one that Gingrich paid a $300,000 fine to settle, seems almost laughable.

Newt Gingrich had a grand strategy to change the political landscape in a way that would protect individual liberty. He wanted this change to result in the election of conservative Republicans. As part of that strategy Gingrich sought permission from the ethics committee to teach a college course and to solicit tax deductible contributions to support accomplish. It was Newt's belief that as long as the content of the course was non-partisan he wasn't required to report it as partisan activity simply because he hoped it would support his partisan goals. In the course of all these ethics investigations, on this one, Gingrich's staff submitted information to the ethics committee that was false. Newt took responsibility for the actions of his staff and accepted the reprimand. That is why Newt was fined $300,000.

I say the charges are laughable for two reasons. First, shortly after Gingrich was reprimanded and paid the fine, the IRS ruled that the course was not partisan and that the tax deductible contributions where wholly legitimate. In effect, Newt was fined for teaching a course that the democrats who despised him thought was partisan and the IRS declared was not. The second reason is that there is real corruption in congress that continues in the open, unabated, to this day. Obama and the democrats give millions to Planned Parenthood every year. They give millions to public broadcasting and millions to thousands of community organizing groups such as ACORN. In these, and hundreds of other, ways the democrats use the power of taxation to fund groups who engage in partisan activity to support the Democrat Party. There is your ethics violation.

Thank you Mitt for taking us down memory lane. Thank you for reminding us that when there was a Republican tidal wave you couldn't manage to win. Thank you for reminding us that there were real bruising battles fought in the nineties to achieve things like welfare reform. Thank you for reminding us that while Newt fought the fight and paid the price you were nowhere to be found.

Jeffrey Lord has written an excellent article at the American Spectator that recalls Gingrich's importance to the Reagan Revolution. 

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