What Really Happened in the Gingrich Ethics Case?
January 25, 2012 - 9:53 am
In the end, in 1999, the IRS released a densely written, highly detailed 74-page report. The course was, in fact, educational, the IRS said. “The overwhelming number of positions advocated in the course were very broad in nature and often more applicable to individual behavior or behavioral changes in society as a whole than to any ‘political’ action,” investigators wrote. “For example, the lecture on quality was much more directly applicable to individual behavior than political action and would be difficult to attempt to categorize in political terms. Another example is the lecture on personal strength where again the focus was on individual behavior. In fact, this lecture placed some focus on the personal strength of individual Democrats who likely would not agree with Mr. Gingrich on his political views expressed in forums outside his Renewing American Civilization course teaching. Even in the lectures that had a partial focus on broadly defined changes in political activity, such as less government and government regulation, there was also a strong emphasis on changes in personal behavior and non-political changes in society as a whole.”
The IRS also checked out the evaluations written by students who completed the course. The overwhelming majority of students, according to the report, believed that Gingrich knew his material, was an interesting speaker, and was open to alternate points of view. None seemed to perceive a particular political message. “Most students,” the IRS noted, “said that they would apply the course material to improve their own lives in such areas as family, friendships, career, and citizenship.”
The IRS concluded the course simply was not political. “The central problem in arguing that the Progress and Freedom Foundation provided more than incidental private benefit to Mr. Gingrich, GOPAC, and other Republican entities,” the IRS wrote, “was that the content of the ‘Renewing American Civilization’ course was educational…and not biased toward any of those who were supposed to be benefited.”
The bottom line: Gingrich acted properly and violated no laws.