Providing possible ammunition for Mitt Romney, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said on Wednesday that it filed Freedom of Information Act requests seeking documents turned over by the House Ethics Committee concerning its investigation of Newt Gingrich when he was speaker.
The panel looked into Gingrich’s use of tax-exempt organizations for political purposes. He was sanctioned for making false statements to Congress and given a reprimand in 1997 -- the first time in the history of the House that a speaker was disciplined for ethical wrongdoing.
Gingrich acknowledged that he broke congressional rules by failing to ensure that two of his political projects did not run afoul of federal tax law. He paid $300,000 -- a sum he has stressed was not a fine but a reimbursement of the cost of legal bills associated with the House inquiry.
The House’s report on the case was made public, but the underlying investigative documents were not. Romney has repeatedly called for the release of the material to determine why the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department did not take action on the matter.
"He was charged about ethics violations [and] had to pay $300,000 fee associated with that," Romney told Fox News on Wednesday. "People need to understand the rest of the story."
Gingrich's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said she agrees with Romney. “Contrary to what [Gingrich] tells voters now, his ethical transgressions were quite serious.... The American public deserves to learn the details of the committee’s investigation. We should have the chance to judge for ourselves whether the failure of the IRS and DOJ to take action was reasonable, given the evidence the committee provided,” Sloan said in a statement.