Long ago I read an article about a court case. The article said a person was charged with forgery -- a felony. The court date was set and the jurors were seated. Just before the case started, the defendant walked before the judge and pleaded guilty. One of the jurors announced later that he still voted "not guilty."

Recently, that same thing happened in Washington. The Ethics Committee of the House of Representatives, composed of four Republicans and four Democrats, voted unanimously for certain charges or articles against Congressman Newt Gingrich. Congressman Gingrich pleaded guilty to the following charges:

1. That he violated House of Representatives rules (laws).

2. That he submitted untrue statements to the Ethics Committee.

3. That he used tax exempt funds from the "Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation" -- a tax exempt charity organization -- for political purposes.

4. That he violated tax laws -- as noted above -- because he did not consult a lawyer. However, he says he signed certain papers that were written by his lawyers, which were given to the Ethics Committee. One time he blames his lawyers because he did not consult them and then he blames his lawyers for writing letters that contained false information, which he signed. However, the lawyers said they fully explained the letters to Gingrich.

These charges were submitted to the full House of Representatives. The full House had to approve or reject the penalties recommended by the Ethics Committee. (In effect, the full House was the jury.)

The Ethics Committee voted unanimously for the following penalties, which were publicly accepted by Gingrich. The penalties are as follows:

a. That a fine be levied against Gingrich in the amount of $300,000 -- the largest fine ever levied against a sitting congressman.

b. That a reprimand be given Gingrich -- probably the first time a sitting congressman has been reprimanded.

The full House of Representatives voted for the above penalties by a vote of 395 voting "yes" and 28 voting "no." One of those voting "no" even though Gingrich pleaded guilty to all charges and publicly accepted the penalties.

I must conclude that Mr. Wicker is out of step with the facts and out of step with the sentiment of the people he represents as well as the people of the nation, as shown by the following facts:

1. Thirty of the major papers of America said, editorially, that Gingrich was guilty and should be punished. Many said he should resign from the Congress.

2. All the polls, taken by reputable polling organizations, say Gingrich is the most unpopular public official in the country -- that he has a favorable rating of only 23 percent. (In those polls, President Clinton had a favorable rating of 62 percent.)

3. Knowledgeable political leaders say Gingrich is the primary cause of the Republican controlled Congress having a "good" rating of only 36 percent. (In those same polls, President Clinton had a favorable rating of 66 percent for doing a "good" job.)

4. A noted scholar, Professor Herrington Bryce (William and Mary College) says Gingrich will most likely be in "great trouble" with the Internal Revenue Service because he used money given to the Abraham Lincoln Opportunity Foundation for his political activities.

I think Roger Wicker owes the people of this Congressional District an explanation.

Theodore Smith


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