Fresh off an upset win in the South Carolina 2012 primary Saturday night, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich found himself facing questions around the ethics charges brought against him during his tenure as Speaker of the House.
Eighty-four charges of ethics violations were filed against Gingrich in 1997, resulting in his being reprimanded by the House of Representatives and fined $300,000. The ethics investigation led to his eventual resignation from Congress.
Speaking Sunday on CNN, Gingrich said he was completely exonerated of the charges, and that the $300,000 penalty he paid for ethics violation was actually a 'reimbursement' for the cost of the investigation.
Gingrich also claimed he persuaded fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote "yes" on the ethics charges against him in order to put a swift end to the proceedings. Doing so helped lawmakers move on the balancing the budget, Gingrich said.
"I personally asked House Republicans to vote 'yes' because we had to get it behind us to get back to the things that mattered," Gingrich said.
Days before the South Carolina primary, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called on Gingrich to release the full ethics report. Romney said he worried about an 'October surprise' if the former speaker didn't go public now. He reminded voters that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Barack Obama have access to the documents. Pelosi has warned she has damaging information on the former speaker.
Even members of Gingrich's own party have expressed concerns about his shady past. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has endorsed Romney, called Gingrich an "embarrassment" to the Republican Party. "We all know the record," Christie said Sunday on Meet the Press. "I mean he was run out of the speakership by his own party."
GOP candidate Rick Santorum, who came in third place in Saturday's primary, called Gingrich a "high-risk candidate" and "erratic conservative" Sunday on ABC's This Week.
The Gingrich campaign has repeatedly said the full ethics report is already released and available online on the Library of Congress and House Ethics Committee's websites.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post listed Nancy Pelosi as Senate Majority Leader. Pelosi is in fact House Minority Leader.
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