Does Nancy Pelosi have the goods on Newt Gingrich? So far, Gingrich doesn’t appear too concerned. When asked by NBC about Pelosi’s warning from last night, Gingrich laughs out loud and advises Pelosi to wake up from her “very strange fantasies” and “spit it out” (via Greg Hengler and Taegan Goddard):
She lives in a San Francisco environment of very strange fantasies and very strange understandings of reality. I have no idea what’s in Nancy Pelosi’s head. If she knows something, I have a simple challenge: Spit it out.
Somehow, I doubt Pelosi will take the bait. If she actually has something on Gingrich, why play that card now? Why not wait until he’s the nominee and then drop it on the GOP in the middle of a general election? If she’s bluffing, Pelosi doesn’t have anything to play anyway. Don’t expect any expectoration from Pelosi.
Byron York reminds us that Pelosi’s much more likely to be bluffing. He provides a lengthy review of the ethics case that Pelosi cites, and says that the IRS proved that there wasn’t anything to it — a determination that came too late to help Gingrich:
Nothing happened with the Justice Department and the FBI, but the IRS began an investigation that would stretch over three years. Unlike many in Congress — and journalists, too — IRS investigators obtained tapes and transcripts of each session during the two years the course was taught at Kennesaw State College in Georgia, as well as videotapes of the third year of the course, taught at nearby Reinhardt College. IRS officials examined every word Gingrich spoke in every class; before investigating the financing and administration of the course, they first sought to determine whether it was in fact educational and whether it served to the political benefit of Gingrich, his political organization, GOPAC, or the Republican Party as a whole. They then carefully examined the role of the Progress and Freedom Foundation and how it related to Gingrich’s political network.
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. There was no tax fraud scheme. Of course, by that time, Gingrich was out of office, widely presumed to be guilty of something, and his career in politics was (seemingly) over.
Read it all, and it’s pretty easy to determine that Pelosi’s bluffing. If Democrats had anything that explosive against Gingrich, they would have deployed it at the time.