House Democrats accused Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., of a conflict of interest Friday for using a telecommunications entrepreneur as an unpaid adviser while Congress rewrites laws regulating that industry.
“Influence peddling, special interest access … these are the hallmarks of the Gingrich revolution,” said Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-Conn.
From December 1994 until late July, Donald G. Jones, a GOP donor whose holdings include cable television systems and a service that sells access to the Internet, was a volunteer in Gingrich’s office, advising the speaker on telecommunications issues.
Earlier this year, the House and Senate each passed versions of a major rewrite of the nation’s telecommunications laws. The measures would ease regulation of cable rates.
Jones’s attorney, Louis Andrew, said in an interview Friday that Jones attended at least two meetings between Gingrich and telecommunications executives. But he denied his client ever attempted to influence legislation.
In a statement, Gingrich defended Jones and his service. “To the best of my knowledge Don Jones is an ethical and upstanding citizen,” he said. “He has done nothing inappropriate nor unethical.”Jones’s role as a Gingrich advisor was reported in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said he planned to file a complaint with the House ethics committee over Jones’ role in the speaker’s office.
House rules prohibit the donation of services to a lawmaker except in the case of “educational programs that are primarily of educational benefit to the individual (volunteer), as opposed to primarily benefiting the Member or office, and which do not give undue advantage to special interest groups.”
“I don’t believe, if you read those rules, that they’re intended to cover a person like Mr. Jones,” Andrew said.
House Democrats portrayed Jones role as an example of a special interest holding sway in Gingrich’s office. “This is a toxic mixture of campaign money, special interests and the third-highest office of the land,” Miller said.
“This is the clearest example we have yet that the speaker’s office is up for sale to the highest bidder,” said House Minority Whip David E. Bonior, D-Mich.