Newt Gingrich aims to dismantle the 200-year-old House committee system to make himself one the most powerful speakers ever, this week’s New Yorker magazine reports.
In the 24-page article “Profile: The Politics of Perception” by Connie Bruck, Gingrich is quoted saying that the committee system is “archaic” and would be better “replaced by task forces.”
Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio, quotes the speaker telling her that such a historic shift needs to be gradual since “we can’t have all this upheaval all at once.”
Even so, Bruck reports, Gingrich already has cut the number and funding of regular House committees and caucuses and defied the seniority system in picking committee heads while ruthlessly holding them to his positions.
And all the time that Gingrich is undermining the independence of the committee system, he has increased the staff and funding of the speaker’s office while creating at least 35 ad hoc committees with temporary powers beholden to him.
Saying that Gingrich’s moves make committee hearings and deliberations nothing but “a charade,” Bruck writes that a changeover to a task-force system would give the speaker “even more untrammeled power (amid less oversight) than he does now.”
And the author contends that he also would transform the presidency - quoting one associate saying, “He wants to be king.”
The article also reveals:
How Gingrich used - possibly illegally - GOPAC, an organization founded to aid GOP candidates, to build a power base in the House and even to finance computers used by local Georgia Republicans to create a safe district for the speaker in 1992;
That Gingrich’s wife, Marianne, already has asked an Atlanta businessman-friend to be on her staff should she become first lady;
That Marianne once asked a rich friend, “What does it feel like to be a millionaire?” and pressed her husband to accept the $4.5 million advance for a book he was writing from Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins publishers - an advance Gingrich eventually was forced to give up;
How, despite Gingrich’s repeated denial that he discussed divorce with his first wife while she was hospitalized with cancer, he confirmed the story to friends;
That Gingrich broke a written agreement with former Rep. Guy Molinari, R-N.Y., and took over an investigations subcommittee after Molinari probed Delta - a key company in Gingrich’s district. (Even so, Molinari’s daughter - Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y. - is a strong Gingrich supporter.)
That Gingrich privately has voiced concerns about growing rightist anti-government sentiments against blacks and Jews.