The Gingrich Defense Fund

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: As Newt Gingrich tries to decide how to pay his $300,000 ethics penalty, hes caught between his wife and his sense of political expediency. Contrary to published reports that Gingrich will take out a loan to pay the bill, a plan that his wife has blocked, TIME's Jay Carney says that the Speaker instead will probably pay a portion of the fine --perhaps $50,000-- from his personal funds, then set up a legal defense fund to solicit the rest. "He will take plenty of hits for that," says Carney. "Democrats will certainly have a field day. But Gingrich's first concern is his viability as a Speaker, and that means he's got to satisfy House Republicans. Paying a substantial amount from his own pocket should limit the damage." One strategy Gingrich may try is to point out that even President Clinton has a legal defense fund. The problem is that Clinton has not been found guilty of anything, while part of the Speaker's deal with the ethics committee was his admission of guilt. "That's a distinction that Gingrich hopes will get lost in the small print," says Carney, "but it won't hold up to much scrutiny." Paying the full amount from his own funds seems to be out of the question, since Marianne Gingrich opposes using their money for political troubles. Taking out a bank loan, says Carney, "would just open him up to more attention about how he got the loan, and from whom." Whichever way he goes, says Carney, "Gingrich is coming off a rebound. Morale among the House Republicans, while not great, is certainly better than 3 weeks ago. He's hoping to take advantage of that momentum and finally put the ethics mess behind him."