Dole To The Rescue

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Newt Gingrich took just about everyone by surprise announcing on the House floor today that Bob Dole will loan him the $300,00 he needs to pay his ethics fine. Virtually every member of the House was surprised by the move, reports TIME's Jay Carney. Once they recovered, Democrats were quick to cry foul, charging that the loan was ethically questionable, coming as it did from someone who has just joined a high-powered Washington lobbying firm. Minority whip David Bonior claimed that Dole had passed Gingrich a "sweetheart deal" paid for by the tobacco lobby. "Dole is not a lobbyist per se," notes Carney. "And there is a provision in the loan that should he become a lobbyist, the loan will be turned over to a commercial bank. In general, the American people think highly enough of Dole that Gingrich should be safe on those grounds." The terms are extremely good: Gingrich has eight years to begin paying back the loan with an interest rate of 1.5 percent over prime (currently 10 percent). But Dole, who made $500,000 from his Super Bowl "Visa" spot alone, does not need the money, and his offer may well be as selfless as it sounds. "Apparently, it was all Dole's idea," Carney says. "He's never been someone who cared too much about having money. It really seems that Dole saw a chance to help out where he was needed."