Best Known For
With his "Contract with America," former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich established his position as the head of the anti-Clinton Republican wave in 1994.
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The contract included welfare reform, tougher crime laws, a balanced budget, and other conservative policies.
Sure enough, the 1994 congressional elections brought about what would be called the "Republican Revolution." After four decades of Democratic control, the GOP won the majority in the House, and Gingrich was elected speaker. Fiercely opposed to many policies of President Clinton,
Gingrich was instrumental in getting Clinton to reluctantly sign the GOP's welfare reform act after two initial vetoes. It was a major victory for Gingrich. Gingrich also had other major pieces of legislation passed, including a balanced budget and a capital gains tax cut.
Gingrich's accomplishments were not without controversy. His popularity began to decline amidst partial government shutdowns in 1995. Gingrich was widely blamed for the shutdowns, after he had refused to compromise with President Clinton on budget cuts.
Ethical considerations were at the heart of much criticism of the speaker. In 1995, he returned a $4.5 million book advance that the House Ethics Committee had questioned. Another ethics investigation arose about whether Gingrich had used tax-exempt donations to fund a college course he had taught while serving in Congress. Gingrich negotiated an agreement with the House Ethics Committee, and he payed $300,000 for the cost of the investigation. The House voted to reprimand him by a vote of 395 to 28. In 1997, Gingrich was narrowly re-elected.
In 1998, a scandal broke that would have a big impact on Gingrich's career. Clinton was alleged to have lied before a federal grand jury about his extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Gingrich pushed for impeachment, and for Clinton's removal from office. Congressional hearings and a media frenzy created a backlash against Republicans, as many voters felt they had gone too far.
In the 1998 midterm elections, Republicans lost five seats to Democrats. The tides had turned against Gingrich, and even members of his own party were critical of the speaker's tactics and the image he projected of the Republican party. In November 1998, Gingrich stepped down as speaker of the House. In January 1999, he resigned his seat in Congress.
Gingrich remained involved in politics, serving as a consultant and television commentator on the Fox News Channel. In 2007, he founded American Solutions for Winning the Future, a public policy organization. In May 2011, Gingrich announced he would seek the Republican nomination for president.
During his campaign, Gingrich tried to position himself as the ideal conservative candidate. He attempted to achieve victory with his calls for a balanced budget, advancements in domestic energy production and religious liberty. But he may be best remembered for his intense attacks on the Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. Gingrich painted a portrait of Romney as an unethical businessman who "looted companies."
Gingrich made some missteps along the way, catching bad press for his troubled finances and his disorganized campaign.