Washington Ethics

THE House Ethics Committee voted Wednesday to hire an outside counsel to look into charges against Speaker Newt Gingrich. The lawyer will examine whether the Speaker violated tax laws in financing the college course he taught. The bipartisan committee also criticized Mr. Gingrich's conduct in several other areas, but voted not to punish him.

The investigation comes on the heels of charges by the Federal Election Commission that GOPAC, a political-action committee organized by Gingrich, improperly aided his 1990 reelection effort.

Democrats are right to insist on proper investigation, but should not take too much comfort from Gingrich's troubles. The administration is on a collision course with a Senate committee over notes from a 1993 meeting about the Whitewater affair. That probe raises difficult questions about the conduct of the White House staff and other Clinton associates.

Let the inquiries proceed, but with no rush to judgment in either case.

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