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PRESSURED GINGRICH SAYS HE’LL SKIP $4.5 MILLION ADVANCE

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Facing questions even from fellow Republicans, incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich has written colleagues that he will forgo a $4.5 million book advance and earn profits instead from the royalties.

In a "Dear Republican Colleague" letter, Gingrich called the deal "a legitimate proposal for an advance" but said that he did not want the negative publicity to take attention away from the GOP's agenda."We hope this decision to forgo four and a half million dollars will convince anyone who has been skeptical that we are totally committed to restoring the House and the legislative branch to a position of unchallenged legitimacy and that we are committed to doing everything possible to focus on and pass the Contract with America," Gingrich wrote in the letter.

Gingrich wrote he will instead take a $1 advance and earn only royalties from sales on the books. He scheduled a news conference in Atlanta to further discuss the deal.

The revelation came just one day after Gingrich's counterpart in the Senate, incoming Majority Leader Bob Dole, said the original arrangement "raises questions that need to be addressed."

Dole, R-Kan., said Thursday he "did not want to pass judgment" on the deal disclosed last week or get into a "quarrel with Newt." But he added, "It's not too popular around people who talk to me. They think it's a lot of money."

He declined to suggest ways the issue could be addressed, saying it "really is a decision Newt has to make." But he offered a candid assessment of the political implications if it's left to fester too long.

"I can already see when you start cutting

programs that might affect low-income Americans that becoming an issue," he said, adding later he feared it would remain repeated fodder for talk shows.

As two of the Republican Party's most prominent figures, Dole and Gingrich have crossed swords in the past.

But Gingrich's spokesman, Tony Blankley, played down Dole's remarks, made to a group of reporters during an interview.

"My response is, after being badgered by a number of reporters, he made a few comments that I took to be intended in an entirely friendly way," Blankley said.

Gingrich said Friday he still be believed the book deal with the publishing house of media giant Rupert Murdoch was a "legal and ethical deal," but he didn't want the new Republican-led Congress "to be slowed down or distracted or confused for one second."

"You can't just be legal and ethical. I think you have to go beyond that, to do what's good for the country," Gingrich told a news conference at his Marietta office.

Before Dole's comments Thursday, Republicans were generally silent on the book deal.

Democrats pounced on the revelation that Gingrich, R-Ga., was to receive a $4.5 million advance for writing two books for the publishing house owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

They contended that Gingrich could influence communications legislation that might affect Murdoch.

House Democratic Whip David Bonior, D-Mich., called it a "sweetheart" deal that "proves once again we need an independent, professional nonpartisan outside counsel to investigate the ethical cloud which has settled over the head of Newt Gingrich."

Gingrich already faces an ethics complaint in the House concerning tax-free donations to a college course he taught.