Nightly News   |  January 23, 2012

Newt Gingrich’s tax returns raise questions

Gingrich’s use of a tax-exempt political organization may have been used to cover some personal expenses. NBC’s Brian Williams reports.

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>> during this election cycle there's been reporting about the so-called super pacs and attention to tax returns . mitt romney promises he'll release his 2010 returns tomorrow. newt gingrich released his late last week. tonight we have a story about newt gingrich 's use of tax exempt political organization before he was a candidate, including questions about whether he used it to cover some of his personal expenses. our reporting tonight from nbc 's andrea mitchell .

>> reporter: in a roller coaster year, he's the high-flying candidate of the moment, rising in the polls, but for years before becoming a candidate, newt gingrich was already jetting around the country. records so courtesy of a tamt-exempt political association, american solutions for winning the future , which footed many of the bills. the organization's irs filings list $6.6 million for charter jet travel over four years. almost $2 million in 2010 alone. one of those private jet trips took gingrich to iowa where he visited four cities in november 2010 promoting his latest book. the charge, almost $100,000. another took him to notre dame and indiana in september of that same year, where he and his wife showed their documenty bills. that charge almost $74,000. paid by american solutions . while these were not american solutions activities, the gingrich campaign told us there were other events on those trips which were. american solutions qualified for tax-exempt status by defining itself as a political organization , specifically a citizen action network, originally funded by nevada billionaire sheldon add ellison, the moneyman behind gingrich 's soup irpac. all such organizations are supposed to be about political activity, not self-promotion or undeclared political campaign .

>> the 527 tax code stipulates that campaign finance operations need to be independent of the candidate themself.

>> reporter: nbc news learned either gingrich advisors, leaders of american solutions question his charging millions of dollars of private jet costs to a tax-exempt organization. gingrich dismissed their objections.

>> this looks questionable and it does raise the issue of whether some of these trips were being used as cover for other activities for mr. gingrich .

>> reporter: the gingrich campaign told nbc news american solutions went to every length to follow the rules. while not necessarily violating the letter of the law , many experts say gingrich mastered campaign finance regulations, taking advantage of a gray area in the law to have the best of all worlds. andrea mitchell , nbc news, tampa.