Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Saturday decided against running for president in 2008 after determining he could not legally explore...

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CARROLLTON, Ga. — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Saturday decided against running for president in 2008 after determining he could not legally explore a bid and remain head of his tax-exempt political organization.

Gingrich, 64, said the change of heart, which came as aides readied the Web site and prepared to file campaign papers, was the result of legal advice that running for president would require stepping down as chairman of his organization, American Solutions (for Winning the Future).

That group is the latest vehicle for the Georgia Republican’s musings about politics and policy, and opened its first “ideas summit” Saturday at a Georgia college an hour west of Atlanta.

“American Solutions is in the early stages, I think, of becoming a genuine national citizens movement,” Gingrich said. “To walk out of it just as it’s getting launched struck me as absolutely irresponsible.”

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He spent the better part of a year teasing the media and supporters with the idea that he might run for president and condemned the process that requires candidates to start campaigning years ahead of the election to raise tens of millions of dollars.

Last week, he said he would run if he received $30 million in pledges toward a presidential campaign by Oct. 21.

Aides had scheduled a news conference for Monday in which Gingrich was set to announce the formation of an exploratory committee. Randy Evans, Gingrich’s lawyer, said they had prepared the papers, opened a bank account and severed Gingrich’s ties as a consultant for Fox News.

Evans said that since last week, Gingrich had received pledges “in the millions.”

But early Saturday, Gingrich said, Evans told the former lawmaker the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance laws would prohibit his fundraising for a presidential race unless he quit American Solutions, which separately raises money to seek solutions to national problems.

“Anything that could be construed as helping my campaign in any way is potentially a criminal offense” under McCain-Feingold, Gingrich said.

The 2002 law was designed to reduce the influence of money in politics, but critics say it infringes on free speech.

In a Fox News interview, he also ruled out accepting the Republican vice-presidential nomination and declined to endorse any Republican candidate, adding that Republicans’ chances of beating the Democratic nominee were “very, very slim” unless they could distance themselves from the GOP record in Washington, D.C.

Gingrich has said American Solutions, which claims 19,000 members, is intended to be a bipartisan effort aimed at finding “real solutions” to the nation’s problems.

He has been a fiery figure since he burst onto the national stage in 1994 with the Contract With America, a list of 10 pledges that helped Republicans seize control of the House and put Gingrich in the speaker’s office.

From that perch, he espoused conservative principles and battled President Clinton. He helped lead the campaign to impeach Clinton but resigned in 1998 after midterm elections that disappointed the GOP. The next year, Gingrich’s involvement with an aide, Callista Bisek, led to his divorce from his second wife, Marianne; he later married Bisek.

He tried to rehabilitate his image this year by admitting publicly to his extramarital affair during the Clinton impeachment scandal. He made the admission in an interview in March with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

Material from The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and Reuters is included in this report.

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