Wright Accedes to a House Inquiry : Accused of Improper Aid to S&Ls;, Diverting Book Income
House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), whose activities have come under scrutiny as a result of mounting pressure from Republicans, offered Wednesday to cooperate with a potential House investigation of allegations that he improperly assisted several Texas savings and loan institutions and also published a book as a subterfuge for converting political funds to his own use.
At the same time, Wright told reporters that he has halted further publication of his book, “Reflections of a Public Man,” in response to the allegations stemming from the unusually large royalties he received after its publication in 1985.
Pressure for a House investigation of Wright increased last week when Common Cause, the citizens’ lobby, asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to look into the charges. Common Cause acted in response to pleas from Republicans, who have consistently raised the charges against Wright in response to allegations of wrongdoing by Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III.
Bush Calls for Probe
On Wednesday, Vice President George Bush called for a special investigation of Wright and Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who has spoken out against Wright on the charges for months, said he would formally request a House inquiry today.
Bush, campaigning in Lakewood, N. J., said: “You talk about Ed Meese. How about talking about what Common Cause raised about the Speaker the other day?
“Are they going to look into it? Are they going to go for an independent counsel so the nation will have this full investigation? Why don’t people call out for that? I will right now.”
At issue is $55,600 in royalties that Wright received from publication of his book during the 1985-1986 campaign cycle. The publisher is a long-time Texas associate of Wright, William Carlos Moore, whose companies reportedly received more than $250,000 in fees for services to Wright’s campaign during the same period.
According to Moore, about 20,000 copies of the book have been sold at $5.95 each.
Letter Made Public
In a letter last week to Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer asked the panel to investigate whether the unusually large royalty payments Moore made to Wright violated a House rule against personal use of campaign funds.
The Speaker told reporters that as a result of the growing controversy, he had rejected the publisher’s proposal that a further 20,000 copies of the book be printed.
“I told Carlos it’s just not worth it,” he said.
Wright said that he recently purchased an additional $1,300 worth of the books to be distributed to fellow members of the House.
The Speaker also made public the contents of a letter he wrote Tuesday to Dixon, in which he defended himself against the allegations and offered to “cooperate fully with any examination you may desire to make of these matters.”
Members of the committee, which usually meets in secret, are known to have been discussing whether an investigation of Wright should be initiated. Wright’s letter was viewed as a signal that he would not oppose such a probe.
“I hope any such review will be resolved promptly,” Wright said.
Denies Diverting Funds
Wright said in the letter that his agreement with Moore on publication of his book “clearly complied with House rules regarding royalty income” and he denied charges that his campaign committee covered or contributed to the financing of the book. “This income has been disclosed annually in my financial disclosure reports,” he said.
Common Cause also asked the committee to look into charges that Wright sought special treatment for several Texas savings and loans from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. It also cited his alleged efforts to prevent action on legislation to recapitalize the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., an agency of the bank board. Four executives of the savings and loans have since been indicted.
Wright has argued that his contacts with the bank board on behalf of the savings and loan executives were legitimate efforts to represent constituents as members of Congress frequently do. “At no time, in any communication or other official action, undertaken in response to the concerns raised by these citizens of Texas, did I act improperly or violate any rule of the House,” he said.