Wright Calls for Early Hearing in Ethics Case : Tells Panel He Wants to Appear as Soon as Today; Ranking GOP Member Rejects Speaker’s Timing
In a move designed to speed resolution of the ethics controversy in which he is embroiled, House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) proposed Sunday that he appear as early as this afternoon before the House Ethics Committee to respond to charges of violating House rules that the committee is expected to issue today.
But Wright’s timing was flatly rejected by Rep. John T. Myers (R-Ind.), ranking minority member of the 12-member committee, which is evenly divided between the two parties. Wright outlined his proposal in letters sent Sunday morning to Myers and Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), the committee’s chairman.
‘Can’t Do It This Week’
“There is no way he will be able to appear tomorrow. . . . We will expedite it and try to be courteous to the Speaker. We’ll help him as much as we can, but we can’t do it this week,” Myers said during a telephone interview.
Wright, in his letter to the congressmen, requested “the earliest possible opportunity to appear before the committee to answer specifically any statement of alleged violations.”
“I am prepared to appear as early as Monday afternoon, but certainly the committee should be able to schedule a hearing within seven days,” the letter said. When asked if he considered Wright’s proposal a public relations ploy, Myers replied: “Sure.”
Myers said that Wright has been negotiating with the committee on the matter through his attorney, “but we still have to follow the rules.” Those rules give a member 21 days to respond to charges once they are officially filed.
Need to Read Report
While the committee will try to shorten that period, Myers said, members of the panel will require time to familiarize themselves with a 456-page report prepared after a 10-month study by Richard J. Phelan, the committee’s outside counsel, which is scheduled for release today along with the allegations against Wright. Myers said that the House is scheduled to recess for the week on Wednesday, leaving little time to take the matter up.
Wright said he is ready to waive “time-consuming procedures” that are available to him under the rules because “I believe it is in the best interests of the House, as well as the country, to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”
He said that he hopes the committee will act promptly after his appearance to determine whether the evidence in the case meets the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard required by the rules of the committee, which is formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Wright repeated previous denials that he had knowingly violated any of those rules.
Case Focuses on Gifts
The case against the Speaker, already indicated in multiple leaks from his foes and from Wright himself, is expected to deal with alleged violations of House rules on accepting gifts from those with an interest in legislation. Staff writer Don Irwin contributed to this story.