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Wright Argues Years of Service Should Outweigh Shortcomings

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From Associated Press

House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) argued Friday that his decades of public service outweigh any personal ethical shortcomings and suggested that political attacks against him are far more unethical than any failure of his own.

“Because I hold passionately to certain political beliefs, I have made formidable political opponents in 40 years of active public life,” Wright said in a Law Day speech on ethics to a hometown crowd in Ft. Worth.

“But I have never sought to destroy another man’s character, nor to deprive him of his dignity. In these 40 years of public life, the most unethical behavior I have witnessed is that of those who, for their own ravening ambitions, attempt to destroy the personal reputations of political opponents.”

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Wright’s leadership post has been threatened because of a House Ethics Committee probe that has alleged Wright broke House rules 69 times in his personal financial dealings.

By turns combative and contrite, Wright sought in his remarks to refocus the debate on his ethics to public policy rather than personal finances. A text of his speech was released by his Washington office.

The chairman of the House Ethics Committee, Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), said he had read a copy of the speech. “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I didn’t think it addressed the issues that we’re discussing here, nor do I think he should be,” Dixon said. “I think he should wait and present that testimony before the committee.”

As Wright spoke, the ethics panel continued for the third straight day to interview participants in a 1988 Texas oil-drilling venture that has raised suspicions that Wright was steered into the lucrative deal as a gift to buy favor with a powerful legislator.

The panel questioned Douglas Jaffe, who arranged for Mallightco--an investment partnership involving Wright, Ft. Worth developer George A. Mallick Jr. and their wives--to buy into the oil well venture in January, 1988. Five months later, the $9,120 investment was sold for a $340,000 profit.

Wright had placed his interest in Mallightco in a blind trust in 1987 and instructed the trustee to sell that interest in a way that would earn him enough to pay off a $100,000 loan.

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