THE RESIGNATION OF JIM WRIGHT : SPEAKER’S DOWNFALL
Here is a chronology of major events that led up to Wednesday’s resignation of House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.). May 18, 1988--Common Cause, a citizens lobbying group, calls for a formal House ethics investigation of Wright, citing possible improprieties in the publication and sale of his 1986 book, “Reflections of a Public Man.”
May 26, 1988--Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) files a formal complaint with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, or Ethics Committee as it is known, requesting a probe of the Speaker’s financial dealings.
June 9, 1988--The Ethics Committee, after an eight-hour session lasting late into the evening, votes unanimously to conduct a broad investigation of Wright.
Sept. 14, 1988--Wright testifies before the committee in closed session.
Feb. 22, 1989--After more than six months of investigation and statements from 73 witnesses, committee special counsel Richard J. Phelan submits a 279-page report to the panel on his findings.
April 13, 1989--Wright, in an impassioned House speech, denies that he wrongfully accepted gifts from a business associate or sought to evade House limits on outside income through sales of his book.
April 17, 1989--The Ethics Committee announces it has found “probable cause” to charge Wright with 69 violations of House rules, including acceptance of $145,000 in improper gifts from Ft. Worth developer George A. Mallick Jr. and attempts to evade House limits on honorariums by selling copies of his book to trade associations and other groups in lieu of accepting speaking fees.
May 2, 1989--Wright, denying he knowingly violated any rules, publicly appeals for an early hearing on misconduct charges to “present my side,” but committee members say they first must complete their investigation into other allegations.
May 9, 1989--Wright and a team of attorneys launch his defense against misconduct charges by criticizing the fairness of Phelan’s investigation, charging that it distorted the evidence to place Wright in the harshest light.
May 10, 1989--Ethics Committee votes to expand its inquiry to look into a Texas oil well deal that gave Wright a quick profit of $340,000 last year.
May 23, 1989--At a formal committee hearing, Wright’s attorney, Stephen D. Susman of Houston, asks panel members to drop the major charges against Wright on grounds his actions did not constitute violations of House rules of conduct.
May 24, 1989--Congressional supporters of Wright, working behind the scenes, fail to win agreement from committee members to reduce charges against the Speaker in return for his promise to resign office. Wright later disavows any interest in a “deal” on the charges.
May 31, 1989--In an impassioned one-hour address on the House floor, Wright offers to resign his House seat and his speakership and calls on his colleagues to halt the ethics attacks on opposing party members.