Wright’s Book Deal Probed by U.S. Grand Jury : Documents Subpoenaed From 3 Groups Linked to Purchases of Volume
A federal grand jury is investigating former House Speaker Jim Wright’s book deal and has subpoenaed documents from at least three groups that directly or indirectly bought bulk copies of “Reflections of a Public Man,” for which Wright earned royalties of 55%.
The Justice Department refused Tuesday to disclose the nature of the investigation. Attorneys for two organizations said it involved Wright’s book, and a spokesman for a third said it had been ordered to produce documents related to the former congressional leader.
The House Ethics Committee, after a year of investigating, said it had reason to believe that Wright, a Texas Democrat, had tried to evade House limits on outside income through bulk sales of the book. That investigation ended with Wright’s resignation in June.
Attorneys for Southwest Texas State University and the National Assn. of Realtors said that they had received subpoenas from a federal grand jury here. A spokesman for Ocean Spray, a cranberry and citrus growers’ cooperative in Massachusetts, said documents from that group also were being sought by the grand jury.
Southwest Texas attorney Bill Fly said that the university received a subpoena, dated July 14, on Monday and has until Friday to submit documents concerning Wright’s speech at the school in the fall of 1984 and the subsequent purchase of $3,000 worth of the book.
Laurene Janik, general counsel for the realtors’ organization, said his group is responding to a grand jury subpoena relating to Wright’s book. Ocean Spray spokesman John Lawlor said the company did not want to discuss details of the subpoena, other than to confirm that “they are limited to matters relating to the former Speaker.”
Larry Shannon, administrative assistant at Wright’s office in Ft. Worth, said the investigation appears “very routine” and that it resulted from the media attention focused on Wright during the ethics investigation.
Justice Department spokesman David Runkel said the agency’s inquiry is continuing. “I can’t comment on any aspect of the investigation, except I will confirm that it is ongoing,” he said.
Fly said the university had agreed to pay Wright $3,000 for a speech. After Wright’s appearance, someone in the Speaker’s office called the university to say Wright had reached his limit on outside income. Wright’s staff member then asked if the Speaker could use the $3,000 to purchase copies of his book for the university, Fly said.