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The House ethics committee investigation of Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, is expected to begin soon now that the panel has hired an outside lawyer to direct the operation.

Committee chairman Rep. Julian Dixon, D-Calif., announced Tuesday that Richard Phelan of Chicago will oversee the investigation. Dixon said the panel wanted to "put to rest any concerns" the probe would not be conducted "in a fair and objective manner."Some reports indicate the committee wants the investigation completed by the November election, but Dixon would not predict how long it may take.

"It's impossible to estimate (the) investigation at this point . . . but I think it should be done in a fair and judicious manner," Dixon said.

Although he is a Democratic Party activist, Phelan's selection was unanimous among the committee's six Democrats and six Republicans, Dixon said.

The ethics committee, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, is investigating several allegations involving Wright, including the royalty arrangement for the publishing of his book, "Reflections of a Public Man," and Wright's contacts with federal officials on behalf of Texas associates and businesses.