clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

WILL HE FIGHT OR QUIT? ETHICS PANEL WAITS AND WONDERS

The House ethics committee is waiting patiently for word from Speaker Jim Wright on whether he will resign or fight, and Wright said reports of a deal for his resignation are "absolutely incorrect."

A Republican member of the ethics committee said a deal would be unacceptable."If it's a so-called deal, I would reject it," said Rep. John Myers, R-Ind. "My concern is the House of Representatives and Jim. I don't think it would reflect well on either. If you have to make a trade-off, it's no deal."

Wright, in a Wednesday night telephone interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, his hometown paper, said reports of a deal to quit for dismissal of some of the charges were "absolutely incorrect." He denied extending an offer or authorizing anyone to make offers on his behalf.

"I've not been a party to making any offers to anybody," said Wright.

Myers said talks about Wright's future on Wednesday were "discussions" only. "It never got to the level of bargaining," he said. "I wouldn't call them negotiations.."

"Right now we're in a holding pattern," Myers said. The ethics committee will not meet again until next Thursday, the day after the House returns from the Memorial Day holiday break. The next moves would have to be from "upstairs," Myers said, referring to Wright's office.

Wright spokesman Mark Johnson told reporters Thursday that Wright did not meet with his lawyers Wednesday, contrary to some reports. Wednesday night, Johnson told reporters that Wright "did not offer to resign in return for anything.

Wright went to Capitol Hill Thursday and told a reporter, "I've got a lot of meetings in my office."

House members said talks centered on Wright's resigning in return for the dismissal of the most damaging charge - that he and his wife, Betty, accepted gifts from someone with a direct interest in legislation.

"All he wants to do is clear Betty and then get out," one source told United Press International, saying a resignation could come as early as next week.

Wright's lawyers and Rep. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., part of the defense team, huddled Wednesday with lawyers for the committee, the panel asked by Wright's lawyers Tuesday to drop the major charges against him.

Although few members would say precisely what a deal might look like, Republicans sent signals it likely would have to include Wright's leaving both the speakership and the House. For the past 35 years Wright, 66, has represented the Fort Worth, Texas, area.

As speaker, Wright is second in line behind the vice president for succession to the presidency.

At midday, when the talk began to build, Wright issued a statement declaring, "I eagerly await the time when my side of this whole question may be heard clearly by my colleagues and the American people. To this end, I shall press ahead."

Were Wright to resign only the speakership and retain the House seat, he would remain within the jurisdiction of the ethics committee and could still be subject to punishment by the full House.

The committee announced April 17 it had reason to believe Wright violated House rules in 69 instances over the last 10 years. The charges - concerning limits on gifts and outside income - involve the sales of Wright's book, "Reflections of a Public Man," and his financial relationship with George Mallick, a Fort Worth, Texas, developer and longtime friend who formed an investment company with the Wrights.

The next step is for the committee to hold a triallike hearing to consider evidence and hear witnesses concerning the charges.