In a 1967 magazine article Rep. James C. Wright (D-Tex.) said: "For a public official, debt is dehilitating. It can plague his conscience and divide his energies. It can sorely test his integrity, or sap his courage at the very time he needs it most."
Since writing those words nine years ago in Harper's Leader had had occasion to rue his own record of financial management as a politician and moonlighting businessman.
He now confesses that he is, in his own words, a "poor guesser in investments" and a "damned poor manager of my estate."
His earnings, campaign receipts and gifts from a booster club have brought him hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade or so. How much of it went for his living expenses, how much for campaigns, how much for business deals is impossibe to determine from his sketchy records.
Wright himself claims to be confused about it all.
But the fact is that a lot of money has gone to pay of both personal and political debts and he is unable to explain how these debts or how the funds that have passed through his hands got mixed up. There was no obvious line, apparently separating his personal and political financial affairs.
For example, during his first to years in Congress (1954 to 1964) he coilected more than $100,000 from a Fort Worth adverstising agency he had previously owned. And in 1973 he reported collecting $6.250 for "contract writing" for an undentified ad agency.
He had another connection with the advertising business. HIs Fort Worth staff assistant also ran an agency in Texas at the same time he was being paid $2.418 from the congressman's office account.
The murkiness of Wright's financial dealing shows up again in a payment out of campaign funds in 1974 of $4.230 to the Center of Counseling and Development Services in Fort Worth. The center's main business is marriage and family counseling. But in this case, according to a clinical psychologist for the center - Richard Cookerly - the payment was for "political polling," Cookerly's main occupation is counseling.
Writht likes to say his money problems have been the result of the cruel burden of past campaign debts, specifically a $70,000 debt run up 16 years ago in a unsuccessful campaign in Texas for the U.S. Senate. Last month he said, "A substantial residue of [that]...indebtedness remained, lingering for more than 15 years."
But that statement didn't square with statements in an interview in 1966 and in the Harper's article in 1967 in which he said he had paid off the 1961 campaign debt in 2 1/2 years - in other words, by 1964.
Since then Wright has run up no reported campaign debts. But he evidently ran up substantial personal debts. He revealed that last month in saying that he used $49.226 in surplus political contributions to pay off personal and political debts which had become "inseparable entwined."
Because, according to Wright's statement, "at least part of the indebtedness" was personal, the majority leader decided to pay taxes totaling $49.250 on all the loan repayment money. The tax payment, too, was to come from his 1976 campaign surplus.
It is not against the law to convert campaign funds to personal use as long as taxes are paid on the money so used.
Wright recently argued that, in his mind, the entire loan repayment was for campaign debt because it represents less than he personally had paid out in the past in campaign debts.
The history of the Wright debts, both campaign and business, is as confusing in parts as his statement.
In 1965, wright had a fund-raiser in Fort Worth in honor of his 10th year in Congress. News stories at the time said the dinner drew more than 4,300 people at $10 per ticket. According to his statements in the 1960s, he had no outstanding political debts at that time.
It was in 1966, at the suggestion of friends, Wright says, that he sanctioned the start of the Jim Wright Congressional Club. Membership in the club was to be limited to 200 supporters who would pay no more than $100 in annual dues.
The Wright Club money was to be used to play for travel expenses between Washington and the district, for Wrights newsletter, and for other official expenses not covered by the congressman's office expense account.
In an interview in 1968, a Wright aide said that all members of the club received an annual accounting of its expenditures. Wright has not made available the club's records for the first five years of its existence, but last December he made public its records from 1971 on.
For the period 1971 through 1975, the club raised $150,000 for Wright, according to his reports.
There have been other political fund-raisers over the years for Wright's campaigns. And in addition he has had other income. His reports to the House ethics committee showed more than $108,000 in personal income above his congressional salary in the years 1955 through 1966.
On top of that, Wright reported that he was "forced to sell most of his personal assets (a small rancher in Kerr Countty and his home in Fort Worth) in order to reduce indebtedness and keep interest payments current." The ranch brought $60,000 when it was sold in 1967, Wright said. He said he got $17,000 for the house 1962.
But there were business losses during his congressional years, too. He said he lost at least $40,000 in a Leesburg, Va., Pontiac agency in the late 1960s.
During the same period, he said, he lost between $6,000 and $10,000 in a land development deal in Fort Worth and "a small amount" in a Virginia land deal.
Wright was divorced in 1971 from his wife, Mary, giving her a settlement he calls "generous and a yearly payment in lieu of alimony reported to be about $13,000.
Wright remarried late in 1972. In 1973, according to a report of outside income which Wright filed with the Clerk of the House, he received $6,250 for "contract writing for an ad agency.
Wright recently refused to identify the ad agency for which he worked. Nor would he specify what work he had done. "I have given you so much more than the ethical obligation," was his explanation.
In 1973, one of Wright's Fort Worth based staff members, Joe Shosid, also was president of Adverstising Unlimited, a Fort Worth agency.
Shosid, in a telephone interview, said there was "only one year that he (Wright) did some work" for Shosid's agency. "I don't know exactly what year," he added, saying "some of it was market surveys in which (Wright) had expertise."
Shosid said he would not make any records available and that he had ended his connection with the agency a Wright's request last December.
In 1973, according to House Clerk records, Shosid's pay as Wright's assistant went from the $15,689 he got in 1972 to $22,418. Shosid said he got the raise because he agreed "to do more than what I had been doing."
In 1973, also, Shosid served as treasurer of Wright's 20-year testimonial dinner. Held in October in Fort Worth, it drew 3,612 people at $20 a ticket and netted $53,593 for Wright's campaign fund.
None of that money was spent to retire any past campaign debts. Instead it, and another $60,000 raised in 1974, were used in the general election that year. Against a well-financed Republican opponent, Wright won with 68 per cent of the vote.
Advertising Unlimited, Shosid's firm, handled the Wright campaign that year and received $40,000 in ad money. Most of that went to purchase space in newspapers or time on television stations. Shosid said recently his agency took the normal commission for placing the ads, money he said which "came out of the station's charges."
In 1976, according to Wright, friends convinced him he should hold his first Washington-based fund-raiser and use the money to retire his debts. The invitations to the dinner specified money raised would be used for prior campaign expenses.
In his book, "You and Your Congressman," Wright discussed at length the need for increased accountability among members of Congress.
"I see no reason," Wright wrote, "why each member should not be expected simply to file . . . a copy of his income tax return."
Wright refused this week to make copies of his income tax returns available to the The Washington Post.