House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), whose personal financial dealings have come under scrutiny in recent months, yesterday announced he will put his "appropriate financial interests" in a blind trust.
In a statement, Wright said he is taking the step "in order to devote my full energies and undivided attention to the responsibilities of the speakership."
The statement was released on a day when the House was not in session and Wright was out of town and unavailable for questioning.
Wright spokeswoman Charmayne Marsh said the assets to be invested in the blind trust total $187,317 and include all of Wright's stocks and investments except his house and some family-owned land in Arkansas. The trust is to be administered by Tom Law, a partner in a Fort Worth law firm.
The Washington Post reported last month that over the past two years Wright has received nearly $55,000 in royalties on a book he wrote that was published by a friend whose printing company was paid $265,000 for campaign services to Wright's reelection committee in 1986.
The speaker receives $3.25 on each sale of the $5.95 paperback entitled "Reflections of a Public Man." That is a 55 percent royalty, more than five times the industry standard for authors.
Other press accounts have probed Wright's financial relationship with a Fort Worth developer who was at one time involved in a proposed redevelopment project in Fort Worth. The speaker played a role in obtaining more than $30 million in federal funds for the project.
Wright and his wife, Betty, are partners with the developer, George A. Mallick, and the speaker received more than $30,000 in dividends and loans from the company last year. Mallick has dropped out of the Fort Worth development project in the city's historic Stockyards area.
The questions about Wright's finances have been raised at a time when some House Republicans have been waging a campaign to discredit House Democrats for what they allege is a "pattern" of ethical misconduct involving more than a dozen members.
Another round of that campaign will occur in the next few weeks, when the House considers legislation to reauthorize the nation's independent counsel law. Some Republicans are pushing an amendment to include Congress under the law. The measure was abruptly yanked from the House schedule two weeks ago because Democrats were not sure they had the votes to defeat the amendment.
In his statement yesterday, Wright said, "The speaker owes to the Congress and the nation an assurance that his judgments in the national interest are not colored by any consideration of personal financial well being."
"The assets in my estate are considerably less than those usually involved in blind trust arrangements," Wright's statement said. "I am not an individual of large personal wealth and never have been. In relative terms, my net worth probably was greater when I was elected to Congress at age 31 than it is today."