Speaker Wright Pays Off Debts, Statement Shows
May. 22, 1989
WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Speaker Jim Wright, under fire for allegedly using his position for personal gain, climbed out of debt last year, according to a financial disclosure statement released today.
The forms showed that the Texas Democrat paid off debts of between $105,000 and $200,000 and now has no liabilities, but his assets also declined. He listed 1988 assets of $31,005 to $100,000 - compared with between $155,000 and $435,000 the year before.
Those figures do not fully reflect holdings placed in a blind trust established by Wright in 1987.
House members and senators must annually report their outside income, including speaking fees - known as honoraria - gifts, assets and liabilities. The reports of most of the 435 House members were released today; the Senate's were released last Friday.
The forms included those of two members of the House who had previous careers in television comedies and a former baseball player.
Former actor Fred Grandy, R-Iowa, reported $20,021 in residual income from the ''The Love Boat,'' a long-running series in which he played Gopher, a skirt-chasing officer on a cruise ship.
Ben Jones, D-Ga., reported only $11,212 in residuals. Jones appeared on the ''Dukes of Hazzard.''
Republican Jim Bunning of Kentucky, a former pitcher, got a $350 royalty check from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
Hank Brown, R-Colo., listed not only his own income but that of his wife and three teen-age children. Christy Brown, 19, made $1,600 working in another congressman's office and $295 for babysitting and yard work. Her sister Lori, 17, worked in a movie theater for $1,547 and earned $367 for babysitting and 19-year-old Harry got $370 for yard work.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, D-Colo., earned $5,000 for his jewelry designs.
Claude Pepper, D-Fla., the chief spokesman in Congress for the elderly, and currently a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, drew $14,916 in Social Security benefits.
Speaker Wright has been charged with violating House ethics rules for activities that include getting abnormally high royalties from bulk sales of a book and for his financial relationship with Fort Worth developer George Mallick.
Wright reported no more book earnings last year, but he paid off a note worth between $50,000 and $100,000 from Mallightco, Inc., the partnership he formed with Mallick.
He listed owning less than $5,000 worth of stock in Jewell Enterprises, a nursing home operation that also has drawn the attention of the House ethics committee.
Investments and $30,000 in speaking fees brought Wright's income up to a range of $188,183 to $203,579, nearly doubling his speaker's salary of $115,000. He reported receiving no gifts.
Each member of Congress, except for the speaker and two leaders, is paid $89,500 a year. House members are limited to earning an additional 30 percent - or $26,850 - in honoraria. Many lawmakers go over the limit, but donate any excess to charity.
The amounts in the financial disclosure forms list only ranges. For example, properties worth $52,000 and $98,000, respectively, both would be listed in the ''D'' or $50,001-to-$100,000 range. An asset worth millions would be listed simply as over $250,000.
This tends to hide the true wealth of the individual, but it represents a guide to sources of outside income, investments and the like.
Wright's chief vote-counter, House Majority Whip Tony Coelho, D-Calif., doubled his salary with $90,100 from 53 paid speeches. To get under the House ceiling in honoraria, he gave $63,575 to charity in 177 separate contributions.
The House Republican leader, Rep. Bob Michel of Illinois, reported income of $165,865 to $180,864 and assets of $165,000 to $400,000. He earned twice as much as Wright in speaking fees but gave $30,900 out of the total $60,500 to charity to get under the limit.
Michel, an avid golfer, also managed to outfit himself for his game by taking part in charity tournaments.
His forms showed he received $250 in golf clothing and accessories from the Bob Hope Desert Classic; $316 worth of ''carry-all, glasses, atlas, frame, calendar, golf clothing, and golf balls'' from the Kemper Open; $250 in clothing and accessories from the Jerry Ford Invitational; and $150 in golf- related gifts from the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament, named for a baseball player who died of cancer.
Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., the House Republican whip whose complaint launched the ethics probe of Wright, accepted $28,550 in honoraria and gave $1,750 to charity.
A complaint is pending before the ethics committee against Gingrich, charging that he violated House rules with a partnership he formed in 1984 to promote his book ''Window of Opportunity.'' He didn't report earning any royalties from the book last year.
Gingrich was reimbursed for 11 trips on which he made speeches to various groups. GOPAC, a political action committee chaired by Gingrich that promotes Republican candidates, paid the expenses on 14 trips by Gingrich and three by his wife.
House Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash., reported income of $134,250 to $138,250. Most of the excess over his $99,500 leadership salary came from making speeches. Foley listed nearly two dozen stock transactions, but it appeared from the numbers that he did little better than breaking even.
Foley also accepted several trips, including one with his wife to Hong Kong and Tokyo for a conference, with his plane fare and his hotel accommodations paid for by the Japan Society in New York.
Other members of Congress also took some exotic trips in 1988.
Democrat J. Roy Rowland, D-Ga., took a 13-day journey with his wife to Australia and New Zealand with their expenses paid by Qantas Airways and farm groups from the two countries.
Elizabeth Patterson, D-S.C., received all expenses in connection with a trip to Taiwan from the Chinese Culture University.
Alex McMillan, R-N.C., diligently recorded gifts received in five double- spaced pages.
He included a 1988 season's pass to Grandfather Mountain, $4.95 in Irish Cream Mints from tobacco distributors, two green bagels from a fellow congressman, three pairs of over-the-calf socks valued at $13.50 and a copy of the book, ''Honest Graft,'' by Brooks Jackson, which details Democratic campaign fundraising.
Some House members were given extensions for filing their disclosure forms and 21 were not available today.