WASHINGTON — House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.), defending himself against allegations of improper conduct, said Thursday that he would welcome the hiring of an outside counsel to investigate the case.
Wright, responding to President Reagan's call for an independent investigator, said he would support whatever decision was made on that issue by the House Ethics Committee.
"If the committee feels its work can be expedited by the hiring of an outside counsel, then by all means," Wright said.
The Ethics Committee announced last week that it was looking into six allegations of possible misconduct. It has not announced a decision on hiring an outside counsel.
The Republican Study Committee, a group of right-wing House members, and a group of conservatives outside of Congress both called on the Ethics Committee Thursday to choose an independent counsel.
Democrats, meantime, came to Wright's defense.
House Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said the President's statements showed that the charges against the Speaker were part of a GOP campaign to distract attention from their own ethics problems.
Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) told reporters that Republican charges that Wright had written the current exemption on earnings limits for book royalties was incorrect. Obey was chairman of the panel that drafted the current ethics regulations.
Some of the ethics accusations against Wright, who supports the royalties exemption, involve his acceptance of a royalty of 55% on a book of excerpts from his speeches and writings.
The book, published in 1984 by a friend who did work for Wright's campaigns, has earned the Speaker about $55,000, with several thousand of the 20,000 copies bought in bulk by supporters.