Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, spends almost all his time now on an issue in the national spotlight, but one of which he cannot speak: investigating ethics charges against House Speaker Jim Wright.
Hansen is one of the senior members on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly called the ethics committee. He has served eight years on the committee, which now meets daily for hours to finish its investigation of Wright.Hansen's press secretary, Kathleene Gallegos, said he is prohibited from saying anything at all about the investigation.
All Gallegos would say was "this is the most vigorous ethics schedule he has had in years, and basically he has been told to clear his schedule until the Wright matter is resolved."
Hansen has complained in the past that serving on the ethics committee is hard because he must put on hold all his other legislative work as demanded by high-priority ethics investigations.
Gallegos also confirmed press reports about extremely tight security by the ethics committee. The six Republicans and six Democrats on the committee are not even allowed to take reports on the Wright case out of the committee's office.
Gallegos said that rule was created because of a leak years ago when the committee was investigating former representative and vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.
"Back then, the committee would send reports to members' offices. Our rule was that only the member could look at it. We would take it unopened and quickly put it on his desk. We didn't even want to hardly have our fingerprints on it. But one of the offices leaked the report," Gallegos said.
The eight-month investigation of Wright reportedly is looking into several areas involving the speaker's finances and official duties.
Allegations against him have included that he used an aide on the public payroll to help write his autobiography, and that royalties on that book were essentially a conversion of campaign funds converted to private use.
Other areas of inquiry, according to national press reports, concern Wright's contacts with banking regulators on behalf of Texas savings and loans, intervention with the government on behalf of oil and gas interests with whom he had a financial relationship and his rent-free use of a condominium owned by the family of a business associate.