House Speaker Jim Wright asked a former aide to "help him out" by signing a sworn statement that the aide volunteered to work on Wright's book and had done so after working hours, according to testimony to the ethics committee studying the speaker's finances.
The aide said he declined to make such a statement because he believed the book assignment to be part of his official duties.The aide's account, disputed Friday by a Wright spokesman, is the latest revelation to emerge from the probe of alleged improprieties by Wright that has tarnished his reputation and threatened his House leadership.
Sources familiar with the deposition of the former aide, Matthew Cossolotto, said he told the committee that Wright also asked aides, at a morning staff meeting early in 1985, to help think of ways to sell the book, "Reflections of a Public Man."
Soon after that directive, staff members arranged book signings, a distribution of copies - paid for by lobbyists - to Democrats attending a party conference and an appearance on a televised talk show.
Mark Johnson, Wright's spokesman, dismissed Cossolotto's account as that of "a disgruntled former employee."
The committee, which began investigating Wright last June, has narrowed its focus to charges that Wright used bulk sales of the book to circumvent House limits on outside income from speaking and writing fees and charges that he improperly accepted "gifts" from a Fort Worth business partner who had an interest in legislation before Congress, according to sources familiar with the probe.