Rep. Jim Wright, D-Texas, in 1984 assigned one of his congressional aides to help prepare a book that earned the congressman nearly $55,000 and is now the focus of an ethics probe, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Matthew Cossolotto, who was a full-time staff assistant to Wright from 1983 until early 1988, told the newspaper he spent about 200 hours working on the book, "Reflections of a Public Man."The aide said his work included typing proposed excerpts into a computer in Wright's office and traveling to Fort Worth, Texas, where he spent nearly three weeks on final editing with the publisher.

Republican congressmen have asked the ethics committee, which meets this week, to inquire whether the book's royalties amounted to conversion of campaign funds.

Wright told the Post that Cossolotto's work on the book was proper.

"If he gave some time to try to help put together a book that would demonstrate to the public my philosophy, my basic beliefs, that wouldn't be too far afield from the public business," Wright told the Post, calling the book project "perfectly legitimate and constructive."