Democrats 0, Republicans 0?

Jim Wright, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has become the second major ethics figure of the year in the world of politics.

The man second in the line of presidential succession is the subject of as much hype and controversy as surrounded his fellow Texan, former Sen. John Tower, a scant month-and-a-half ago. Tower lost his chance for the job of defense secretary after charges were raised against him of boozing, womanizing and defense contracting conflicts.

Following a 10-month-long investigation of Wright, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct formally charged the speaker Monday with 69 counts of House rules violations. These mainly deal with financial misconduct, such as accepting gifts of free and reduced rate housing between 1979 and 1988.

There is a key difference between Wright’s case and that of Tower which some observers say actually makes the two very similar—their political affiliations.

Many people thought the demise of Tower, a Republican, was brought about by vengeful Democrats, and that that party now is getting its just desserts through the current roast of their man at the House’s helm.

It is not likely that partisan revenge is an overly important factor in the investigations. The 12-member committee that has charged Wright is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. And this committee has found 69 too many allegations against the speaker to make the investigations a non-issue.

To be sure, Wright has not been found guilty as of yet, and he and Tower are certainly not the only members of Congress to engage in activities of questionable ethical nature. Perhaps the examples of these legislators will send a timely warning to their associates on Capitol Hill.