Friday, October 29, 2004

The Westar Fantasy

The Daily DeLay: T-Minus 4 Days and Counting
DeLay and the Westar Scandal: A Special Interest Fantasy

Tom DeLay and Kansas-based energy company Westar Corporation had a cozy relationship. Too cozy.

DeLay was rebuked by the House Ethics Committee for "participating in, and helping facilitate, a two-day golf fund-raiser held by a Topeka-based energy company, Westar, to raise money for one of his political action committees. The event took place just as the House was considering energy legislation from which Westar stood to benefit; the panel said that at a minimum, it 'created an appearance that donors were being provided special access to you regarding the then-pending energy legislation.'" (New York Times, 10/7/04)

There's more: the Washington Post uncovered a story last year that exposed the dealings between DeLay, other members of Congress, and Westar.

According to the newspaper reports, one executive of Westar sent his colleagues an email saying that he had developed a "plan for participation to get a seat at the table" of the House-Senate conference committee on the Bush administration's energy plan, which would dole out $27 billion in targeted tax breaks for companies like Westar.

"The total of the package," continued the Westar exec's email, "will be $31,500 in hard money (individual), and $25,000 in soft money (corporate)." In addition, "$11,500 in immediate needs for a group of candidates associated with Tom DeLay, Billy Tauzin, Joe Barton and Senator Richard Shelby."

The punchline of the email:

"[DeLay's] agreement is necessary before the House Conferees can push the language we have in place in the House bill."

Public Campaign's OUCH! bulletin described what Westar wanted:

"Westar was seeking relief from regulatory oversight that would have allowed it to transfer $3 billion in debt off its balance sheets and, potentially, onto the monthly bills of consumers through rate hikes."

Thirteen Westar officials contributed $31,500 to the candidates they were told to support and the company gave $25,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, a committee closely tied to DeLay. Later, Westar was indicted in the on-going TRMPAC investigation led by Travis County District Attorney's office for illegally making corporate contributions to influence Texas elections.

More from Public Campaign's OUCH!... After the donations,

"Rep. Barton put the company's exemption into the law, with Reps. DeLay, Tauzin and Barton all voting to keep it there when Democrats tried to strip it out. Later it was withdrawn after a grand jury started investigating the company for securities fraud."

DeLay's spokesman responded by saying, "When people contribute to Delay or causes he supports, they are supporting his agenda, we are not supporting theirs. We have no control over any fantasies they might have about what they might get for a campaign contribution."

Whatever you say.