Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Black Tie and Boots celebration for Westar and DeLay

Via Jonathan Salant of Bloomberg (thanks to a loyal reader for the tip), from a story about Inaugural parties:

General Electric Co., which spent more money to lobby Congress and the Bush administration during the first half of 2004 than any other corporation, has invited lawmakers to watch the inaugural parade from its office overlooking the route. Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp., which is backing Bush's proposal to open an Alaskan refuge to oil drilling, wrote a $250,000 check to help pay for the festivities. The company gave another $50,000 to the Texas State Society for its Black Tie and Boots Ball, where Bush and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay are on the guest list.


One of the hottest tickets is the Black Tie and Boots Ball, put on by the state society of Bush's native Texas. The first was held in 1981, when another Texan, George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, was sworn in as vice president.

This year's event occupies two floors of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington. Even the pool has been covered to increase the floor space available for 10,000 guests.

(One housekeeping detail: Bush and DeLay are not on the "guest" list -- they are being honored.)

The host committee of donors ponying up $10,000-and-up reads like a regular ol' who's who of corporate America and influence peddlers. Until you get to this name:

Westar, the Topeka, Kansas-based discredited energy company implicated in what all but amounts to a bribery scandal last year by a Washington Post investigative piece.

In fact, Public Citizen has just asked the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the matter. You can read all the sordid details here.

But that's not all. Westar is also one of the eight corporations indicted in the DeLay-related TRMPAC investigation into illegal corporate campaign funds beign laundered into 2002 state races in Texas. Two of the corporations, Sears Roebuck and Diversified Collections, have already turned state's witness and have agreed to cooperate.

But that's not all. Westar executives were among those playing golf with Tom DeLay in the infamous outing for which DeLay was rebuked for creating the appearance of conflict of interest. The Ethics information is ALL here. The memos from Westar lobbyist Doug Lawrence laying out exactly how to spread money around, and why, are eye-opening.

But that's not all. Westar has had legal troubles of its own. Former Westar CEO David Wittig and Executive Vice President Douglas T. Lake may face a second trial for as many as 40 counts of alleged conspiracy,wire fraud, and other violations. Their first trial ended in a mistrial when the jury couldn't reach a verdict. A second trial date has been set.

So... why is Westar still making $10,000 soft money gifts? And why would the Inaugural Committe accept this money?


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