|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
DECEMBER 29, 2004
|CONTACT: Public Citizen
Main Office: 202-588-1000
Public Citizen Asks Justice Department to Probe House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Energy Firm Officials for Possible Bribery
Watchdog Group Says New Documents May Link DeLay and Two Other Congressmen and Company Execs in Scheme to Buy Political Access
WASHINGTON -- December 29 -- Public Citizen today asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a formal investigation of possible violations of federal anti-bribery statutes by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and former Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), as well as executives and lobbyists for the Kansas-based Westar Energy, Inc.
In a letter to Noel Hillman, chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, Public Citizen wrote that substantial evidence, especially newly-released documents from a House ethics committee investigation, suggests a possible scheme using campaign contributions to buy political favors worth millions of dollars to Westar Energy and its executives.
Besides the Westar executives, Public Citizen alleged that DeLay, Barton, who is the current chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Tauzin, who was the former chairman of the committee but now is head of the drug industry's trade association, possibly provided legislative favors in exchange for campaign contributions in violation of the federal "Bribery of Public Officials and Witnesses" statute.
According to Public Citizen, after making strategic campaign contributions, Westar appears to have been rewarded with a provision inserted into energy legislation in 2002 to exempt the company from Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversight if the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA) were repealed. PUHCA was slated for repeal in the House-passed energy bill in 2002, and the special exemption for Westar was later quietly inserted by the House Republican leaders into the final bill being negotiated in a House-Senate conference committee. The exemption was later dropped after it became known that Westar was under investigation for securities fraud, and the energy bill later died.
Public Citizen originally sought an investigation of the apparent money-for-political-favors arrangement by the Justice Department in June 2003. Today's letter, and the earlier complaint filed by Public Citizen, are available online at: http://www.citizen.org/cmep/westarbribery/
The watchdog group said newly-released information significantly bolsters its concern about possible criminal violations and strengthens its request for a formal investigation.
"In light of the new evidence that money may have been exchanged for preferential legislative treatment for Westar, we request that the Department of Justice conduct a formal investigation into possible violations of federal anti-bribery statutes," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.
Public Citizen cited documents, released as part of a recent ethics investigation of DeLay by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, including:
"It's hard to find a more offensive example of trading legislative favors for campaign contributions," said Claybrook. "The Justice Department needs to get to the bottom of this."