AUSTIN – A company indicted in a Texas campaign fundraising case says it
was told that by giving a Tom DeLay political committee $25,000, company
officials would get access to the U.S. House majority leader to
In court documents, Westar Energy of Kansas says that to meet with Mr.
DeLay in 2002, company officials "were told they needed to write a check
for $25,000" to Texans for a Republican Majority, known as TRMPAC.
It's the first time a company has said it donated to the Texas committee
created by Mr. DeLay in exchange for a meeting and legislative help.
An aide to Mr. DeLay denied that he was swayed by the donation.
"Anyone who has worked with Majority Leader DeLay knows that his
legislative efforts are based on sound public policy alone," spokeswoman
Shannon Flaherty said.
Westar attorney Martha Dickie declared in April in an Austin court that
company officials hoped to win Mr. DeLay's help on pending energy
legislation, according to transcripts in a lawsuit challenging the use
of corporate money in Texas elections.
Seeking an exemption
"They absolutely wanted an exemption to continue operating the business
and to be grandfathered out of this federal legislation," she said in
the hearing. "And maybe they were dumb about the way they went about
As a result of the contribution, two Westar executives attended a June
2002 golf outing with Mr. DeLay and two top aides at The Homestead
resort in Hot Springs, Va.
The provision sought by Westar was included in a House bill with Mr.
DeLay's support but was ultimately withdrawn after a grand jury in
Austin began investigating corporate fundraising in 2002 Texas
TRMPAC raised $1.6 million for Republican statehouse candidates in 2002,
including at least $600,000 from corporations.
Those funds helped Republicans complete their grasp on political power
statewide, with the GOP taking a majority in the Texas House for the
first time in more than a century. In turn, the Legislature redrew
congressional districts to create several Republican seats, adding to
Mr. DeLay's majority in the U.S. House.
Westar spokeswoman Karla Olsen said Wednesday that the company made the
contribution "to tell our side of the story" without any guarantee that
the law would be changed.
"We understood we were only having discussions," she said.
Company lawyers wrote that the contributions were "solicited," though
they did not specify how exactly the request occurred. Federal law
prohibits the promise of legislative favors in return for political
The House ethics committee admonished Mr. DeLay last year, saying the
golf outing "created an appearance that donors were being provided
special access." But the committee said it had no evidence that Mr.
DeLay had improperly solicited contributions from Westar or had broken
Grand jury indictments
A Travis County grand jury has indicted three DeLay associates and eight
companies, including Westar, on charges of violating Texas law that
forbids the use of corporate money to elect political candidates. All of
the companies denied wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have since dismissed felony indictments against four of the
corporations in exchange for their agreement to fund programs examining
the use of corporate money in politics.
In addition to the grand jury probe, Democrats defeated in the 2002
legislative races have filed civil suits, claiming TRMPAC improperly
funded their Republican opponents with corporate money. Westar is among
the companies named in those lawsuits.
In a filing in district court in Austin, Westar attorneys said the
company's goal in sending $25,000 to TRMPAC was to talk with Mr. DeLay
about getting an exemption in federal law, not to affect legislative
elections in Texas.
"Westar sent its check to the national capital to pay for attendance at
an event to meet a prominent Republican federal official from Texas. The
meeting sought to influence high-profile federal energy legislation,"
the company said.
"Westar had received what it wanted from the transaction when it met
with Congressman DeLay in Virginia," the brief said.
According to Westar officials and e-mails that were part of the House
ethics inquiry on Mr. DeLay last fall, the $25,000 solicitation for the
golf outing stemmed from conversations between Drew Maloney, a former
DeLay aide who organized the event, and Westar lobbyist Richard
The House ethics committee report said Mr. Bornemann asked Mr. Maloney
about political contributions and Mr. Maloney proposed the DeLay golf
outing with the check going to TRMPAC. Mr. Maloney confirmed the
Mr. Maloney said Mr. DeLay's staff did not require that donations be
given in exchange for access to the majority leader.
"Westar's position is evolving as their legal proceedings continue," he
Mr. Bornemann could not be reached for comment. Westar officials said
that Mr. Bornemann no longer lobbies for the company.
How a Kansas energy company came to donate to a Texas political
March 2002: Drew Maloney leaves Tom DeLay's staff and becomes a
lobbyist, assisting with DeLay fundraising.
April 2002: Westar seeks a meeting with Mr. DeLay to argue for an
exemption to a federal energy law. Mr. Maloney tells Westar lobbyist
Richard Bornemann that a $25,000 contribution would get access to Mr.
DeLay at a golf outing.
May 2002: Mr. Bornemann says in a memo to Westar executives that
the $25,000 contribution is part of an effort "to get a seat at the
table" in negotiations over federal energy legislation.
June 2002: Two Westar officials join other energy executives for
a two-day golf outing with Mr. DeLay at The Homestead resort in
Virginia. DeLay energy aide Jack Victory and office counsel Carl Thorsen
are also in attendance.
September 2002: Mr. DeLay and Republicans oppose efforts by
Democrats to delete the Westar exemption from federal legislation. The
provision dies after word of the Austin grand jury investigation into
corporate contributions. "Things are grim in DC," Westar vice president
Doug Lawrence says in an e-mail to a company official.
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research
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