July 1, 2003

Public Citizen Seeks Full Disclosure of All Internal Communications Involving Westar Influence-Peddling Scandal

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today urged Westar Energy Inc.’s board of directors to initiate a company-wide search of all internal communications relating to the Kansas-based company’s efforts to win an exemption from the Investment Company Act after giving more than $50,000 in campaign contributions between May and September 2002.

The consumer advocacy group sent a letter to the seven-member board requesting that all relevant internal communications be released to the public. The letter was sent on the day after jury selection was to begin in federal court for the fraud prosecution of former Westar CEO David Wittig.

To date, the board’s Special Committee has released only two internal communications related to the scandal, but the memos, government records and media reports strongly suggest the existence of many more such communications between the company’s executives, its Washington, D.C., lobbyists and perhaps even members of Congress.

"Westar insists it is committed to corporate responsibility, but it needs to demonstrate that commitment by coming clean with the public," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "There are many unanswered questions that can be addressed only with the pertinent information that Westar has in its files."

Westar has begun the long process of recovering from the fraudulent actions by former top executives who devised a plan to contribute cash to influential lawmakers in exchange for their support of a regulatory exemption that would have enabled Westar to split its regulated utility from the rest of its businesses. Under this move, executives would have reaped millions while $3 billion in unrelated debt would have been transferred to the utility company, thereby saddling consumers with higher electricity rates.

Public Citizen recently asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the donations and asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to investigate whether U.S. Reps. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Billy Tauzin (R-La.) or Joe Barton (R-Texas) violated congressional ethics rules.

Click here to view a copy of the letter.

###