Westar Energy Rightly Fined for Illicit Contributions to Congress, But What About the Lawmakers?

Aug. 19, 2005

Westar Energy Rightly Fined for Illicit Contributions to Congress, But What About the Lawmakers?

Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program

While we applaud the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) decision to fine Westar Energy, two of its executives and its Washington, D.C., lobbyist a total of $40,500 for violating political campaign contribution rules, the agency should not close the book on this case yet. Fining the company responsible on one side of this scheme is only half the equation. The other half remains unsolved: What role, exactly, did lawmakers play?

To date, Westar has not released an internal report detailing exactly what happened behind closed doors in 2002 when the company attempted to “get a seat at the table” during energy bill negotiations by giving money to key lawmakers involved in crafting the energy bill, including U.S. Reps. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).

We know what Westar did, and it has been appropriately fined for such behavior. Now it’s time to investigate the lawmakers who were involved. Westar memos indicate that lawmakers asked the company to make contributions to political allies in exchange for a perk for the company in the energy bill. Did lawmakers initiate and approve this contribution plan, as the memos indicate? The public deserves to know. We urge Westar to release that report and the FEC to investigate the role lawmakers played in this sordid scandal, which smacks of bribery, so that the public has all the facts.

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For more information about the scandal, click here.