Graft and Corruption-GOP Style
It is good to see how the GOP has taken advantage of its virtual single-party control of the Congress and White House to shake down their friends for campaign cash. But even this is somewhat brazen, even for Billy Tauzin, who is one of the biggest sleazebags the GOP has.
Executives of a Kansas-based energy company believed that $56,500 in donations to political groups linked to four key Republican lawmakers last year would prompt Congress to exempt their firm from a problematic federal regulation, according to documents disclosed as part of a federal investigation of the company.
One executive of Westar Energy Inc. told colleagues in an e-mail that "we have a plan for participation to get a seat at the table" of a House-Senate conference committee on the Bush administration's energy plan. The cost, he wrote, would be $56,500 to campaign committees, including some associated with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.), Rep. Joe Barton (Tex.), Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (La.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.).
The e-mail said Tauzin and Barton "made this request" for donations, and Shelby "made a substantial request" for another candidate. It not specify a direct request from DeLay.
On May 20, 2002, Westar Vice President Douglas Lawrence sent an e-mail to Douglas T. Lake, an executive vice president. It said in part: "We are working on getting our grandfather provision on PUHCA repeal into the Senate version of the energy bill. It requires working with the Conference committee . . . . We have a plan for participation to get a seat at the table, which has been approved by David, the total of the package will be $31,500 in hard money (individual), and $25,000 in soft money (corporate)."
"Right now, we have $11,500 in immediate needs for a group of candidates associated with Tom DeLay, Billy Tauzin, Joe Barton and Senator Richard Shelby," the e-mail said. It said DeLay's "agreement is necessary before the House Conferees can push the language we have in place in the House bill." Tauzin and Barton "are key House Conferees on our legislation. They have made this request" for contributions to other Republican candidates "in lieu of contributions made to their own campaigns."
Lawrence's e-mail called Shelby "the lead Republican on all Senate PUHCA related matters. He is our anchor on the Senate side. He made a substantial request of us for supporting" Tom Young, Shelby's chief of staff, who in 2002 was running for a House seat from Alabama.
Another e-mail from Lawrence detailed the sums that 13 Westar officials were to contribute to reach the $31,500 in individual, or "hard money," contributions. It said Wittig would give $9,450, Lake, $6,300, and Lawrence, $945. The candidates selected for the "immediate needs" contributions totaling $11,500 were Reps. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Anne M. Northup (R-Ky.), Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), DeLay and Young.
It is illegal for elected officials to promise legislative favors for political donations, and the four lawmakers named in the e-mail say they have abided by that law. A DeLay spokesman said, "When people contribute to DeLay or causes he supports, they are supporting DeLay's agenda, we are not supporting theirs."
DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy said yesterday that DeLay met with Westar representatives last year. However, Roy said, "We have no control over any fantasies they might have about what they might get for a campaign contribution." The Westar amendment, he said, meshed with DeLay's long-held free market, deregulatory philosophy.
Yup. But then,
Westar gave a $25,000 in corporate "soft money" to a political committee with strong ties to DeLay, Texans for a Republican Majority PAC.
Of course there was no quid pro quo for this. And since there is a GOP Attorney General who is not likely to care about this while he pursues expanding the Patriot Act, DeLay can expect little if any problem from the Justice Department. But that shouldn’t stop Henry Waxman or other House and Senate Democrats from going after DeLay and Tauzin. Hopefully, the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Responsive Politics, and even Common Cause will also look into this.
Given DeLay's role in the Texas DPS misuse of the Department of Homeland Security, a little graft and corruption angle against the GOP may have legs next year.