The Federal Election Commission yesterday fined Westar Energy Inc., two former corporate officers and the firm's lobbyist a total of $40,500 for their roles in channeling contributions to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and other Republicans.
Westar, a Kansas energy company, was fined $20,000; it admitted in a conciliation agreement that it violated campaign laws by engaging "on two separate occasions in the practice of facilitating corporate contributions to candidates for federal office." Corporations are barred from contributing to federal campaigns.
The agreements made public do not apply to DeLay and to some other corporate officials.
But DeLay was admonished in connection with the case for creating the "improper appearance" that Westar might receive special access or treatment when he attended the company's golf fundraiser in June 2002, according to the House ethics committee.
At the time, energy legislation critically important to the company was about to go to a House-Senate conference committee. Language was inserted protecting Westar from financial damage that might be caused by other provisions of the bill.
Stuart Roy, then DeLay's spokesman, acknowledged that DeLay met with Westar representatives but said that "we have no control over any fantasies they might have about what they might get for a campaign contribution." The language was withdrawn from the bill after disclosures that the firm was under grand jury investigation.
Lobbyist Richard Bornemann of Governmental Strategies Inc., who was fined $5,000, wrote an April 23, 2002, memo to the company calling for it and its officers to give $56,5000 to members of Congress, including $25,000 to a committee run by DeLay, "to develop a significant and positive profile for the Company's federal presence."