The Chron takes a closer look at the energy industry fundraiser that drew one of Tom DeLay's admonishments.
The fund-raiser was organized by former DeLay energy aide Drew Maloney, in coordination with ARMPAC staff. Energy executives were told they could play golf with DeLay for corporate contributions of $25,000 to $50,000 to either ARMPAC or TRMPAC.
At the time, Westar was trying to get legislation passed to remove the company from regulation under the Public Utility Holding Company Act.
A company lobbyist, Richard Bornemann, had written executives a memo explaining how campaign contributions could help the firm gain influence with House leaders, including DeLay.
But at first, Maloney did not want Westar participating in the golf excursion because the company was not a traditional electric-producing energy company. Bornemann told company executives in a memo they still might get into the event if they were willing to make a corporate donation to a DeLay committee.
"We think we can get by with that if we beg," Bornemann wrote.
A May 8, 2002, memo from Maloney to DeLay's daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro, who organizes fund-raisers for her father, said energy companies that had confirmed attendance at the golf event were Reliant Energy of Houston with $50,000; and Williams Energy of Oklahoma, Mirant Corp. of Georgia and Westar, with $25,000 each.
Executives of those companies were the only ones to attend the golf event. But other companies donated, for a total of $152,500 raised at the two-day event, according to a memo from Maloney to an ARMPAC employee, Chris Perkins.
In a separate memo to Perkins before the event, Maloney detailed what the companies attending the golf tournament needed from federal legislation.
"Reliant's primary goal for the conference is to make sure the progress that has been made to deregulate the wholesale electricity markets are not rolled back," Maloney wrote.
As for Westar, "the company has a unique problem that was addressed in the House bill."
The ethics committee noted that when attendees got to the golf event, two members of DeLay's leadership staff were there: Jack Victory, who handled energy issues, and office counsel Carl Thorsen.
Attorneys for Lawrence and another Westar executive who attended the event said DeLay spoke to the group on June 2, 2002, and asked them "to advise him of any interest we had in federal energy legislation."
Lawrence said he spoke with DeLay that night about Westar's needs in the legislation. After golfing with DeLay the next day, Lawrence said, he again talked to DeLay about the bill.
DeLay told the ethics committee his staff members were at the event on their own time. He said he had no specific memory of what he said there, but he questioned the Westar characterization of his remarks at the opening meeting.
"It would not be typical for me at such events to have 'asked the group to advise' me of 'any interest' the attendees had in 'federal energy legislation,' " DeLay said. "That is not at all consistent with the manner in which I normally would interact with attendees at such an event."
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, who had DeLay's proxy, cast a vote for the Westar legislation on the conference committee.
But Barton withdrew the legislation after the chairman of the Kansas Corporation Commission notified the committee that Westar was facing investigations by a grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and said it would be a mistake to remove the company from federal regulation.
Westar's then-CEO David Wittig met with DeLay in September to see if there was a chance of reviving the legislation. DeLay told him there was not, according to the ethics committee report.
Several days later, Lawrence sent an e-mail to company executives stating: "Things are grim in DC. The DeLay staff has asked us to release people from their commitment to support our provision."
DeLay told the ethics committee he was "not aware" of any commitments he or his staff had made to Westar.
Congressional Democrats are continuing to push for DeLay to step down as Majority Leader. I doubt that will have much effect beyond keeping the story in the news cycle, but editorials like this one and this one might have some impact.
Finally, it's not new news, but Kristin Mack gives us an update on DeLay's campaign activities.
As he seeks his 11th term, DeLay is relying more on face-to-face politics than he has in recent re-election campaigns in his strongly Republican district.
While he historically depended on mailers, phone banks, and newspaper and radio ads, this year he has bought television advertising. He's been block walking and knocking on doors — rare, retail politics for a powerful two-decade veteran — and he's opened an office in Clear Lake.
His stepped-up efforts are a way to reintroduce himself to the district and get acquainted with people who know him as "The Hammer" for his aggressive fund raising and tight control over House Republicans.
His competitors, Democrat Richard Morrison and independent Michael Fjetland, said they've noticed DeLay's increased presence as well. But Fjetland, who has run against DeLay before, said DeLay is trying to soften his edges.
UPDATE: Oops, missed this NYT story.
While Republicans vigorously defended Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, in the wake of a series of ethics rebukes, members of both parties said on Thursday that Mr. DeLay, a tough-talking Texan who holds a tight rein over the House, could have difficulty retaining his leadership job if his party loses seats in next month's elections.
Mr. DeLay has been an extremely effective Republican leader, and though he is not personally close with President Bush, the White House relies on him to push its agenda through Congress. So Mr. Bush is not likely to distance himself from Mr. DeLay, as he did with Senator Trent Lott, the former Republican leader, when Mr. Lott faced political trouble over racially charged remarks.
"Without Tom DeLay it would be complete and total chaos," said one Republican strategist with close ties to the White House. "The House would descend into 'Lord of the Flies.' "