Public Citizen is writing to provide the Department of Justice with significant new information regarding possible violations of 18 U.S.C. §201 (“Bribery of public officials and witnesses”) by current and former Westar Energy, Inc. executives and its D.C.-based lobbyists and current and former members of the U.S. House of Representatives. This new information has recently been uncovered in an investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (“ethics committee”).
On June 17, 2003, Public Citizen submitted a complaint concerning possible criminal violations of anti-bribery statutes by lobbyist Richard H. Bornemann; Westar Energy (previously known as Western Resources) executives David C. Wittig, Douglas T. Lake, Douglas R. Sterbenz, Douglas R. Lawrence, Anita Jo Hunt, Caroline A. Williams, Richard A. Dixon, Kelly B. Harrison, Larry D. Irick, Peggy Lloyd, Bruce Akin, Paul R. Geist; and U.S. Representatives Tom DeLay (R-Texas), W.J. “Billy” Tauzin (R-La.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas).
In the aftermath of back-to-back ethics slaps at House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, House Republicans are preparing to make it more difficult to begin ethics investigations and could remove the GOP chairman who presided over the admonishments delivered to DeLay last fall.
A House leadership aide said a package of rules changes to be presented to the House when the 109th Congress convenes Tuesday could include a plan that would require a majority vote of the ethics panel to pursue a formal investigation. At present, a deadlock on the panel, which is evenly split between the two parties, keeps the case pending. The possible change, the aide said, would mean that a tie vote would effectively dismiss the case.
In Texas, state Republican legislative leaders and party officials are considering some maneuvers of their own in light of the investigation. One proposal would take authority for prosecuting the campaign finance case away from the Democratic district attorney in Austin and give it to the state attorney general, a Republican. Another possible move would legalize corporate campaign contributions like those that figure into the state case.