Getting back to an old favorite for a moment here, the ongoing Westar scandal is knocking on John Ashcroft’s door:
Ashcroft, meanwhile, is being asked by some liberal and Democratic groups to launch an investigation — either by the Justice Department or a special counsel — into possible connections between the Westar campaign contributions and legislative action on the energy bill. The groups say Ashcroft should recuse himself from the investigation, however, because his 2000 Senate campaign received $2,000 from former Westar executive Carl Koupal. Koupal also gave $1,000 to Ashcroft’s Spirit of America PAC. Koupal managed two of Ashcroft’s statewide campaigns in Missouri and was Ashcroft’s director of economic development in the late 1980s, when Ashcroft was Missouri governor.
In addition, [Westar’s Washington lobbyist Richard] Bornemann gave $2,000 to Ashcroft’s 2000 Senate campaign.
Ashcroft has declined to respond to news media inquiries about Westar and possible investigations into its activities.
Meanwhile, two congressional recipients of $1,000 contributions from Wittig — Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) and Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) — have announced plans to give the money to charity.
Ashcroft has now been formally requested to appoint an “outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility” for investigating the Westar matter. Rep. Conyers’ letter to the AG notes that “one month after Westar donated $56,000 to the DeLay PAC, company officials spent two days at the Homestead, a Virginia resort” with DeLay, Ashcroft, and other donors. Conyers cites a Greenwire.com report as his source for this. Greenwire is a pay service, so I can’t check his link.
Another pay service that I don’t have a subscription to is Roll Call, which has an editorial about Westar. The one-paragraph excerpt says quite a bit, though:
Senate rules permit outside groups to file complaints with the Ethics Committee, but House rules do not. Hence, there’s a chance of a Senate ethics probe of allegations that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) assisted Westar Energy Co. in return for campaign contributions. But a companion House investigation won’t take place — unless Democrats develop the gumption to file complaints against a high-powered group of Republicans including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) and Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (La.).
Anyone want to join me in sending email to the endangered Texas Congressional Democrats about this? It’s not like they have anything to lose, after all.
Getting back to the issue of what to do with Westar money, while some wimpy Republicans like Sen. Sununu and Rep. Burr might be giving their donations to charity, DeLay is unencumbered by doubt:
“That money was spent to do what the group said it was going to do: help elect Republicans to the Texas Legislature,” [James Ellis, who runs DeLay’s federal PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority] said. “To my knowledge, there are no plans to refund any money.”
Doesn’t it give you a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that Kansas played such a critical role in shaping Texas’ Legislature? Maybe someone ought to suggest to Tom Craddick that he offer an official apology for that wimpy state insult from a few years back. Wouldn’t want to offend their sponsors, after all.
UPDATE: Joe Conanson is on the Westar case, and he’s right: someone needs to get Nancy Pelosi’s butt in gear on this.