DeLay denied any quid pro quo, and probably none was stated. But business interests focused on enriching themselves do not hand out lavish campaign donations without expecting something in return. Sometimes it is only to avoid the kind of retribution that DeLay has threatened from time to time.
In e-mails, Westar executives hoped their contributions would bring a seat at the table. DeLay has been known to turn over entire offices to lobbyists intent on writing legislation to benefit their clients.
The editorial meanders though a laundry list of DeLay’s offenses, and as such doesn’t have much of an edge to it. I almost can’t blame them – DeLay is such a target-rich environment.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News has a good overview of how Westar and other corporate cash ties into last year’s statewide election and now the redistricting battle.
The Texans PAC raised about $1.5 million in 2002, including $50,000 from El Paso Energy, $25,000 from Phillip Morris, $20,000 from AT&T and $25,000 from Kansas-based Westar Energy, a company embroiled in a fund-raising controversy.
In all, more than $500,000 of the PAC’s money came from out-of-state corporations, many with interests in federal legislation, records indicate.
In the 2002 Texas elections, the PAC gave $747,000 in contributions to the 22 key Republican candidates, 18 of whom won their races and provided the margin for the GOP takeover in the House.
“Our objective was to win the statehouse, maintain a majority in the Senate and help the statewide candidates,” [John Colyandro, former executive director of the Texans for a Republican Majority] said.
As PAC officers became confident about the Senate and statewide efforts, “we ended up focused on the state House in the last cycle,” he said.
I’ll say again: That’s an awful lot of money from businesses that aren’t based in Texas in order to affect Texas state elections and thus curry favor with one Texas federal politician. Doesn’t that seem, you know, wrong, somehow?
As for the Westar connection:
As congressional negotiators fashioned an energy bill last year, Westar executives wanted to free the company from certain regulations and devised a plan to get a “a strong position at the table” by dedicating $55,000 for political donations, according to internal company e-mails that have become public in recent weeks.
Mr. DeLay and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, received donations. They said they did nothing wrong and made no promises to Westar, regardless of the company’s expectations about access or favorable treatment.
Mr. Barton introduced a provision that could have saved the company billions of dollars but dropped his support when a grand jury began investigating former Westar CEO David Wittig, who was indicted on charges unrelated to campaign fund-raising.
Texans PAC records on file with the IRS indicate that Westar gave the donation a few weeks before several Westar executives attended a two-day retreat and “energy roundtable” with Mr. DeLay at a mountain resort in Virginia.
DeLay aides say the majority leader did not solicit the donation. He met with Westar representatives last September to discuss the company’s problem, which involved tax treatment for utility holding companies.
Be honest with me, now. Do you really believe that the Westar folks contributed to a Tom DeLay PAC that was aimed at electing representatives in a state where they don’t do business on their own volition? Do you really believe this idea sprung, fully formed, into their own heads as the fully grown goddess Athena emerged from the head of Zeus?
By the way, in case anyone’s paying attention, another politician is returning his Westar money rather than deal with the whiff of taint. Attorney General Ashcroft, who still hasn’t addressed his own Westar ties, has announced no plans to look into any of this yet.