Two days before Sen. Rick Santorum introduced a bill that critics say would restrict the National Weather Service (search), his political action committee received a $2,000 donation from the chief executive of AccuWeather Inc., (search) a leading provider of weather data.

The disclosure has renewed criticism of the measure, which Santorum, R-Pa., maintains would allow the weather service to better focus on its core mission of getting threatening weather info out in a "timely and speedy basis."

Opponents say the bill would endanger the public by preventing the dissemination of certain weather data, and force taxpayers to pay for the data twice. The bill would prevent the weather service from competing for certain services offered by the private sector.

AccuWeather, based in State College, Pa., provides weather data to a variety of outlets, including media organizations such as The Associated Press.

"I think the timing of it is what makes it so suspect," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government (search), a Democratic-leaning watchdog group. "It's like here's the money and you're going to do what I want."

Santorum said the $2,000 contribution, received from AccuWeather CEO Joel Myers on April 12, came during a fundraiser in State College that happened to be two days before the bill was filed. He said he has worked on the issue for three years.

The donation was disclosed in the April filing to the FEC by Santorum's PAC, America's Foundation.

"I don't think there's any coincidence between the two," Santorum said. "It's just that I happened to have a fundraiser in the town he was in."

Combined, Joel Myers and his brother, Barry Myers, AccuWeather's executive vice president, have donated more than $11,000 to Santorum and the Republican Party since 2003, according to FEC filings compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine, a campaign finance tracking group.

Barry Myers said it was ridiculous to think there was a correlation between the "modest" donations and the filing of the bill.

Santorum said his campaign could likely raise and spend $25 million for the 2006 election.

"We have no connection to how bills are filed, or how they are drafted or dropped at any given point in time," Myers said.

Dan McLaughlin, press secretary for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, which is home to the weather service's National Hurricane Center, said the April 12 donation is suspect. Nelson has written to President Bush in opposition to the bill.

"It certainly raises questions about motivation as to why someone would push a policy that is so obviously crummy," McLaughlin said.

Under the proposed legislation, the weather service would be allowed to offer particular types of services only if the private sector does not offer them, a provision similar to rules the agency was guided by for 14 years until last year.

When the rule changed, the weather service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expanded into areas already served by the commercial weather industry, according to Santorum's office.

In his letter, Nelson said Santorum's bill would bar weather service forecasters from giving one-on-one interviews to media. He also said it could inhibit pilots' access to data the weather service provides to the Federal Aviation Administration online. When four hurricanes struck Florida last year, the weather service Web site received 9 billion hits, Nelson said.

He urged Bush to "publicly oppose this legislative attempt to push the weather service back to a pre-Internet era and restrict the public's right to access government information."

Trent Duffy (search), deputy White House spokesman, said the administration typically does not comment on legislation that has not reached the floor of the House or Senate. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee, but no hearing has been scheduled.

Santorum said critics have misinterpreted the bill's purpose. He said severe weather information would still be released, and it would restore the old rules that were changed last year.

"The National Weather Service is not focused on it's core mission of protecting the nation's lives and property," Myers said. "There have been numerous examples in the last year, situations where they have not devoted the resources to that."