AUSTIN, Texas – A Kansas energy company said it donated $25,000 so that it's representatives could attend a golf outing with U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search) to try to influence pending energy legislation.
The admission from Topeka, Kan.-based Westar Energy (search) marks the first time a company has publicly admitted to donating to DeLay's political action committee in exchange for a meeting and possible legislative help.
In court documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News, Westar officials said after they made the donation, two company executives attended a June 2002 golf outing with DeLay and two top aides at The Homestead (search) resort in Hot Springs, Va.
Former DeLay aide Drew Maloney said DeLay's staff did not require that donations be given in exchange for access. The company claims it sent the money to talk with DeLay about getting an exemption in federal law, but not to affect legislative elections in Texas.
Westar spokeswoman Karla Olsen said the company made the contribution with no guarantees that the law would be changed. "We understood we were only having discussions," she said.
The provision the company sought was included in a House bill with DeLay's support, but it was later withdrawn after a grand jury began investigating corporate fund-raising during the state's 2002 legislative races.
Three of DeLay's top fund-raisers and eight corporations, including Westar, were indicted last year. All the companies denied wrongdoing. Charges have since been dismissed against four of the companies.
Under Texas law, corporate money can be used by PACs for administrative purposes, but not for direct campaign expenses. Legislative favors in exchange for political donations are illegal under federal law.
DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said DeLay wasn't swayed by the donation. "Anyone who has worked with Majority Leader DeLay knows that his legislative efforts are based on sound public policy alone," she said.
DeLay was admonished by the House Ethics Committee last year, saying the golf outing "created an appearance that donors were being provided special access." But it found no evidence that DeLay had improperly solicited contributions from Westar or had broken the law.