WASHINGTON – A federal judge has refused to order the release of an internal report on political contributions by Westar Energy Inc. (search), a Kansas company that's been indicted in Texas for making illegal corporate contributions to a political committee founded by Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina refused last week to order the Federal Election Commission (search) to release the report. The ruling came in a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed against the FEC by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal watchdog group.
Melanie Sloan, the group's executive director, said Monday she plans to appeal.
Urbina ruled that because the FEC is prohibited from acknowledging open investigations, the commission would violate privacy laws and possibly generate undeserved negative publicity if it acknowledged that the report exists or made it public.
The FEC searched its closed investigations file and found no Westar reports, the judge's opinion said.
"This decision allows the FEC to proceed, to reach a conclusion," said Karla Olsen, Westar spokeswoman. "We look forward to having this matter resolved. We anticipate the report will be made public once the FEC reaches a decision."
Questions about the company's political giving were raised during a separate investigation in Texas of allegations of corporate malfeasance by former company executives.
A Texas grand jury indicted eight corporations, including Westar, and three associates of DeLay on charges of making illegal corporate contributions to a political committee founded by DeLay. Texas law prohibits spending corporate or union money on political campaigns, except for administrative expenses.
The House ethics committee found last year that DeLay created an appearance of favoritism when he mingled at a 2002 golf outing with Westar executives just days after they contributed $25,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority, the fundraising committee under investigation in Texas.
DeLay, R-Texas, has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.