Saturday, August 20, 2005

Utility to Pay Fine in Campaign Case

The New York Times

Utility to Pay Fine in Campaign Case

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 - Westar Energy Inc., a Kansas electric utility entangled in investigations surrounding Representative Tom DeLay, and three men who worked for the company will pay $40,500 in fines to settle accusations of improper fund-raising, the Federal Election Commission says.

According to documents made public by the commission on Thursday, Westar executives violated campaign finance laws by using company resources like employee work time to organize a drive that raised $32,700 in contributions to Congressional campaigns in 2002. The drive was part of an effort to increase the company's presence in Washington.

Under the settlement, the company agreed to pay civil penalties of $20,000; Douglass Lawrence, former vice president for government affairs, $8,500; Carl M. Koupal Jr., former chief administrative officer, $7,000; and Richard Bornemann, an outside lobbyist who worked for the company, $5,000.

Westar has been caught up in several investigations involving Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader, since making a separate $25,000 contribution in 2002 to a political action committee he created.

That contribution, at a time when the House was considering energy legislation, was given in connection with a fund-raiser where Mr. DeLay met with top executives from Westar and other energy companies. The donation was cited in a case last year in which the congressman was admonished by the House ethics committee.