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House Leader Rebuked — Again

The House ethics committee Wednesday criticized House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for conduct that appeared to link political donations to legislation and for improperly contacting U.S. aviation authorities for political purposes, House sources said Wednesday.

The committee's findings were an extraordinary second rebuke of the Texas Republican's ethical conduct in just six days.

The committee of five Democrats and five Republicans deferred to Texas authorities allegations that DeLay violated state campaign finance rules.

The committee's findings — a letter admonishing his conduct — nonetheless spared him a lengthy investigation by the ethics panel.

Last Thursday the same committee, in an investigative report, admonished DeLay for offering to support the House candidacy of a Michigan lawmaker's son, in return for the lawmaker's vote for a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

The committee acted on a three-part complaint from Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas. The allegations accused DeLay of soliciting political contributions from Westar Energy, a Kansas company, in return for legislative favors; violating Texas laws prohibiting corporate political donations; and improperly contacting aviation authorities to track down a plane carrying Texas Democratic legislators who were trying to defeat a DeLay-engineered congressional redistricting plan.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not yet been released.

Westar executives made a $25,000 donation to an organization affiliated with DeLay just before attending a two-day get-together at a Virginia resort with the House GOP leader.

Described by a DeLay spokesman as "a golf fund-raising event," several executives from the Topeka-based company went to the 15,000-acre Homestead resort in early June 2002 for what participants said was an energy issues roundtable.

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