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Republicans Tried To Block Investigation Of Contributor
January 8, 2006

LOS ANGELES -- Two Republican congressman from Northern California used their positions to try to stop a federal investigation of a Texas businessman who had given them political contributions, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

Reps. John T. Doolittle and Richard W. Pombo, along with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, fought an investigation by federal banking regulators of Houston millionaire Charles Hurwitz, according to government documents and copies of letters between the congressmen and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. officials obtained by The Times.

The FDIC was seeking $300 million from Hurwitz for his alleged role in the collapse of the United Savings Association of Texas, which cost taxpayers $1.6 billion.

Hurwitz had a controlling interest in the savings and loan company, but the investigation was dropped after the Republican leaders voiced their opinions, the newspaper reported.

In 1999, DeLay wrote a letter to the chairman of the FDIC criticizing the investigation of Hurwitz as a "form of harassment and deceit on the part of government employees."

When investigators persisted, Doolittle and Pombo allegedly used their power as members of the House Resources Committee to subpoena the agency's confidential records on the case, the Times reported. Those records included details of evidence federal investigators had compiled on Hurwitz.

In 2001, the congressmen inserted many of those documents into the Congressional Record, making them public and accessible to Hurwitz's lawyers.

Federal officials said their case was damaged, and in 2002 dropped it.

Doolittle and Pombo have publicly defended Hurwitz, saying the inquiry was unfair.

Hurwitz's lawyer said Friday that investigators had been overzealous. This summer, a judge in Texas agreed and awarded Hurwitz attorney fees and other costs in a civil suit he filed.

"They sought to humiliate him," U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, said in the ruling. The government is appealing the decision.

Hurwitz has been a prolific campaign donor since the early 1990s.

Some of his contributions have been made with money from his Houston-based flagship company, Maxxam Inc., through subsidiaries such as Kaiser Aluminum, and through a company political action committee, Maxxam Inc. Federal PAC.

In the last three federal elections cycles, those entities have given about $443,000 in political contributions, mostly to conservative politicians, including President Bush, for whom Hurwitz pledged to raise $100,000 in the 2000 campaign, documents show.

Starting in the 2000, the businessman and his committees have distributed at least $30,000 to DeLay and his federal causes, including $5,000 for his current legal defense fund in the Texas money-laundering case.

Hurwitz also contributed $1,000 to Pombo for his 1996 re-election campaign. And through the Maxxam PAC, Hurwitz gave Doolittle $5,000 for his 2002 re-election campaign and then followed up with $2,000 more for his 2004 race, documents show.

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