A former Congressman who now heads a national trade association today alleged that the FBI is investigating whether Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) illegally downloaded information from the associations password-protected Web site.
Coopers office dismissed the allegation as laughable.
Cooper has been leading an investigation into mismanagement at the nations rural electric cooperatives, which are consumer-owned utilities created decades ago to provide power to lightly populated rural areas.
At a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday, Cooper warned of widespread mismanagement and inefficiency in rural cooperatives, and cited documents that he said came from the secret, password-protected website of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
NRECA President Glenn English, an Oklahoma Democrat who served 10 terms in the House before retiring in 1994, responded that NRECA counsel has advised me that Mr. Cooper is currently under investigation by the FBI for his unauthorized access and downloading of information from NRECAs password-protected website.
Cooper responded that someone had given him authorization and provided him with a password to download the documents, but English said that only he or a limited number of other officials from the organization could authorize access.
An FBI spokesman said the bureau doesnt comment on accusations made by others concerning its investigative activity.
Cooper spokesman John Spragens said, This is a bogus attempt to intimidate Congress from trying to investigate an industry. The idea that a Congressman would be under investigation for conducting an investigation is laughable. Thats why we have the Constitution.
Spragens added, We have no reason to think that Congressman Cooper is under investigation.
In a statement issued after the hearing, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, attempting to intimidate the Committee when we are investigating serious issues is a mistake. We wont be intimidated and we will continue to try to protect the interests of co-op customers by looking into any credible allegations of misconduct.