An ethics complaint, filed against Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, in connection with his work on Central Utah Project legislation, shows a lack of understanding of his "brilliant legislative strategy" on the CUP.

The Utah Wildlife Leadership Coalition made this charge Saturday, responding to a complaint filed earlier this week against Owens with the U.S. House Ethics Committee by Utah Republican Party chairman Craig Moody.In June, Moody and other Republican leaders announced they would ask the House committee to investigate Owens for alleged violations in connection with his work on the CUP reauthorization bill.

The GOP's complaint stems from the fact that Kenley Brunsdale, a friend and former Owens campaign aide, counseled the Democratic congressman and sat in on meetings in which the massive CUP funding bill was prepared.

Owens spearheaded the bill among the Utah delegation. Brunsdale is an attorney and also a part-time lobbyist for Utah Power & Light Co., which has a strong interest in how electricity from the CUP is distributed, and is chairman of the Utah Roundtable of Sportsmen and Conservationists. Considering those positions, questions were raised about Brunsdale's influence in the bill's writing.

In its prepared statement, which was endorsed by representatives of 23 groups, the wildlife leadership coalition said the ethics complaint is an affront not only to Owens, but to Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and other members of the Utah delegation.

It also offends Utah sportsmen and the conservation community, and runs contrary to the best interests of Utah, the coalition said.

The coalition, whose 46 organizations represent 50,000 members in Utah, said Owens and other delegation members undertook an almost impossible task 10 months ago.

"They set out to find three-quarters of a billion dollars and the political support that would be needed to finish the CUP. What were the odds? At the time the CUP was at the top of the national environmental community's hit list and rightfully so. The project was an environmental disaster! By some estimates, the national environmental community controls as many as 180 votes in Congress. In addition, there was significant opposition to many aspects of the project by Utah's sportsmen and environmental groups," the coalition said.

The group applauded Owens, who they said endeavored to work with, instead of against, wildlife and environmental communities. Owens challenged the groups to help develop a plan that would be environmentally acceptable, while also accomplishing the purposes of the CUP, the coalition said.

The statement said it is no coincidence that Owens and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District called on Brunsdale to assist.

The coalition said the comprehensive reauthorization package now being advanced by Utah's delegation has the "wholehearted support of both local and national sportsmen, wildlife and environmental communities."

The statement said Moody's complaint is "nothing more than continuing political exploitation of grumblings made earlier by public power users."