Frist, Hastert ask White House to probe possible price gouging before mid-term elections. Reuters - April 24, 2006 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican congressional leaders on Monday urged the Bush administration to investigate whether oil companies are gouging consumers at the gasoline pump and if market speculators are pushing up fuel prices. U.S. retail gasoline prices are above $3 a gallon in many parts of the country and pump costs are forecast to keep rising. Republicans fear they could lose the Senate and House of Representatives in this November's congressional elections if voters retaliate against them for the high fuel prices. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert wrote President George W. Bush and asked him to direct the U.S. Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on any potential price gouging. "Anyone who is trying to take advantage of this situation while American families are forced into making tough choices over whether to fill up their cars or severely cut back their budgets should be investigated and prosecuted," the lawmakers said in their joint letter to Bush. The lawmakers also want the Justice Department and the FTC to look into oil refining operations, transporting fuel by pipelines, marine vessels and trucks, storing and marketing fuel, and spot shortages of gasoline to determine if there is any manipulation of gasoline prices. "Sweeps of retail distribution centers should be undertaken to ensure that retail price movements are in response to a change in market conditions and not price gouging," the lawmakers said. They also asked Bush to direct the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to increase its scrutiny of trading of oil, gasoline and other energy contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange to determine if the price spike is caused by market manipulation by traders or energy firms. "We believe that protecting American consumers in these unprecedented market conditions is of paramount importance," the lawmakers said. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said the Republicans' call for a gasoline price investigation shows they are "scrambling for political cover" because Republicans will be held accountable for "turning a blind eye" to soaring gasoline costs. The Democrats also said the Republicans' demand for action lacks credibility because Republican lawmakers "have allowed oil and gas companies to line their campaign accounts with cash when they should have been cracking down on price gouging and rising gas prices."