Contacts between Bush administration officials and Enron executives

May 22, 2002, 8:45PM
Associated Press

Some contacts between Bush administration officials and Enron executives provided by the White House to a Senate committee Wednesday. Many of the contacts described were disclosed by the administration early this year when the Enron scandal broke, in response to questions from lawmakers and reporters.

• A half-hour private meeting on April 17, 2001, that then-Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay had with Vice President Dick Cheney, in which energy policy and the power crisis in California were discussed. Cheney, who headed an energy-policy task force, disclosed the meeting in a PBS television documentary earlier this year. Cheney also has disclosed similar meetings related to the task force’s work with Enron officials in February, March, April, August and October of last year.

• Lay telephoned Bush political adviser Karl Rove in early 2001 regarding Bush’s intention to nominate Nora Brownell to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Lay expressed support for Brownell’s nomination and expressed concern that some people were trying to discourage her from accepting it. Rove later called Lay to tell him no such efforts were taking place, the White House said. Rove owned Enron stock at the beginning of Bush’s term but sold it because of federal ethics rules.

• Clay Johnson, Bush’s assistant for presidential personnel, received a letter from Lay on Jan. 8, 2001, regarding appointments to the energy commission. Lay recommended seven possible candidates, including Brownell and Pat Wood, the Texas utility commissioner who eventually became FERC chairman. Lay also phoned Johnson twice in early 2001 to follow up. Johnson thanked Lay in a form letter on March 6 for recommending Wood.

• Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsey had “a few communications” with Lay in the winter and spring of 2001, most likely about the California electricity shortage. Lindsey met on April 6 with Lay and other White House economic aides to discuss electricity issues. Lindsey earned $50,000 from Enron for serving on a company board last year.

• Enron Executive Vice President David Haug and a few other people from the private sector met on March 7, 2001, with Andrew Lundquist, the executive director of the energy-policy task force, to discuss energy policy. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, was present for several minutes.

• In the months before the task force released its report, Steve Ruhlen, Cheney’s assistant for legislative affairs, received several phone calls from Pat Shortridge, an Enron lobbyist and personal friend of Ruhlen. Shortridge was seeking information on what the energy plan would likely contain. Ruhlen said he had no knowledge of specific information regarding the plan but said it was expected to conform to Bush’s policy positions during the 2000 election campaign.

• Haug met with Cheryl Oldham of the presidential personnel office on Sept. 13, 2001, to discuss potential job opportunities in the administration, mostly in fields other than energy. Nothing came of the discussion and Haug was not named to a government position, the White House said. Lay had sent a letter of recommendation to the White House on Haug’s behalf.