- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she suspects Enron was involved in choosing the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But like other Democrats who have made that claim, she offered no evidence to substantiate her charge.
In an interview that aired yesterday on CNN, the California Democrat also backpedaled from her earlier assertion that a reconsideration of President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut must be part of budget negotiations. That position had put her at odds with House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, who has said that repeal of the Bush tax cuts would not be on the table for now.
"From a practical standpoint, the president is not going to go along with changing his tax cut," Mrs. Pelosi, now the House's second-ranking Democrat, said on "Novak, Hunt & Shields."
"So I think from a practical standpoint, our leader, Mr. Gephardt, was correct [in saying], let's work on getting something done rather than having an elementary discussion about something that may not see the light of day," she added.
Enron, the one-time energy giant that filed for bankruptcy protection in December, left employees jobless and without 401(k) retirement benefits. The company, which donated a total of $6 million dollars to elected officials of both parties, is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department and of several probes by House and Senate committees.
When asked by the show's co-host Robert Novak about the lack of a "smoking gun" connecting Enron to either the administration or members of Congress, Mrs. Pelosi said that "we have to wait to see the facts. We can't say anything until we know what the facts are."
Mrs. Pelosi held that Enron officials "participated in naming members to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees Enron." They also helped write the Bush administration's energy policy and had "tremendous access to stave off disclosure and regulation of the business that they were doing," she said.
She also supported yesterday statements made last week by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that is probing Enron, who charged that former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay "hand-picked" the FERC chairman, Pat Wood. Mr. Hollings suggested Mr. Lay got the former chairman, Curtis Hebert, removed when Mr. Hebert refused to endorse energy policies sought by Enron.
Mrs. Pelosi criticized the "braggadocio" that Enron officials displayed toward FERC as "they went about their business of shaping how they would be regulated."
"So their braggadacio about, 'Do it this way or you leave,' or the well-known member of the commission that they favored who then became the chairman … it doesn't mean that he might not be a fine person; it just means they had a role in it," she said.
Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and a member of the Commerce Committee, said last week on CNN's "Capital Gang" that "apparently Enron did get the head of FERC removed, replaced … because he would not tumble to Ken Lay's intimidation on agreeing with Enron's position on deregulation."
Mrs. Pelosi's interview came at the end of a week in which the House passed campaign reform legislation opposed by Republican leaders. She said she is certain that the Enron scandal helped the bill's supporters most of whom were Democrats capture the Republican votes necessary to secure passage of the measure.
"No question and no pun intended Enron gave energy to our effort," she said.


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