- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2002

It should hardly come as a surprise that, even though the fallen corporate giant Enron aggressively courted politicians from both major parties on Capitol Hill over the past decade, some Democrats appear eager to use the scandal as a political weapon against President Bush and congressional Republicans. Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee (yes, the same man who couldn't seem to find anything wrong with Clintonista behavior throughout the glorious, scandal-free '90s), released a letter from the Bush administration acknowledging that Vice President Richard B. Cheney or his aides had met last year on six occasions with Enron executives to discuss national energy policy issues. Mr. Waxman claims that the letter showed that the "access provided to Enron far exceeded the access provided by the White House to other parties interested in energy policy." Thus far, however, he hasn't put forward the evidence to substantiate this.
For his part, Mr. Bush has hardly behaved as if he has something to hide. He has pledged to aggressively pursue the Enron investigation, even if it focuses on longtime friends and supporters, and has also ordered a separate investigation of pension and corporate disclosure rules which could jeopardize workers' savings. On the other hand, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin may have some explaining to do. He recently contacted the department's undersecretary for domestic finance, Peter Fisher, to get him to intervene on Enron's behalf. "Rubin asked Fisher what he thought of placing a call to rating agencies to encourage them to work with Enron's bankers to see if there was an alternative to an immediate downgrade," Treasury Department spokeswoman Michele Davis said. "Fisher responded that he didn't think it advisable to make such a call." Not to be deterred, that noted ethicist, Mr. Waxman, now complains that the Bush administration neglected to intervene to prevent Enron's collapse. It doesn't take any imagination to see what he would be complaining about if Mr. Fisher had done what Mr. Rubin asked.
Mr. Waxman and his friends may want to rethink their apparent enthusiasm for turning Enron's failure into anti-Bush political fodder. According to the Center for Responsive Politics' tabulations of Enron contributions from 1989-2001, six of the top 10 House members receiving support were Democrats, among them Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and John Dingell. The top 20 Senate recipients include Democrats like Majority Leader Tom Daschle and New York's Charles Schumer, and Enron also gave $100,000 to Senate Democrats one week before filing for bankruptcy. In short, Democrats could end up paying a heavy price if they seek to exploit the Enron situation as a weapon against Mr. Bush.


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