White House pressed for more Enron details
From Kelly Wallace
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration Wednesday was reviewing a request from a Democratic congressman for more information about its meetings with Enron Corp., the Houston-based energy giant that last month filed the largest bankruptcy case in U.S. history.
"The vice president's office received a new letter from [Rep. Henry] Waxman yesterday and that letter is under review," said Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary.
"I'm not aware of anybody in the White House who discussed Enron's financial situation," Fleischer said when asked if there were any discussions between the administration and Enron about the company's financial condition.
In a January 3 letter to Waxman, D-California, the White House for the first time revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney or members of the White House's energy task force met six times with representatives from Enron in the months before its bankruptcy filing.
The information about the meetings was disclosed in a letter from Cheney's counsel, David Addington.
Waxman has been pressing the administration to turn over information about its meetings with Enron and to reveal whether the company discussed its "precarious financial position" in any contacts with the White House.
In a letter dated Tuesday, Waxman praised the vice president for releasing "for the first time" information about contacts between Enron and the White House, but called for Cheney to offer a "full accounting" of the contacts.
"Your response ... raises additional questions about the extent to which Enron may have influenced the administration's energy policies or provided information about its own operations," Waxman said in the letter.
The congressman noted how the last meeting between the administration and Enron on October 10 was just six days before Enron announced the "$1.2 billion reduction in shareholder equity that precipitated Enron's collapse."
Addington said in his letter to Waxman, "Enron did not communicate information about its financial position in any of the meetings with the vice president or with the National Energy Policy Development Group's support staff."
Addington said Cheney -- in an interview in May 2001 -- disclosed he met with Enron Chairman and CEO Kenneth Lay on April 17 for about a half-hour about energy policy issues. The two did not discuss Enron's financial situation, Addington said.
The five other meetings between Enron and the White House also included no discussion of Enron's financial position, Addington said. A list of the contacts includes:
-- Meetings between the executive director of the energy policy group's support staff and Enron representatives on February 22 and March 7.
-- A meeting between the energy policy support staff and a group of utility representatives, including an Enron representative.
-- A meeting August 7 between the deputy executive director of the energy policy support staff with officials of an Enron German subsidiary.
-- A meeting October 10 between an employee on the vice president's staff who had served as executive director of the energy policy group's support staff and Enron representatives.
Addington also said Cheney and Lay both served on a panel June 24 at the American Enterprise Institute's World Forum in Beaver Creek, Colorado, and that there was no discussion about Enron's financial situation.
Addington said in his letter to Waxman, "This information is provided to you as a matter of comity between the legislative and executive branches, with due regard for the constitutional separation of powers and reserving all legal authorities and privileges that may apply."
"It is our hope that submission of the information will help you avoid the waste of time and taxpayer funds on unnecessary inquiries," Addington said.
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