Enron president sought help from Treasury official
By John King
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Enron Corp.'s president called a top Treasury Department official several times late last year as the company was negotiating with bankers for a credit extension it needed to avoid bankruptcy, administration officials said Friday.
The Treasury official, Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Peter Fisher, interpreted the calls as a request for the administration to intervene and help, but he declined to do so, administration sources said.
Also, Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay called Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on October 26, said a Fed spokesman, who added that Greenspan did not do anything in response to the call because "it would not have been appropriate."
The disclosures are the latest evidence of contacts between top administration officials and the beleaguered energy giant as it struggled to avoid filing for bankruptcy late last year. Thursday, the administration disclosed that Lay called two Cabinet secretaries -- Treasury and Commerce -- to inform them of the company's financial woes.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans said he was asked to help Enron in its bid to keep its bond rating from being lowered, but he declined to do so. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill also said he did nothing to help the company after talking to Lay.
The Treasury Department said Friday that Enron President Lawrence Whalley called Fisher six or eight times in late October and early November. On one of those calls, Whalley asked Fisher to "call Enron's banks. Peter made no such calls," Treasury spokeswoman Michele Davis told CNN.
Fisher inferred "by asking to call Enron's banks he wanted him to call and ask them to extend credit to Enron. But he made no such calls," she said.
The Federal Reserve spokesman declined to elaborate on the content of the call to Greenspan.
Top White House officials, meanwhile, urged what one called "context and perspective" in media coverage of the developments.
"There are some legitimate questions and some questions we view more as political," this senior official said. "But remember this: There is not one allegation of wrongdoing by anyone in the federal government and it is this administration that decided to aggressively investigate the company and the related issues."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said no single person or office at the White House has been designated to serve as a repository of information about administration contacts with Enron. And he said if Democrats in Congress try to make a political issue of the Enron bankruptcy, "that dog won't hunt."
Senior officials tell CNN that the disclosure of the new Treasury contacts is part of a White House-directed effort to go back and check for any and all contacts between Enron and administration officials and agencies.
"It is just common sense," one top White House aide said. "We are going to get asked, so people are being asked to check and double check."
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