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Senators: Release records on Bush stock sale

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah: "I think the president ought to comply and help here."  

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats and a senior GOP senator urged the White House Sunday to push for the release of records regarding President Bush's controversial 1990 stock sale.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, joined Democrats in suggesting the best way to put to rest any lingering questions about the president's sale of stock in Harken Energy a decade ago, when he sat on the company's board, is to ask the Securities and Exchange Commission to release the entire file.

"Whatever it takes," Hatch said on CNN's "Late Edition," "I think the president ought to comply and help here."

SEC documents related to the Harken stock sale (Center for Public Intergrity) (PDF reader required)

"I think the president would serve his own interests if he asked the SEC to release all of that material," Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Maryland, said Sunday. "I think until they do that, people will keep pulling at that thread."

The White House argued Sunday that many of the SEC records about the sale are already public.

"All the relevant documents have been fully disclosed and thoroughly reported," a senior administration official told CNN.

Asked on ABC's "This Week" why the administration would not urge the SEC to release the documents, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said, "The president has always said, 'I will fully cooperate,' and he has fully cooperated."

Evans added, "It's partisan politics, people trying to discredit somebody else so then they can make themselves look better."

Harken directors warned

Over the weekend, the privately funded Center for Public Integrity posted on its Web site documents it first acquired and released in 2000. The documents include an internal memo -- dated April 20, 1990, two months before Bush's stock sale -- from the president of Harken Energy to the board of directors warning them of a worsening liquidity problem.

"The full capacity of the company is dedicated toward resolving this liquidity crisis," wrote President Mikel Faulkner.

Another newly released document, an internal SEC memo from July 1991, says Harken asserted attorney-client privilege in refusing to grant a second request for information about Bush's transaction.

"Bush has produced a small amount of additional documents which provide little insight as to what Harken nonpublic information he knew and when he knew it," Herb Janick, who was assistant director of the SEC enforcement division at the time, wrote in the memo.

Bush sold more than 212,000 shares of stock in Harken Energy at $4 per share in June 1990, when he served on the company's board, bringing in close to $850,000.

Two months later, Harken announced a $23 million loss and the stock dropped to $2.375 per share.

The SEC investigated Bush for insider trading and took no action against him.

Harvey Pitt, the embattled SEC chairman, called the matter "ancient history" but said he would release the file if the president asked him to.


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