Bush-Lay letters suggest close relationship
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Newly released documents suggest that President Bush's relationship with embattled former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay was once chummy and that Lay often asked him to act on Enron's behalf when Bush was governor of Texas.
Some two dozen letters written by Lay to then-Gov. Bush were among the 350 pages of Bush documents released Friday by Texas archivists in response to requests by news organizations and the nonprofit government watchdog group Public Citizen.
The correspondence includes holiday greetings, birthday notes and get-well wishes. In one 1997 note, Bush teases Lay about his 55th birthday, adding "Laura and I value our friendship with you."
In another one, Lay thanks Bush for a Christmas ornament depicting the Texas Capitol, saying: "It was a thoughtful gift and one our family will enjoy hanging on the tree every year."
Lay's primary concern in the correspondence was electricity deregulation. Although Bush -- who once nicknamed Lay "Kenny Boy" -- signed a state law deregulating the electricity market in 1999, the documents do not indicate that his actions were in response to Lay's interests.
"I very much appreciate your call to [then-Pennsylvania Gov.] Tom Ridge a few days ago," Lay wrote in 1997 regarding an Enron proposal to provide electricity to Philadelphia. "I am certain that will have a positive impact on the way [Ridge] and others in Pennsylvania view our proposal."
Ridge ultimately supported an alternate proposal, and Enron's bid was unsuccessful.
In 1998, Lay asked Bush to write a letter to U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer about a federal tax bill "expressing your support for the measure."
"These documents suggest that Bush was acting as promoter in chief for Enron and its business interests at a time when he was getting ready to raise money for his run for president," said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen president.
"They certainly raise questions about how far Bush went to help Enron and what other favors he might have done."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday that the documents were "old news."
"The president himself has acknowledged that Ken Lay was a supporter of his in the past," he told The Associated Press.
The documents were collected during Bush's tenure as Texas governor from 1995 through 2000, and are stored at his father's presidential library at Texas A&M University.
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