White House Releases Enron Documents Following Subpoena
Despite the move, Joseph Lieberman, Democratic chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee, said the information was still insufficient. The committee voted 9-8 along party lines Wednesday to issue the first congressional subpoenas of the executive branch of this Bush administration.
Lieberman, a former vice presidential hopeful, said the vote came after months of requesting White House documents relating to the energy giant?s massive bankruptcy last December.
“Our committee has been looking into what the federal government did — or did not do — in overseeing and regulating Enron’s activities,” Lieberman said. “We’ve issued subpoenas to Enron, its members of its board of directors and its auditor Arthur Andersen, seeking documents related to each of those entities’ interactions with the relevant federal agencies.”
The Bush administration responded with a seven-page document outlining its communications with the failed energy company and denying there was any improper conduct.
“Our inquiries thus far have disclosed no instance in which Enron approached any person within … (the White House) seeking help in connection with its financial difficulties prior to bankruptcy,” White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales wrote in a letter attached to the document. “[C]ommunications we have identified thus far reflect only appropriate and responsible actions by government officials.”
Committee Democrats said they were not satisfied with the Bush administration’s response.
“It appears the White House is still providing only what it thinks is relevant, rather than what the committee asked for,” Leslie Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Senate committee, said.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, (D-Mo.), echoed frustration Thursday, saying the White House seemed to be resisting requests for information.
“We deserve to have these documents. This administration seems to not want to let a lot of this information get to the Congress,” Gephardt told reporters. “I don’t think it’s the right way to proceed. It doesn’t work.”
Most of the information in the seven-page document had already been publicly disclosed and included meetings on electricity policies, tax credits for wind power, the California energy crisis, and legislation governing power plant emissions.
The document also lists calls former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay made to senior Bush administration officials late last year, seeking assistance for its troubled energy businesses. The White House maintains it never intervened on Enron’s behalf.
Earlier this year, the General Accounting Office issued a subpoena for Vice President Dick Cheney’s records from his energy task force meetings with Enron officials. Several members of Congress alleged that Enron — a major contributor to the Bush administration and Republican party — influenced federal energy policy.
Enron’s collapse, in which thousands of employees lost their retirement savings, has launched dozens of congressional inquiries into possible financial fraud, energy market manipulation and potential links between the White House and Enron.