Tags: Bush | Officials | Downplay | Enron | Calls

Bush Officials Downplay Enron Calls

Monday, 14 January 2002 12:00 AM

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said he thinks there was nothing unusual or new in the two telephone conversations he had with Lay, a large contributor to the Bush 2000 presidential campaign.

O'Neill said the media had been reporting for weeks that Enron had financial problems and that the company was in trouble.

"Ken Lay didn't ask me to do anything, and ... we did nothing wrong," O'Neill said later on ABC's "This Week" program. "We made sure that in our area of responsibility, which is the U.S. and the world capital markets that the problems that were occurring at Enron had no spillover effect for the rest of the economy."

U.S. Commerce Secretary Don Evans, who appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he was not told any information in separate calls he had with Lay that was not already public.

But, Evans said he did not feel obligated to mention the telephone calls to President Bush. He said he felt it would have been "an egregious abuse of power" if he had stepped in to influence events at Enron in any way.

Evans, who was Bush's campaign manager, also said he had several discussions with the president about the impact the Houston-based company's downfall was having on employees and shareholders.

O'Neill said that Lay "asked me for nothing." But the treasury secretary acknowledged that during one conversation Lay said Enron's ability to sustain its credit rating "was a critical aspect" of keeping its $8.4 billion merger with rival Dynegy Inc. on track.

The merger later fell apart, which forced Enron on Dec. 2 to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The administration officials' comments come as U.S. lawmakers prepare to begin a congressional investigation into possible wrongdoing by Enron officials.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., whose Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee has issued 51 subpoenas in connection with its Enron investigation, said Sunday on ABC, "I have no doubt that they were asking the government to take action."

The subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for Jan. 24, to investigate the company's financial collapse and possible connections between Enron and the White House. Lay, Enron's embattled executive, has committed to testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee on Feb. 4.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Speaking on Fox News Sunday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said he thinks there was nothing unusual or new in the two telephone conversations he had with Lay, a large contributor to the Bush 2000 presidential campaign. O'Neill said the media had been reporting...
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Monday, 14 January 2002 12:00 AM
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