Editor’s Note: This article was corrected on January 24.
When George W. Bush was running for President, he made use of the Enron corporate jet fourteen times. His campaign reimbursed Enron almost $60,000 for those flights. All told, Enron and its employees have contributed at least $736,800 to our President’s political career–more than any other corporation. That includes the $10,000 that Enron chairman Kenneth Lay and his wife Linda donated to the Bush-Cheney 2000 Recount Fund, as well as the $300,000 that Enron leaders spent on the Bush-Cheney post-recount-crushing inaugural party. (But it does not include money given at one remove–say, to the Republican National Committee during Bush’s presidential run.)
Many in the Bush White House have had some sort of relationship with Enron–either as former company employees, as recipients of Enron campaign contributions or simply as enthusiastic purchasers of the company’s stock. White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey and trade proselytizer Robert Zoellick each earned $50,000 a year as Enron advisers. Secretary of the Army Thomas White Jr., a former Enron executive, had to sell $25 million of Enron stock upon assuming his post. Enron’s Lay–as candidate George Bush’s most-deep-pocketed patron–has a good relationship with Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, whose previous job was as the Bush-Cheney campaign’s tapper-of-deep-pockets. Attorney General John Ashcroft has received $57,499 from Enron in contributions to his 2000 senate campaign, which is why he has recused himself from investigating.
Two reports just released by the Center for Public Integrity–both based on the nonprofit nonpartisan center’s studies of the finances and affiliations of the top 100 officials in the Bush Administration–offer added context. Looking just at Enron, the center’s study turned up fourteen executive branch officials who owned stock in Enron, collectively valued when disclosed at from $284,000 to $886,000 (the spread is so broad because officials report income in approximate ranges). One of the largest Enron stock holdings–ranging from $100,001 to $250,000 in value at the time of filing–was in the hands of Karl Rove, a prominent adviser who has been close to Bush since his Texas days. More broadly, the center’s study found this to be one of the richest and most corporate presidential Administrations in history. The average net worth of the President, Vice President and the Cabinet falls between $9.3 million and $27.3 million–nearly ten times the average net worth of the Clinton Administration lineup. And not for nothing do they call it Grand Ole Petroleum: The 100 top Administration officials have the vast majority of their financial holdings invested in the energy sector, some 221 separate investments worth up to $144.6 million. Meanwhile, corporate energy gave 75 percent of its $48.3 million in 1999-2000 campaign contributions to Republicans. Oil and gas gave $13 to candidate Bush for every $1 it gave candidate Gore.