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Naked City

By Michael King, Fri., Dec. 28, 2001


Enron's Money Trail

For a healthy taste of the kind of info the best foundation money can buy, check out TPJ's report on the Enron Corp.'s political money trail, at www.tpj.org/Lobby_Watch/enron.html. The report catalogs the major Texas recipients of Enron's largesse (George W. Bush, Gov. Rick Perry, John Cornyn, the state Supreme Court, Carole Keeton Rylander, etc.) and sketches some of the main purposes of all that political generosity. Some telling excerpts:

"The chief mourners of Enron's demise -- apart from the investors and workers that it deceived -- are the legions of lobbyists and politicians whom Enron fed. Enron spent $10.2 million in the last two election cycles (1997 through 2000) influencing Washington politicians. During this period, Enron moved $1,003,273 to Texas PACs and state candidates, as well as spending up to $4.8 million on 89 Texas lobby contracts. ..." Bush's greatest gubernatorial gifts to Enron were deregulating state electric markets in 1999, indulging "grandfathered air polluters," and promoting laws that protect businesses from lawsuits.

The next-largest chunk of Enron money went to Gov. Perry, the report states. Perry appointed former Enron de Mexico President Mario Max Yzaguirre as Public Utility Commission chair in June 2001. Was it sheer coincidence, then, that, according to reports, Enron CEO Ken Lay gave Perry a $25,000 campaign contribution the very next day? Now, in the midst of controversy over Perry's choice to fill the PUC post, two Democrats on the Senate Nominations Committee have urged the governor to reconsider Yzaguirre's appointment. The committee has postponed considering his confirmation because Perry named his choice after this year's legislative session. As things stand, Yzaguirre doesn't appear to be a shoe-in for the job, especially in light of new developments regarding his and Perry's withholding of information about Yzaguirre's past.

Additionally, there are concerns that Yzaguirre's past work with a private utility would present a conflict of interest in his role as head of a state regulatory commission. Said TPJ's Craig McDonald in a statement: "Both the governor and attorney general have benefited greatly from Enron's political contributions. [Cornyn and Perry] both have a conflict of interest with respect to any Enron-Yzaguirre cover-up in the governor's office." He called on either the Travis County district attorney or the Legislature to investigate the matter.

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