Before its messy decline and fall, Enron had plenty of clout in George W. Bush's
Washington, from the personal ties between chairman Ken Lay and the President to
the company's alleged influence on Vice President Dick
Cheney's energy task force. But Enron's cozy relationship with Washington didn't
start there. Documents obtained by TIME show the energy giant enjoyed much
closer ties with Clinton Administration regulators than was generally known.
Long before Cheney's task force met with Enron officials and included their
ideas in Bush's energy plan, Clinton's energy team was doing much the same
thing. Drafting a 1995 plan to help facilitate cash flow and credit for energy
producers, it asked for Enron's inputand listened. The staff was directed to
"rework the proposal to take into account the specific comments and suggestions
you made," Clinton Deputy Energy Secretary Bill White wrote an Enron official.
Clinton officials also made efforts to help Enron get business overseas. Clinton
Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary included Enron officials on trade missions to
India, China, Pakistan and South Africa. White, returning from a 1994 trip to
Mexico, wrote chairman Lay that "much opportunity" existed there for natural
gas, and he sent a copy of Mexico's energy plans. To persuade an Enron senior
vice president to join a mission to Pakistan, White wrote, "I have strong
personal relationships with the
Enron showed its gratitude. At Christmas 1995, documents show, it donated an
unknown sum of cash in O'Leary's name to a charity called "I Have a Dream." And
when Clinton ran for re-election a year later, the company made its largest
single contribution ever$100,000to the President's party.