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Waxman Seeks Inquiry of Enron's Political Ties
By RICHARD SIMON and EDMUND SANDERS, TIMES STAFF WRITERS
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Henry A. Waxman has doggedly pursued an investigation into Enron Corp.'s political influence, but as a member of the House minority without subpoena power, the Los Angeles Democrat has been able to go only so far.
On Monday, he appealed to Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, to launch a probe of Enron's political activities--and do it with the same zeal used to investigate President Clinton's campaign fund-raising.
"A company that seemingly operated through fraud managed to become one of the most influential voices in Washington and a significant presence for both parties," Waxman, the panel's top Democrat, said in a letter to Burton. A Burton spokesman said the chairman had not seen the letter and would respond later in the week.
Although a dozen congressional panels are investigating Enron's collapse, none is focusing on the fallen energy giant's political activities, Waxman said. Since the 1989-90 election cycle, Enron's officers, directors, employees and political action committees have contributed almost $6 million to candidates and political parties. About three-quarters of that amount went to Republicans.
During the Clinton investigation, Waxman often assailed Burton's efforts as partisan. Waxman chief of staff Phil Schiliro said his boss was not seeking to limit the probe to Enron's ties to the Bush administration. In fact, Waxman asked Burton to seek from Enron records related to the use of its corporate jets by political candidates and documents detailing Enron contacts with both the Bush and Clinton administrations, as well as with members of Congress.
Waxman's request comes as former Enron chief Kenneth L. Lay is expected to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination today in his first Capitol Hill appearance since Enron filed for bankruptcy Dec. 2.
House Republican leaders began circulating draft legislation Monday designed to address accounting and oversight weaknesses exposed by Enron's collapse.
The bill--similar to several other proposals--would amend the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by requiring that accounting firms be subjected to review and sanctions by a newly created public regulatory organization, which would report any conflicts of interest or quality problems to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The draft bill would also require greater and faster financial disclosure by publicly traded companies, including details about stock sales by company insiders and off-the-books partnerships.
Another section would prohibit company officers and directors from selling shares during a blackout period that restricts sales by employees participating in a retirement program. And the bill would mandate more regular reviews of financial statements by the SEC, particularly for the largest U.S. companies.
A spokesman for Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said his boss plans to send a letter to former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling, asking him to "clear up some of the perceived inconsistencies" in his congressional testimony "as well as some of the discrepancies" between his testimony and that of other witnesses.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 13, 2002
Henry is the worst of you. He gets reelected only because he keeps his nose in anything that hits the news. It works. That's sad.
-- Carlos (email@example.com), February 16, 2002.