Bush Staff To Turn Over Enron Docs

Responding to a Senate subpoena, the White House's top lawyer ordered all employees in President Bush's executive office to produce by May 31 any official documents related to contacts with Enron officials.

Presidential counsel Alberto Gonzales told the 2,000 or so employees in a memo Friday that they are required to make "a reasonable, diligent and good-faith search" of all official documents in their possession and to certify in writing that they have done so.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee has been seeking the information from the White House since late March as part of its Enron Corp. investigation. The panel issued subpoenas Wednesday to the offices of Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to compel the turnover of relevant documents by noon on June 3. The material being sought goes back to January 1992, also covering the Clinton administration.

Hours after the Democratic-controlled committee voted on party lines to issue the subpoenas, the White House provided summaries of dozens of contacts between Bush administration officials, including Cheney, and Enron executives. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., the panel's chairman, said the material fell short of what the subpoenas demand.

"The committee is pleased the White House appears to be taking good-faith steps to collect documents responsive to the subpoenas," Lieberman spokeswoman Leslie Phillips said Friday. "The only outstanding question is whether they will turn the material over to the committee."

Gonzales also had asked 204 White House staffers to fill out a questionnaire concerning contacts with Enron officials.

No instance has been found so far of Enron officials asking anyone in the White House for help before Enron's bankruptcy filing last Dec. 2, Gonzales said.

The Houston-based company has been among Mr. Bush's biggest campaign contributors.

In the memo to White House staff, Gonzales said they must produce all official documents, including e-mails, related to:

  • Communications between anyone working for or representing Enron and any executive office employee from Jan. 1, 1992, through Dec. 2, 2001.
  • Communications regarding Enron between any executive office employee and any employee of any federal department or agency during the same period.

    A spokeswoman for Cheney said his office planned to send a similar directive to employees.

    "We'll be responding similarly. We intend to and want to cooperate with Sen. Lieberman's committee," said Jennifer Miller Wise.

    The General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, sued Cheney in February to force release of the names of figures from Enron and other companies in the oil industry who met last year with the vice president's energy task force.

    The Bush administration disclosed in January that then-Enron chairman Kenneth Lay made a series of telephone calls to members of the Bush Cabinet, including Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans, as the company sank toward collapse last fall.