By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
According to Public Citizen, "White's division traded more than 11 million megawatts of electricity in the California market alone, making nearly 98 percent of these trades with other Enron divisions at astronomical prices up to $2500 a megawatt hour (the standard price at the time was less than $340 a megawatt hour)."
Meanwhile in Washington, the company was paying Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a Washington lobby shop, more than half a million dollars in the first seven months of 2001 to lobby the "Executive Office of the President" on the "California electric crisis," according to the lobbying disclosure report filed with Congress on April 10, 2001. Ed Gillespie, the firm's co-founder, was former communications director at the Republican National Committee and a top Bush adviser during the campaign. Quinn Gillespie was lobbying to prevent the federal government from delving into the crisis and re-regulating electricity.
By this time, Bush himself was spouting the line that the people of California would just have to face up to the crisis of their own making. On January 30, 2001, the new president sought to distance his administration from the California energy crisis, arguing that his energy task force would seek long-term remedies, not short-term fixes. Bush said he believed California's energy deregulation plan was to blame for the state's problem, which "is going to be best remedied in California by Californians."
Bush then tried to change the subject by pushing Enron's interests in another area, the petroleum reserves of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "How do we encourage conservation on the one hand, and bring more energy into the marketplace? And a good place to look is going to be ANWR," said Bush. "And I campaigned hard on the notion of having an environmentally sensitive exploration to ANWR, and I think we can do so."
What politicians in Washington have known for years is that the Alaska debate is code for the more serious efforts by the oil and gas industry to find a way to transport Alaskan natural gas to the lower 48, eventually through a pipeline across Canada and into the Midwest. As the leading broker in natural gas and owner of the nation's largest natural gas pipeline, Enron's future was closely tied to such gas imports.
Behind the scenes, Enron CEO Ken Lay himself was twisting arms. Curtis Hebert Jr., head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told The New York Times that he had received a phone call from Ken Lay early in 2001. Hebert knew Lay was a friend of the Bush family and a heavy contributor to the Bush campaign. Lay asked him to push for faster and deeper deregulation in electricity. If he did so, Hebert recalled, Lay said he'd continue to back him within the administration; if not, the implication was there would be a new chairman. "I was offended," Hebert told the Times. Lay subsequently denied he was trying to force out Hebert, who was replaced by Pat Wood.
All through these early days of the Bush administration, Lay and other Enron executives were consulting on policy matters with Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.
Even with Enron in shambles, Bush's Enron bandwagon keeps rolling along. The president recently nominated Joseph Kelliher to FERC. On March 18, Kellihera top official of the Department of Energyasked in an e-mail to a key natural gas industry lobbyist, "If you were King, or Il Duce, what would you include in a national energy policy, especially with respect to natural gas issues? I am working up the policy elements, and am less confident of my judgement on gas pipeline issues than other areas, and thought I would pick your brain."
White folks heading east to celebrate Memorial Day at the Aryan Nations HQ in Pennsylvania have their fingers crossed for a special door prize. Their newsletter touts a raffle drawing for the coveted Adolf Hitler doll.
Additional reporting: Gabrielle Jackson, Meritxell Mir, and Michael Ridley