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Citing Extensive Conflicts of Interest, Public Citizen Calls on Florida Governor to Recuse Himself from Pension Fund Investigations

Feb. 8, 2002

Citing Extensive Conflicts of Interest, Public Citizen Calls on Florida Governor to Recuse Himself from Pension Fund Investigations

In Letter to Gov. Jeb Bush, Public Citizen Urges Recusal

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Citing Florida Gov. Jeb Bush?s strong ties to Enron and his extensive entanglements with the company, Public Citizen today called on Bush to recuse himself from all actions relating to investigations into the state pension fund?s losses in Enron stocks and bonds. The organization also called on Bush to refrain from taking an active role in any lawsuits against Enron, Arthur Andersen or other entities related to Enron.

In a letter sent to Bush, the consumer advocacy organization urged Bush to disclose all his contacts with Enron executives since he was elected governor and to tell the public whether he knew anything about Enron?s shaky financial condition when the pension fund was buying Enron shares last fall that were plummeting in value. Public Citizen also asked Bush to outline what steps he plans to take to shield the pension fund from a similar loss in the future.

“Your longstanding relationship with the company and its executives requires that you step down from any potential involvement in bringing Enron to justice,” Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook wrote. “It is a state and national imperative that any wrongdoing be fully investigated and that these investigations avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest.”

In the letter, Claybrook noted that other prominent officials have recused themselves from involvement in any investigation or litigation involving Enron. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft did so, as did John Cornyn, attorney general for Texas. Three federal judges have done so, as has the entire U.S. Attorney?s office in Houston.

Among the reasons Bush should recuse himself :

  • He has been a business partner with Enron. In 1995, he invested nearly $92,000 in an Enron affiliate, Enron Liquids Pipeline, and sold his interest 10 months later for a $7,100 profit;
  • He appointed Walter Revell, a longtime friend of former Enron CEO Key Lay, to serve as chairman of the Florida 2020 Energy Study Commission. Bush also appointed James Garner III, lobbyist for Enron subsidiary Azurix, to the Governor?s Commission for the Everglades. Azurix wanted to obtain water rights in Florida;
  • Enron, its subsidiaries and its employees contributed $420,000 to Florida political campaigns between 1995 and 2001, more than 80 percent of that going to Republicans, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Additionally, Bush accepted nearly $20,000 from Enron, its subsidiaries, and the company?s accounting and law firms during his 1998 campaign, including $6,500 directly from Enron executives, according to Florida Department of State records;
  • Enron and its employees contributed $312,500 to President Bush?s 1994 and 1998 Texas gubernatorial campaigns, and another $113,800 to his presidential campaign. Enron also gave $10,500 to the Bush-Cheney Recount Fund and $300,000 to the Bush-Cheney 2001 Inaugural Fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Former Enron CEO Ken Lay reportedly gave money to the Foundation for Florida?s Future, a think tank the governor founded.
  • The deputy executive director of the Board of Administration, which oversees the pension fund, is Coleman Stipanovich, brother of J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich, a Republican political consultant and lobbyist who ran Bush?s gubernatorial campaign in 1994;
  • In January, Richard Kinder, former Enron president and large donor to Jeb Bush?s brother, President Bush, and the Republican Party, held a fundraising event for Jeb Bush at Kinder?s Houston home, which Jeb Bush attended.

“Clearly, Jeb Bush has strong ties to Enron and extensive entanglements that create a number of conflicts,” Claybrook said. “For the sake of the people of Florida, he ought to step out of this and let the independent investigators figure out what happened. Any actions he takes will be suspect, given the taint of these ties.”

Click here to view a?copy of Public Citizen?s letter.