WASHINGTON - May 26 - Former Enron Corp. executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were found guilty Thursday on charges of conspiracy and fraud, more than four years after the demise of their high profile energy trading company shocked the corporate and political world. Enron founder Lay was convicted on all the charges against him, while former chief executive officer Skilling was convicted on 19 of the 28 counts.
As notorious as the Enron chiefs were for their clandestine business practices — practices that propelled one of the greatest corporate scandals in U.S. history — they were equally well-known for their patronage of George W. Bush's political career. From Bush's tenure as governor of Texas through his rise to the presidency, Enron offered its financial resources to Bush and often received what appeared to be legislative favors.
The Center for Public Integrity was the first to report on this mutually beneficial relationship, identifying Enron as Bush's top "career patron" in its book, The Buying of the President 2000. The Center has followed the Enron scandal from its inception in 2001 to today's events. This is a timeline of our investigative reporting:
January 5, 2000 — The Center for Public Integrity identifies Houston-based Enron Corp. as George W. Bush's No. 1 "career patron" in The Buying of the President 2000. The Center notes that Enron was one of the more than two dozen corporations to benefit from a voluntary emissions compliance program that Bush put into place while governor of Texas.
January 9, 2002 — The Center reports that 24 top executives and directors of Enron contributed a total of nearly $800,000 to President Bush, the national political parties, members of Congress, and others overseeing investigations of the company for possible securities fraud from 1999 through 2001. The Center's report also notes Enron's $1.9 million in "soft money" donations over that same period and discloses that Kenneth Lay, Enron's chairman, made significant contributions to a political committee set up by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Within a day of the release of the Center's report, Ashcroft recuses himself from the Enron investigation.
January 11, 2002 — The Center reports that 14 of the 100 highest-ranking officials in the Bush administration reported owning stock in Enron on their personal financial disclosure forms. Among the largest: White House political adviser Karl Rove, with shares valued at more than $100,000 (and possibly as high as $250,000).
February 25, 2002 — "No politician in America today is closer to Enron than George W. Bush," Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, writes. "Bush's top career patron was Enron. The company and its employees gave the governor of Texas $550,000 in the six years before the January 2000 Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses and primaries. Enron later gave $300,000 for the Bush inaugural celebration alone. A few senior Bush administration officials today formerly worked for Enron, and at least 34 of them held Enron stock when they entered government last year. Bush's father, while vice president and then president, received major campaign funding from Enron and assisted the company's Washington policy agenda in different, specific ways. Enron chairman Ken Lay was co-chairman of the Bush re-election campaign and chairman of the host committee of the Republican National Convention in Houston in 1992."
October 22, 2002 — Through its Web site, the Center makes public all of the documents concerning Bush's tenure at Harken Energy obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission through Freedom of Information Act requests. One internal memo reveals that one of Harken's commodities trading partners was Enron.
January 6, 2003 — The Center reports that Enron, which ran formidable lobbying machines in Washington, D.C., and state capitals, gained favorable treatment from Congress, federal and state governments, and various regulatory agencies no fewer than 49 times from the late 1980s through its December 2001 bankruptcy filing.
January 8, 2004 — The Center's book, The Buying of the President 2004: Who's Really Bankrolling Bush and His Democratic Challengers — and What They Expect in Return, reveals that Bush, while he was governor of Texas, relied on Enron and Ken Lay for more than just campaign contributions. When Bush needed help launching his education plan, Lay pledged his support, and when Bush wanted to start an internship program in the governor's office, Lay came through with the funding. And when Lay wanted changes in tort, tax, or environmental laws, the book reports, Bush was accommodating.