Jeffords Will Donate Enron Money to Employees' Fund

01/18/02 12:00AM



(Host)
When the Enron Corporation was flying high, it spread political donations all around Capitol Hill. Some of that money went to Senator James Jeffords, the Vermont Independent.

Enron is now bankrupt. The company is part of a widening scandal involving allegations it hid millions of dollars in losses from investors.

Jeffords says he'll donate his Enron contribution to a fund established to help the company's workers.

VPR's John Dillon has more.


(Dillon)
Jeffords is among 71 senators who benefited from Enron's largess. By Enron's standards, Jeffords didn't get much. The $2,500 he got is tiny compared to the $99,500 that the company gave to Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Enron gave the money to Jeffords before the 2000 election.

Now Jeffords wants to get rid of the money. Here's his spokesman Erik Smulson:

(Smulson) "In light of the recent revelations about the manner in which Enron has conducted its business, Senator Jeffords has decided to return that contribution¿ to a non-profit group that's been set up [for] former Enron employees, especially those who lost money on their pension funds."

(Dillon)
Thousands of Enron employees had their pensions invested in Enron stock. While top company executives managed to sell off their shares before the company fell, many employees saw their savings vanish.

Jeffords is a former chairman of the pensions committee. Smulson says the senator plans to investigate how the Enron pensions were controlled.

Ten Congressional committees are investigating various aspects of the Enron issue. According to the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics, members of those committees received about $722,000 from Enron. However, no member of Congress has yet said he or she will step aside from the investigations because of a possible conflict of interest. Smulson says Jeffords does not believe the Enron donation influenced his work in the Senate:

(Smulson) "From Senator Jeffords's perspective, there's really no connection between getting a campaign contribution and his performance as a senator. You know, Senator Jeffords ¿ would like to see the system changed. But until the system is changed, he's going to live by the rules."

(Dillon)
Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy stopped taking money from political action committees several years ago and did not get money from Enron. Congressman Bernie Sanders also did not receive donations from the company.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon.
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