Bush Staff Well Invested in Energy

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Members of the White House staff held sizable amounts of stock in energy companies, including at least $100,000 worth of shares in Enron Corp., the giant energy marketing firm, owned by top presidential advisor Karl Rove, the Bush administration said Friday.

Based on the advice of the Office of Government Ethics, the staff members are preparing to sell their investments, have already done so or have recused themselves from policy discussions involving companies they have invested in, the White House said.

Financial disclosure forms released by the administration show that several of the officials had significant income and assets. Among them was Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security advisor, who held at least $250,000 in Chevron Corp. stock and had an income last year of more than $555,000, and Lawrence Lindsey, President Bush's chief economic advisor, whose income last year included a salary of about $920,000 as managing director of the New York firm Economic Strategies.

The documents provided the first look at the finances of the senior staff working closely with Bush as the new administration sets course.

The White House said the officials had either sold holdings in specific companies or recused themselves from discussions that could have an effect on their holdings while in the process of shedding the stocks.

However, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, which studies the role of money in politics, said that while the White House staff may be meeting legal requirements, the investment in the energy industry "helps explain the very close relationship the Bush administration has with energy companies overall.

"I doubt that President Bush is unaware of Karl Rove's position on the issues affecting energy companies," spokesman Steven Weiss said.

Among those filing statements, Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, said he kept at least $500,000 in checking and savings accounts at the Bank of America.

The statements require senior officials to list assets and income in a broad range of figures, from $1,001 to $15,000, for example, or from $250,001 to $500,000. Thus, precise amounts cannot be determined.

While the forms show substantial wealth on the part of some Bush aides, not all exceeded $1 million. And significant wealth in the top tier of presidential administrations is far from unusual. Similar forms filed by President Clinton's staff, for instance, showed a number of top aides were millionaires.

Bush and Cheney filed financial disclosure forms several weeks ago. Bush's net worth was at least $9.9 million and Cheney's was at least $10 million--including at least $1 million in a joint checking account in the Northern Trust Bank.

In addition to stock valued between $100,001 and $250,000 in Enron, Rove, who is Bush's chief political strategist, held similar amounts in American Express, General Electric Co., Pfizer Inc., Boeing Co., Johnson & Johnson, Cisco Systems Inc., Wells Fargo and Intel Corp.

In an interview, Rove said he had followed the advice of the White House counsel's office "on recusing ourselves from anything that would specifically or materially affect our financial holdings."

"I took part in no discussions that would specifically impact my holdings," he said, adding that he had avoided such discussions "on several occasions."

Rove said he plans to sell his shares, as well as his wife's holdings, but was told by the ethics office to take no action until he receives the office's certificate of divestiture.

"I have to receive a certificate of divestiture in advance of sale or pay capital gains taxes," he said, adding that he has been waiting to receive the paperwork.

He signed his disclosure form on Dec. 30, 2000, three weeks before Bush was inaugurated and five days before Bush announced he was appointing Rove to the job as his strategist.

Anne Womack, an assistant White House press secretary, said that some officials, although members of Bush's senior staff, were not expected to divest themselves of their holdings because their work has no effect on policy. Among them are Clay Johnson, Bush's personnel chief, and Albert Hawkins, the Cabinet secretary.

"The White House counsel's office worked with each of the filers to help them meet the highest ethical standard," Womack said. "Some have divested themselves, some have been advised to recuse themselves from certain issues, and in some cases, no changes were necessary because the nature of their work will in no way affect their financial situation."

Rice, for example, said she had sold her Chevron stock and nearly all her other stocks.

Others with energy holdings included Libby, the Cheney aide, who reported that he had sold Texaco Inc. stock valued between $15,001 and $50,000 and lesser holdings in Enron Corp., Schlumberger Ltd., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Karen Hughes, the president's counselor, listed oil and gas royalty interests in Pecos County, Texas, worth between $15,000 and $50,000.

Johnson, whose job involves filling political positions across the administration, holds at least $100,000 in El Paso Energy Partners and at least $65,000 in oil royalties, and at least $50,000 in separate bonds from Texas Muni Power and Duke Power.

Nicholas Calio, the White House director of legislative affairs--Bush's representative to Congress--holds stocks with values of at least $15,000 in each of three energy-related companies: Exxon Mobil, General Electric and Texaco.

Andrew H. Card Jr., Bush's chief of staff, was a vice president of General Motors Corp., heading its office of global government relations, for which he was paid $479,000 last year. His assets ranged from $800,000 to $1.75 million, including a family home in Holbrook, Mass., and an IRA account, mutual funds and municipal bonds.

Stephen J. Hadley, Bush's deputy national security advisor, had assets between $900,000 and $2.1 million; Margaret La Montagne, director of the domestic policy council, held between $100,000 and $200,000 in stock.

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Times staff writers Edwin Chen and Robert L. Jackson contributed to this story.

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