WASHINGTON – Congressional members, too, are counted among the casualties of the Enron Corp. bankruptcy, including representatives on the committees investigating it.
According to a review of financial disclosure forms, at least a dozen lawmakers reported they owned Enron stock at the start of 2001.
They include Rep. Jane Harmon, D-Calif., who dumped more than $250,000 of Enron stock when it was still trading in the $50 per share range -- much less than she had bought it for.
Losing thousands in the transfer, Harmon said she wanted to make a point because the company had done little in helping her state in its energy crisis.
But in contrast to some of her colleagues, Harmon made out well. The husband of Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., had $16,000 worth of Enron stock in his retirement portfolio even after the bankruptcy was announced in December. The total value of the stock has gone down to $120 since he purchased it in early 2001.
A Davis aide offered no explanation for why the stock wasn't sold earlier, but said the loss paled in comparison to those of Enron's workers whose retirement savings were wiped out by the collapse.
The congressional stock ownership is yet another layer in the financial web linking Enron to top federal officials. The company also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawmakers of both parties as well as to President Bush.
Enron is facing investigations from a growing list of congressional committees, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission following its collapse late last year in the nation's biggest corporate bankruptcy.
Despite their personal investments in the failed enterprise, none of the lawmakers who owned stock in Enron has disqualified himself or herself from the investigations, but Texas Sen. Phil Gramm is still weighing such a move, according to aides.
Gramm, the senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, owns no Enron stock, but his wife has been on the Enron board of directors since 1993 and is a member of the board's audit committee.
Wendy Gramm had a deferred compensation plan from Enron that was worth more than $500,000 when the company collapsed. Because of the bankruptcy filing, the plan no longer has value.
Harman, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, purchased Enron shares in September and December of 2000, when the Texas energy company's stock was selling for $70 to $80 a share. By June, when she sold it, the value had dropped to the $45 to $55 range.
"It appeared to her that Enron was not doing anything to help out in California and might have even been guilty of price gouging," said Ellia Thompson, a spokeswoman for the California Democrat. "She called her accountants, found out how much she owned and told them to sell it and to make sure that none of her funds purchased any more of it."
Other losses include that of a family trust owned in part by Sen. Mike Dewine, R-Ohio. It lost $53,154 on Enron trades between 1997 and the end of last year.
The trust, managed by Dewine's father, bought 2,000 shares of Enron stock on Nov. 9, the day Dynergy Corp. announced an agreement to purchase Enron. But that agreement fell through within weeks and the trust sold the stock on Dec. 19, losing $16,908 of the $17,768 invested on Nov. 9.
Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., also took a loss last year when he sold his Enron stock, which was worth between $15,000 and $50,000 at the end of 2000.
"He lost some money on it but he didn't ride it to the bottom," said Gayle Osterberg, his press secretary.
At least one lawmaker turned a profit on his Enron stock trading. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ala., using an independent investment manager, bought 95 shares of Enron in January 1999 and sold it between January and March of 2000, when the price was near its peak. He earned an 82 percent return on his $3,087