WASHINGTON – Before he became Florida governor, Jeb Bush invested about $91,000 and turned a small profit from an Enron partnership.
Bush is now getting fund-raising help for his re-election effort from former Enron president Richard Kinder, who took over the enterprise.
Bush's investment in Enron Liquids L.P. brought him a $7,000 profit, according to his 1995 tax return.
"It was an investment for less than a year and it was done long before last year's bankruptcy," the governor said this week.
Democrats eager to defeat the president's brother in the fall election are trying to make an issue of his ties to Enron.
In a state whose pension fund lost more than $300 million in the collapse, Bush's fund-raising trip to Kinder's Houston home "rubs in the face of people who lost their life savings," the chairman of the Florida Democratic Party said last month. The Bush camp said it saw no problem, since Kinder left Enron in 1996.
Bush, the state treasurer and the state comptroller oversee the agency in charge of investing the state pension fund.
"What Democrats are doing nationally in trying to capitalize on the suffering of Enron employees for their own cheap political gain is absolutely shameful," said Karen Unger, the governor's campaign manager. She called it "an act of sheer desperation" by the Democrats. Bush's tax return was released by his campaign four years ago.
Kinder also held a fund-raiser for Bush in 1998 before he was elected Florida governor.
Aside from the two fund-raisers, the two men have had infrequent contact, Larry Pierce, a spokesman for Kinder's energy company, said Thursday. They have run into each other occasionally at public events and have never had any business relationship, he added.
Kinder "hosted these fund-raisers as a favor to the Republican Party," said Pierce.
Kinder's latest event for Bush was a $500-per-person fund-raiser on Jan. 17 for about 100 political donors at Kinder's home.
Katie Baur, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the Jeb Bush investment was chosen for him by an investment advisory firm.
Investigators have been looking at some of Enron's partnerships as contributors to the company's collapse. Enron Liquids, however, was publicly traded and is not part of the investigation.
Kinder is a longtime political supporter of the Bush family and the Republican Party with contributions totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars dating to 1988.
In 1997 after leaving Enron, Kinder and a partner paid $40 million for the general partnership that ran the Enron Liquids pipeline network.
Kinder, Enron's president from 1990 to 1996, was the heir apparent to Chairman Kenneth Lay. But Kinder resigned when Lay decided to stay on for another five-year term. Kinder's successor, Jeff Skilling, is among those at the center of the various investigations into Enron's collapse.
Bush's re-election effort is one of the major gubernatorial races this fall. Former Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno is one of four Democrats seeking a chance to run against him in November.
The investment three years before he became governor is the only known investment by a member of President Bush's immediate family in an Enron partnership. President Bush said last month that his mother-in-law was among Enron Corp. stockholders who lost money on the failed company -- about $8,100.