WASHINGTON – President Bush headlined a two-day Justice Department conference of U.S. attorneys and others involved in the corporate corruption task force. He outlined his administration's progress toward curbing corporate abuse.
"No board room in America is above or beyond the law," Bush said shortly before leaving Washington for GOP fund-raisers and a weekend of rest in Crawford, Texas.
"We're defending our free enterprise ... against corruption and crime, and we're beginning a new era of corporate integrity," he said.
In the spring and early summer, an election-year wave of accounting scandals drove down the markets and threatened political damage to the White House and Republican lawmakers perceived as more closely connected to big business.
In response, Congress passed -- and Bush quickly signed -- legislation cracking down on boardroom fraud and making corporation financial reporting more transparent. Bush also created a task force of prosecutors, regulators and investigators, which he portrayed as a SWAT team on business wrongdoing.
More recently, however, the tough references to corporate crooks that were once a near-constant staple of Bush's remarks have appeared much less frequently in his standard stump speech.
And the evening before the conference, the president pulled in at least $8 million at the gala Washington fund-raiser heavily populated by corporate lobbyists.
Later Thursday, the president was departing the White House for a Western swing that was adding another three fund-raisers to his week's already packed campaign-cash collecting efforts, starting with an evening reception in Houston benefiting Texas' GOP Senate nominee, John Cornyn.
Friday will find the president in Denver stumping for House candidate Bob Beauprez and in Phoenix gathering donations for Arizona gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon. By the time Bush settles down at his ranch for a long weekend, he will have headlined six events for his party in five days.
With midterm elections that will decide the control of Congress barely a month off, the White House hoped the Justice Department event would refocus public attention on Bush's corporate fraud crackdown.
Among the cases being pursued by the Bush administration: alleged abuses by senior managers at Adelphia Communications and ImClone Systems Inc.; billions in bogus accounting at WorldCom Inc.; and Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department inquiries into accounting problems at Enron and Global Crossing.