Los Angeles Times

Paul Wong
Heather Carson waits for her husband to bring her car around outside Enron Corp. headquarters with some of the plants she bought yesterday from the embattled company, which is longer paying for the plants” upkeep.<br><br>AP PHOTO

WASHINGTON The Enron Corp.”s collapse is forcing President Bush to balance his skepticism of government regulation against his desire to show his independence from the failed energy giant.

From the federal rules governing private pensions to securities law, accounting standards and even campaign finance reform, proposals are proliferating on Capitol Hill for laws and regulations to cope with the questionable practices highlighted by the company”s crash.

These multiplying Enron-related reform ideas present a pointed political dilemma for Bush.

He arrived in Washington generally committed to rolling back federal regulation of business. And he has staffed many key regulatory agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission with alumni of the industries they oversee.

But now, many analysts say, the White House may face irresistible pressure to distance itself from Enron by proposing new policy initiatives that respond to the company”s alleged abuses. This pressure “is going to nudge (the administration) even further away from its basic (anti-regulatory) ideological instincts,” said Donald Kettl, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin.

In the firestorm over Enron, Bush may face a political imperative similar to one that confronted President Clinton when his 1996 campaign fund-raising practices came under intense criticism. Clinton tried to transmute an ethical controversy into a policy debate by arguing that the real problem was a flawed system not his own actions and proposing campaign finance reform.

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