WASHINGTON (AP) The White House revealed yesterday that Enron Corp., an energy firm closely tied to President Bush, sought the administration”s help shortly before collapsing with the life savings of many workers. In a separate disclosure, the company”s auditors said they had destroyed many Enron documents.

In the rapid swirl of events, each one raising questions about potential conflicts of interest, Attorney General John Ashcroft disqualified himself from the criminal inquiry into Enron”s conduct. The company donated thousands of dollars to Ashcroft”s Senate campaign in 2000.

Bush, who counts Enron as one of his biggest political contributors, pledged to aggressively pursue the investigation into whether the Texas-based firm defrauded investors, including 401(k) plan holders, by concealing vital information about its finances.

“Ken Lay is a supporter,” the president said of Enron chairman Kenneth L. Lay. “But what anybody”s going to find is that this administration will fully investigate issues, such as the Enron bankruptcy, to make sure we can learn from the past and make sure that workers are protected.”

Bush said he saw Lay twice last year, but they did not discuss Enron”s financial problems. Lay did seek help last fall from Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Bush”s chief political fund-raiser and confidant, and contacted Treasury Secretary Paul O”Neill about the firm”s financial woes, O”Neill and Evans said. And Enron revealed that Lay also called Fed chairman Alan Greenspan about the company”s problems.

Lay, however, denied that he sought assistance from the government. Enron said that Lay”s calls to O”Neill, Evans and Greenspan were merely to give them a “heads up” about Enron”s problems.

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