For the White House, Jack Abramoff Is No Ken Lay

White House press secretary Scott McClellan has reneged on his promise to provide a “thorough report” about administration contacts with Abramoff because he said he would not participate in a “fishing expedition.”

When the Enron scandal broke, however, the White House didn’t have any problems publicly detailing Ken Lay’s communications with top Bush administration officials. A January 4, 2002 article in USA Today documents a coordinated public relations campaign where cabinet members used details of their contacts with Lay in an effort to clear the administration:

The White House sent two Cabinet members on television news programs Sunday to emphasize that despite more than a dozen contacts, the administration did nothing to help Enron avert bankruptcy.

Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said on ABC that Enron CEO Kenneth Lay phoned Oct. 28 to seek leniency from Enron’s creditors. Lay called again Nov. 8 to talk about the firm’s financial status but “asked me for nothing,” said O’Neill, who took no action.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he had spoken to Lay about five times last year. “He was looking for all the possible ways he could stabilize his company,” said Evans, who decided not to respond. Neither Cabinet official informed President Bush of the calls, they said.

At least six other calls from Enron executives went to O’Neill’s domestic finance undersecretary, Peter Fisher. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham made a call to Lay on Nov. 2.

So what’s different this time? Why won’t the White House disclose this kind of information with Jack Abramoff? What are they trying to hide?