Ron Kirk and John Cornyn took part in a televised debate here last night. Both came out swinging, with Enron being a particular point of contention:
"You basically served as in-house counsel for Enron," Kirk told Cornyn, the state's attorney general, who has received thousands of dollars in Enron-related campaign donations during his political career. "The bad news is the people of Texas were paying you at the time."
Cornyn, noting that Kirk's Dallas law firm did work on behalf of the former energy trader, asked Kirk, a former Dallas mayor, whether he felt he could still work in the public's interest.
"What I think the people of Texas want to know is how you can stand here and attack me on Enron when your law firm took $180,000 from Enron," Cornyn said.
Central to the exchange over Enron, Kirk took Cornyn to task for a ruling that allowed Enron to keep financial information secret as it pursued business in the state's deregulated utility market.
Cornyn's opinion was issued just weeks before Enron's finances began publicly unraveling.
Noting that Cornyn accepted $193,000 in contributions from the company and its employees, Kirk said the attorney general's ruling "rewarded them well" for the political support.
Cornyn responded that his ruling was in compliance with law, and that he subsequently recused himself from handling any aspect of investigating Enron.