Even though Brownback promised that "you'll see the war on terrorism expand to other nations: the Philippines, Somalia, the Sudan, Iraq," this breaking news was of little interest to a crowd worried about Social Security. When a questioner asked whether Enron officials would be "let off" because of their political contributions, audience members shouted her down with a "NO!"
"Enron has played politics a lot, on both sides of the aisle," Brownback said gravely. "The more impactful thing was that people didn't know about this on Wall Street."
Brownback could have said, "Even I took contributions from Enron." But maybe he'd done the math and figured out that Enron's piddly-ass $2,750 in donations to him since 1989 suggested that he wasn't a Very Important Player in Washington.
His Kansas colleague, Pat Roberts, scraped together $8,000 from Enron, while Missouri Senator Kit Bond scored $18,500. In the House, Missouri's Dick Gephardt ($4,750) outranked Roy Blunt ($2,500), while Karen McCarthy, Kenny Hulshof and Jo Ann Emerson barely even rated, pulling less than $1,000 each. Kansas reps did a little better, with Jim Ryun's measly $1,250 and Todd Tiahrt's $2,000.
Brownback didn't disclose his tiny take of the dirty money to his hometown constituents, but by the end of the week he'd told the Associated Press that he would donate it to Habitat for Humanity. The AP named dozens of lawmakers who had taken Enron's money and would be investigating the company's collapse. The Kansas City Star ran that story January 21 -- with a picture of Senator Jean Carnahan, who took $1,000 from Enron's greasers.
Except that she didn't. "That's been widely misreported," says Carnahan spokesman Dan Leistikow. "She received an unsolicited contribution of $1,000 from Enron's political action committee on June 20, 2001, and returned it one week later, on June 27. The check was never cashed."
As a member of the Senate's Governmental Affairs Committee, Carnahan had "developed concerns about Enron's business practices" last summer while the committee was investigating the California energy crisis, Leistikow says. "She chose not to accept contributions from their PAC."