Ex-Gore Aide Simon Will Lobby for Enron

Washington— Greg Simon, who spearheaded the cable open-access effort for America Online Inc. after leaving the Clinton White House, has signed up to lobby for Enron Corp., the Houston-based energy trading company with close political ties to the Bush Administration.

Simon — a top media and telecommunications adviser to former Vice President Al Gore and founder of his own lobbying firm, called Simon Strategies — filed a lobbying-registration form with the clerk of the House of Representatives on June 18. He also registered Simon Strategies assistants Kristan Van Hook and Ann Morton as Enron lobbyists.

On the form, Simon said he planned to lobby the White House, Congress, the Commerce Department and the Federal Communications Commission "in furtherance of national policies that support competitive access by content providers to broadband communications networks."

Simon declined to discuss his Enron duties, except to say he was lobbing for the company directly, indicating that Enron was not joining Simon's OpenNet coalition — the group once funded by AOL to pressure the FCC and Congress to impose open Internet access mandates on the cable industry.

"I am not registered to do [Enron's] press for them," Simon said in a phone interview. "You have to talk to them about what they want to say to the press. That's not what they want me to do unless they give me the go-ahead to do that."

Enron is a $100 billion energy company with a broadband-services division. The company signed a video-on-demand deal with Blockbuster Inc., which collapsed in March with each side blaming the other for the venture's failure.

Enron chairman Kenneth Lay is a longtime informal adviser to President Bush on energy issues. He was one of 212 individuals who each raised $100,000 for the Bush campaign, while Enron provided corporate jets for Bush campaign officials, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Wendy L. Gramm, wife of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), is an Enron board director, according to Enron's company Web site.

U.S. News
also reported that Enron employees gave $1.3 million to the GOP last year. It also stated that three Bush administration officials — senior adviser Karl Rove, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis Libby, and top economic policy adviser Lawrence Lindsey — each owned at least $50,000 in Enron stock, though Rove has moved to sell the shares.

Sources said Simon is planning to revive the open-access issue on behalf of Enron and The Walt Disney Co. and perhaps expand the effort to include nondiscrimination by cable operators against unaffiliated interactive-television providers. Enron did not return phone calls seeking comment.

A Disney official has repeatedly said that the company has made no decision about joining any open-access or ITV coalition.

A source who recently met with Simon said the lobbyist indicated his Enron job would deal with open access to cable facilities.

"What he said suggested to me that he has had conversations with [Enron and Disney], and it does seem that those companies have something in common on open access," the sources said.

Another source said Enron, which owns an 18,000-mile global fiber-optic network, was looking to deliver content from that plant to end users over the last mile controlled by cable and phone companies.

"Their interest is, essentially, access to the local loop," the source said.

Cable industry sources said they were puzzled by Simon's latest move and didn't have a clear sense of where he would begin to apply pressure.

One cable industry wag quipped, "Enron is a major content provider — of oil, gas and electricity."

All Simon would say is that he is "representing Enron Broadband directly. Anything more, you have to talk to Enron about. I make it a habit not to put words in my client's mouth."