Morning Political Note: Jan. 25

Often, Friday is for casual dress, checking moviefone.com, and finalizing weekend plans. But if you're in the political media maelstrom, get ready for 110 hours of non-stop adrenaline from this moment through the return of Tuesday night's insta-polls and dial-meters gauging America's response to the State of the Union.

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News Summary

A LOT is going on in public and behind the scenes on politics, Enron, the economy, and the war.

But in our world, the story that may get the most attention today belongs (as it often does) to Mr. Richard L. Berke of the New York Times.

Democrats and reporters sniffing around the Enron story, not content to let it stay "just a big business scandal," have focused their attention on Karl Rove. Democrats seem certain that there's more to his Enron ties than has been revealed, even as Rove has "worked" the Enron matter, trying to reframe the perception of how close the President was to Ken Lay by injecting under-reported facts into the public ken, reminding reporters that much of what Enron did and got took place during the Clinton Administration, and directing an operation that has aggressively pointed out Democratic lobbyist and lawmaker ties to Enron.

Now Mr. Berke, who writes as much about the President's top political advisor as any other national reporter, leads the paper's business section today with a story about Rove, Republican strategist and Georgia state party chairman Ralph Reed, and Enron. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/25/business/25REED.html )

The undisputed facts: Reed worked as a well-paid consultant to Enron from September 1997 until just recently, and Rove said nice things about him to the folks at Enron.

According to anonymous "Rove associates" with whom Berke spoke, however, there is more to it than that: "The Rove associates say the recommendation, which Enron accepted, was intended to keep Mr. Reed's allegiance to the Bush campaign without putting him on the Bush payroll. Mr. Bush, they say, was then developing his 'compassionate conservativism' message and did not want to be linked too closely to Mr. Reed, who had just stepped down as executive director of the Christian Coalition, an organization of committed religious conservatives."

"At the same time, they say, the contract discouraged Mr. Reed, a prominent operative who was being courted by several other campaigns, from backing anyone other than Mr. Bush."

Rove and Reed emphatically deny these additional "facts" to Berke.

"But a friend of Mr. Bush recalled a discussion in July 1997 in which Mr. Rove took credit for arranging an Enron job for Mr. Reed. 'Karl told me explicitly of his concerns to take care of Ralph,' this person said. 'It was important for Karl's power position to be the guy who put this together for Ralph. And Bush wanted Ralph available to him during the presidential campaign.'"

"Mr. Rove was concerned, this person also said, that Mr. Reed not have a prominent public role in the campaign because 'Ralph was so evangelical and hard right, and Karl thought it sent the wrong signal.' Another Republican said: 'It was basically accepted that Enron took care of Ralph. It's a smart way to cut campaign costs and tie people up' so they do not work for other candidates."

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