AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Letters released by state archivists suggest a personal relationship between President Bush and former Enron Corp. Chairman Kenneth Lay, though the White House has insisted that the two were never very close.
Documents released Friday show that Lay wrote repeatedly to Bush throughout his governorship, seeking support for legislation benefiting Enron. Many of the letters concerned electricity deregulation and an overhaul of laws to make it harder to bring lawsuits.
Other letters were personal, with the two exchanging birthday, holiday and get-well wishes.
Some 350 pages of correspondence between them were released Friday following requests from news organizations and others under the state's open records law.
Bush wrote a note in 1997 wishing Lay a happy birthday: "55 years old. Wow! That is really old. Thank goodness you have such a young, beautiful wife. ... Laura and I value our friendship with you."
In a December 1999 letter, Lay wrote Bush and his wife, Laura, to thank them for a "Tejano Santa" print by artist Sam Coronado that the couple signed.
"It was so thoughtful of you to send it to us, and it is a gift we will treasure," Lay wrote, signing the note simply, "Ken." In a handwritten note at the bottom, Lay wrote, "Linda and I are so proud of both of you and look forward to seeing both of you in the White House."
White House and Enron officials have insisted that Bush and Lay were never very close.
Last month, Bush adviser Karl Rove said, "The president knows him. But the idea that he is a friend in the sense that this is a guy who's a close intimate is just ludicrous."
Bush said he met Lay in 1994 when the businessman was a supporter of Texas Gov. Ann Richards, a Democrat who was later defeated by Bush.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Friday that the documents were "old news."
"The president himself has acknowledged that Ken Lay was a supporter of his in the past," McClellan said.
In his two Texas gubernatorial campaigns, Bush received $312,000 from Enron officials, including Lay, who was one of his biggest donors. Bush received more than $100,000 from Enron officials for his presidential campaign.
In several of the letters released Friday, Lay urged Bush to support restructuring the state's electricity market, which would benefit the fallen energy trading giant.
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