Hopkins hires ex-Enron official

Robertson to head office of public affairs at college

Not seen as connected to scandal

July 23, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

The Johns Hopkins University announced yesterday that it has hired a former vice president of Enron Corp. to head its government relations and public affairs office.

Linda L. Robertson, 47, will start at Hopkins on Sept. 3. She will be responsible for enhancing the ties among the university and the city, state and federal governments. She will also work with Johns Hopkins Medicine and the communities it serves. Essentially she will act as Hopkins' chief lobbyist.

Robertson, an Oklahoma native, is well connected in Washington, having served almost eight years as a senior official at the U.S. Treasury Department. She also has worked on Capitol Hill and at several Washington law firms.

Those connections led Enron to hire her in November 2000 as its vice president of federal government affairs, a position she held until February of this year, when she was told to close up Enron's Washington office and was terminated.

The Houston-based conglomerate has been accused by some California officials of manipulating energy markets to increase profits while that state was racked with rolling power blackouts. The corporation's executives also are accused of defrauding stockholders, by lying about the corporation's profits and debts. When the corporation's true value was discovered, the company was found to be several billion dollars in debt, its stock was devalued and it ultimately had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time, it was the largest bankruptcy in the nation's history.

Some have also accused the Bush administration of allowing the company's executives extraordinary access as the administration drafted a proposal for a national energy policy. Last year, Robertson and former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay met with Vice President Dick Cheney to discuss energy issues. She also met once with Lawrence Lindsey, the chief economic adviser to the president, and about eight times with members of Cheney's task force that was developing the energy policy.

The meetings focused on opening up the country's electric, natural gas and transportation systems to competition, which Enron advocated, Robertson said yesterday. California's energy crisis was also discussed, she said.

Unlike other former top Enron executives, Robertson has not been subpoenaed to testify before Congress as it has investigated the scandal that brought down the energy giant. She said she has "left that chapter behind." Robertson is generally not considered to have played a role in the scandal.

"Like many of the employees, I was outraged to hear and learn what had happened," she said. "I was extremely disappointed."

Hopkins officials said her association with the firm did not trouble them.

"The totality of her career was such that the university was persuaded she was the right person for the job," said Hopkins spokesman Dennis O'Shea. "The people who interviewed her looked at the job she had done at Treasury, the recommendations she was getting from her former associates and the totality of her career."

Robertson has received the Treasury Department's highest honor, the Alexander Hamilton Award.

She joined the department in 1993 as a deputy assistant secretary. She was promoted to assistant secretary and senior adviser before leaving in 2000.

Robertson was instrumental in winning congressional approval for an $18 billion commitment to the International Monetary Fund. She also helped secure billions of dollars for Third World debt relief.

In announcing Robertson's job at Hopkins, university President William R. Brody said, "Linda will seek to enhance our strong ties with our neighbors, civic leaders and elected and appointed officials in Baltimore and other communities where Johns Hopkins has a presence." Hopkins officials declined to disclose her salary.

Robertson is a 1976 graduate of Southern Illinois University. She earned a law degree from the University of Tulane in 1979 and a master of law degree in taxation from Georgetown University in 1986.

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