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Diaz-Balart hits "Enron Joe"

Joe Garcia = Enron?? So says Mario Diaz-Balart in his first attack ad. The 30-second spot looks to tie Garcia, the former chair of the Florida Public Service Commission, to rate hikes and the highly reviled energy company Enron, which went belly up in 2001, taking retirees' pensions with it.

The ad references an internal  Enron memo. that says Enron officials had talked to Garcia about a seat on the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission -- or as Diaz-Balart spokesman Carlos Curbelo put it, Garcia "tried to cozy up to corporate fraud poster child Enron to beg for a Bush appointment in Washington."

A spokesman for Garcia said the commercial is a "lie" and is aimed at distracting voters from Diaz-Balart's record. A 2002 USA Today story about the incident notes that Garcia "disclosed some details of his Enron interviews to The New York Times and Frontline" in 2001 and that several potential appointees had talked with Enron.

Garcia said in the USA Today story that Enron officials "made it clear they disagreed with his view that state regulators, not just their federal counterparts, should have a say over deregulation of energy wholesale markets...Sensing Enron would oppose his candidacy, Garcia says he spoke to (former Enron chief Kenneth) Lay and stressed that he would keep an open mind on issues if appointed to the commission."

The ad also accuses Garcia of supporting a "huge rate hike on Florida families." Garcia's camp says he was not a member the panel that ok'd the $88 million rate hike in 1997. And it says less than 2 months later he and the commission "unanimously approved refunds for customers and an end to the rate hike."