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January 21, 2003
Funds Go to Former Enron, WorldCom Workers
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iticians who received donations from the bankrupt companies of Enron and WorldCom have helped boost two charities aiding former workers of the two firms, the New York Times reports.

One fund for former Enron employees has raised $466,000 and 80 percent of that money has come from legislators and political action committees. The lawmakers and PACs also gave about 90 percent of the $192,000 in the WorldCom fund, the Times reports.

"Thousands of people suffered at the hands of WorldCom executives," says a spokesperson for Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, who gave the fund the $3,000 WorldCom donated to his 2002 campaign. "It seemed only right to help them out with the money that their company gave Gephardt's campaign."

The Justice Department recently contributed to the Enron fund after the department finalized a plea agreement with a former Enron executive. The department gave the fund the $79,468 it collected as part of the agreement, according to the Times.

The WorldCom fund gives any former employee who was laid off as much as $1,500 to pay for necessary expenses. The laid-off employees send their bills to the fund's administrators, and the fund pays them.

Former employees at the two firms created the funds to aid other workers who were struggling to find work. The concept of workers helping each other is not new, one professor tells the Times.

"In the 19th century, workers banded together to create burial societies that evolved into mutual aid societies," says Dwight F. Burlingame, a professor at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. "Employers simply weren't providing any benefits, so the workers banded together to get them, and what's happening with these new funds is very similar."

Thus far, the WorldCom fund has distributed funds to 138 families, the Times reports.

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