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Connect the Enron Dots to Bush: Enron is Whitewater in spades

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Enron Archives

Source: Truthout.com

Connect the Enron Dots to Bush
Robert Scheer | Los Angeles Times

December 11 2001

Enron is Whitewater in spades. This isn't just some rinky-dink land investment like the one dredged up by right-wing enemies to haunt the Clinton White House--but rather it has the makings of the greatest presidential scandal since the Teapot Dome.

The Bush administration has a long and intimate relationship with Enron, whose much-discredited chairman, Kenneth L. Lay, was a primary financial backer of George W. Bush's rise to the presidency.

It was Enron that provided the model for the administration's trickle-down attempt to revive an economy that's been in steep decline during Bush's tenure. That model gives the fat-cat corporate hotshots everything they want in return for bankrolling political campaigns. Not to worry about the rest of us because, hey, what's good for Enron is good for America. That it hasn't been is now painfully clear.

What did Enron get in return for its contributions? It got its way on deregulation, for one thing. Remember when the administration refused to assist California and other states during the energy crisis, and consumers paid the steep price?

So greedy was Enron that it locked its own workers into a pension plan based on inflated company stock values and suspect hidden partnerships, while the top leadership led by Lay made out like bandits.

Bush should be called as a witness in the congressional hearings scheduled to unravel this mess. One thing that should come up in the hearings is then-Gov. Bush's October 1997 telephone call on behalf of Lay to then-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to help Enron crack into the tightly regulated Pennsylvania electricity market.

"I called George W. to kind of tell him what was going on," Lay told the New York Times about the 1997 phone call, "and I said that it would be very helpful to Enron, which is obviously a large company in the state of Texas, if he could just call the governor [of Pennsylvania] and tell him [Enron] is a serious company, this is a professional company, a good company."

Since we now know Enron lacked those virtues, it's clear Bush was used to sell a bill of goods to the unsuspecting Pennsylvania folks.

That Lay was instrumental in Bush's rise to the presidency is indisputable. Since 1993, Lay and top Enron executives donated nearly $2 million to Bush. Lay also personally donated $326,000 in soft money to the Republican Party in the three years prior to Bush's presidential bid, and he was one of the Republican "pioneers" who raised $100,000 in smaller contributions for Bush. Lay's wife donated $100,000 for inauguration festivities.

As governor, Bush did what Enron wanted, cutting taxes and deregulating utilities. The deregulation ideology, which George W. long had adopted as gospel, allowed dubious bookkeeping and other acts of chicanery that shocked Wall Street and drove a $60-billion company, seventh on the Fortune 500 list, into bankruptcy.

This emerging scandal makes Whitewater seem puny in comparison; clearly there ought to be at least as aggressive a congressional inquiry into the connection between the Bush administration and the Enron debacle. Facts must be revealed, beginning with the content of Lay's private meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney to create the administration's energy policy.

What was Lay's role in the sudden replacement of Curtis Hebert Jr. as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman? As the New York Times reported, Hebert "had barely settled into his new job this year when he had an unsettling telephone conversation with Kenneth L. Lay, [in which Lay] prodded him to back ... a faster pace in opening up access to the electricity transmission grid to companies like Enron." Lay admits making the call but in an unctuous defense of his influence peddling said, "The final decision on [Hebert's job] was going to be the president's, certainly not ours." Soon after, Hebert was replaced by Texan Pat Wood, who was favored by Lay.

Other questions: Was there any conflict of interest in the roles played by key Bush aides? Political advisor Karl Rove owned as much as $250,000 in Enron stock. And economic advisor Larry Lindsay and Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick went straight from Enron's payroll to their federal jobs.

There are other Enron alum in the administration, including Army Secretary Thomas White Jr., who, as anEnron executive, held stock and options totaling $50 million to $100 million.

Sponsors

We have a right to know whether the Enron alums in the administration were tipped off in time to bail out with profit the way Lay and the other Enron top execs did, while their workers and stockholders--and eventually U.S. taxpayers--are being left holding the suddenly empty bag.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Enron Archives

Waxman Asks Cheney to Come Clean: Says Cheney should divulge identities of members of the White House's secret energy task force and specifics about Enron..
Enron: Cooking The Books And Buying Protection.
Biography of Robert B. Zoellick, 13th U.S. Trade Representative.
Contributors to Bush's 1998 Texas governorship re-election.
Contributors to Bush's 2000 presidential election.
Cheney Frontline interview May 17, 2001.
Collapse of Enron May Reshape the Battlefield of Deregulation.
Enron Paid Out 'Retention' Bonuses Before Bankruptcy Filing.
Halliburton Battered as Asbestos Verdict Stirs Deep Anxieties: Call it the Enron aftershock.
Bush's Energy Plan Bares Industry Clout: Cheney-led task force consulted extensively with corporate executives. Its findings boosted their interests. Environmental groups had little voice.
Biggest US Power Firm Vetted Bush Energy Regulators: Applicants for jobs on the commission regulating the US energy market have been vetted by the Enron Corporation, the country's biggest electricity power company and a significant contributor to George Bush's election campaign, according to a report published yesterday.
Cash, Relationships Help Explain Bush Administrationís Hands-Off Policy in California Electricity Crisis: Top Power Suppliers Gave Millions to Republicans Two Key Power Companies Headed by Men With Close Ties to Bush.
Paying Back Big Energy Evil-Doers: Giving Big Bucks To Bush's Buddies at Enron, But Shunning the Middle-Class Turned Jobless.
The Fall of a Giant: Enron's Campaign Contributions and Lobbying
The Bush Payback: It's Never Been Easier to "Follow the Money"
The President Who Bought Power and Sold the World: George Bush's decision to ignore global warming and pull the plug on Kyoto is payback for the energy industries which backed him. Cheney profits from gulf war.
Cheney's Black Gold: Oil Interests May Drive US Foreign Policy.
You Can Bank on the Ethics of the Bush Administration.
Recognize the Link Between Oil, War.
America in the Grip of Bush's 'Iron Triangle': The network of big business interests that is now waiting to reap its rewards from an administration that may stand for little but revenge and greed.
CalPERS, Carlyle profit from Afghan war: Carlyle counts among its chieftains former Defense Secretary (and deputy CIA Director) Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of State James Baker and, most notably, former President George Bush.
Energy Execs Gain Millions in Stock Sales: Some say they have profited from the state's crisis. Others say the practice is standard.
The United States of Oil: No administration has ever been more in bed with the energy industry -- but does that mean Big Oil is calling Bush's shots?

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