Enron and Campaign Finance Reform

 

        The ongoing saga of the rise and fall of Enron has become the finest example of the damage that can be done when your government is owned and operated by Corporate America.  Each time that Enron moved into a new energy field, your representatives had their palms greased sufficiently to change laws and regulations and even sign international treaties that were designed to make those moves far more profitable for Enron.  Both the Clinton administration and the moron's regime and nearly every single member of Congress and the Senate have sucked at the cash filled teat of Enron for the last decade. 

    Enron's rise to the pinnacle and descent into bankruptcy began, naturally enough, in Texas.  The company quickly became the largest briber in baby Bush's first run for governor of Texas and has remained the largest through his run for the presidency. 

    Little of this would have been possible, though, without another perfect example of the need for strong regulations prohibiting government employees moving directly from the role of overseer of an industry into the suites of that same industry. 

    In 1992, Dr. Wendy Gramm, wife of Senator Phil Gramm, was the chair of the federal Commodity Futures Trading Commission.  This commission was charged with regulating corporations that traded in energy futures, a field that Enron's CEO Kenneth Lay wanted to not only enter but to dominate.  in order for that to occur in the manner that Kay envisioned, though, it would have to be accomplished out of the regulatory eye of any government agency.  Thus, through the judicious bribery of Phil Gramm, Enron was able to convince the commission to exempt Enron's energy-swapping operation from that oversight.

    Once that policy was nearing completion, Wendy Gramm suddenly resigned from the commission and was very quickly appointed to Enron's board of directors with a salary of about $50,000, between $915,000 to $1.85 million in stocks and dividends, and $176,000 in attendance fees.  At he same time, Enron became the major corporate contributor to Sen. Gramm.

    On December 15, 2000, Phil Gramm appeared as co-sponsor of a bill that de-regulated energy futures completely and attached it to an 11,000-page appropriations bill which was passed and signed into law by then President Clinton.  In the next few months, Enron was basically in control of all energy in California and was the sole cause for the massive increases in prices as well as the rolling blackouts that plagued the state during that summer.  ( 1 )

        During the Clinton administration, Enron even went to the extremes of becoming members of such pro-environmental groups such as the Business Environmental Council of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, a liberal-leaning think-tank headed by Eileen Claussen, a former EPA and State Department official from the Clinton Administration.  Enron's CEO, Kenneth Lay, even joined two far-left organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Why would an energy corporation join forces with the very organizations that threatened to regulate the greenhouse gases that were contributing to the global warming problems?  Why indeed. 

    Enron was a strong supporter of the Kyoto Treaty, an environmental agreement that sought to lower CO2 emissions from developed countries.  Enron's interest of course, was due to the fact that one of the only effective measures that was available to the United States to decrease its emissions was to transfer from electricity generated from coal-fired plants and to replace it with cleaner burning natural gas.  This would play directly into Enron's hands since trading of natural gas hade already been deregulated through the actions of Gramm and would create a huge source of income for Enron.

    Once the results of America's obligation for CO2 reduction was truly understood - 7% below 1990 levels would cost every American between $921 to $1.320 every year - Enron saw another path to massive profits.  Rather than actually decrease actual CO2 emissions, Enron would set up a system in which developing countries would trade off their already below agreed upon discharge of greenhouse gases for cash payments from American corporations that would then no longer be required to reduce their local emissions.

    All of this would have undoubtedly been passed by Enron's property in government had it not come to pass that Enron would suddenly find itself having to restate their income for past years after some very irregular accounting tricks came to be known and the corporation began its lightening fast plunge into bankruptcy.( 2 )

    Although Lay tried to induce his property in the current regime to come to Enron's rescue, most of those contacted were reluctant to become involved for fear of exposure should the corporation fail anyway. ( 3 )  He was far more successful using Vice-President Chaney as a paid representative (bribed) in talks with the government of India over contracts between India and Enron regarding the price of electricty generated by a hydro power plant being built and operated by Enron and whose loans had been guaranteed by federal agencies.  Chaney did as he was told and, although he failed, his involvement has raised serious questions in Congress.  ( 4 )

    Before that fall from grace, Lay had one more trick up his sleeve in order to walk away form his self-created fiasco with hundreds of millions of dollars.  Those dollars, of course, had to come from somewhere and he and his pack of sluts in the suites decided that Enron's employees would be that source.

    With just days to go before Enron's possibly criminal accounting practices were to become public, Lay entered an employee's forum and boasted about Enron's supposedly great future and profit potentials and encouraged all employees to purchase even more corporate stock for their 401(k) plans.  Once the stock value began to slide, though, Lay and his executives froze the accounts of all employees, sold off their own stocks, and left thousands of Enron employee's retirement funds nearly worthless.  ( 5 )

    The most moronic statement of this year from this regime came from Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who proclaimed his odd belief that, "Part of the genius of capitalism is people get to make good decisions, or bad decisions, and they get to pay the consequence or to enjoy the fruits of their decisions." ( 3 )  Obviously, this bozo is speaking of the thousands of Americans who made the bad decision to become employees of Enron since the sluts in the suites left with hundreds of millions of dollars in stock profits while the employees were screwed beyond belief by those same vile little creatures.  In fact, this entire sad affair is now being touted by the Rabid Right as an example of the failure of regulation, claiming that the SEC should have prevented this disaster and protected Enron's investors.  The problem with this accusation is, as is always the case with the rabid right's rants.  The Republican Party has spent years weakening the oversight powers of all federal agencies through reductions in their budgets and by filling their committees with hard line right wingers who prefer absolutely no regulation of Corporate America and, thus, refuse to fulfill their oversight responsibilities.  Once the power and desire to protect Americans have been watered down through these unvarying routines, the Rabid Right then tries to point out how smart they are when all they truly are is simply cunning and capable of backstabbing the American people with glee and gusto.

    Gentle readers, this stupidity is exactly the same process that the right is trying to fool America with over Social Security.  By refusing to allow any changes to be made to the basic structure of the system such as means testing for the wealthy or raising the amount of income taxed by Social Security to erase any upper limits, the Rabid Right is able to then create committees to "investigate" ways to "save" Social Security.  They then place their friends on these panels with the intention of recommending exactly what the right wanted all along such as the privatization of the system, a move guaranteed to leave millions of elderly Americans living in alleys with nothing but boxes as shelter each time the stock market goes to shit like the last few years.

    Frankly, Enron is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Corporate America's corruption.  Enron was one of the major designers of this regime's insane and foolish "energy policy".  That process was secret and Cheney is now attempting to claim "executive privilege" in hope of keeping that process secret, a move that guarantees that the entire process stinks and that laws were almost certainly broken.

    It will prove interesting, though, just how much Congress can do in its investigations since, of the six Senate committee hearings and three House hearings, there are only three individual elected members who have never received bribes from Enron over the years.  Even the Justice Department has its problems since Attorney General Ashcroft and the entire Houston office of the Justice Department have had to recuse themselves because they are so deeply involved in Enron's purchase of elected officials.

    If there was ever a shining example of the dangers to democracy that bribery in the guise of political contributions inflict on America, this is it.  We can only hope that we never find ourselves facing any better one.

   



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Copyright 1/20/02