Enron in Washington:
The Corruption of Class

Revolutionary Worker #1136, January 27, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

Small honey merchants in Yemen have been interrogated. Wire services used by Somalis in the U.S. to send money back home have been closed. Arab charity organizations have been told they can no longer operate. The U.S. "war on terrorism" has scoured the globe--tracking the international financial network behind Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, right under their noses, a huge global financial network of exploiters has been operating for years--financing dozens of U.S. politicians responsible for all kinds of crimes against the people, including an unjust war in Afghanistan that's killed thousands of people. This huge network of illegal off-shore tax havens, money laundering operations, speculative partnerships, and fraudulent companies that ripped off tens of thousands of its own employees, is known as Enron.

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Like a ruptured septic tank, Enron's collapse has spewed out dozens of ugly revelations about its ties to the highest levers of political power:

Enron officials had ready access to the highest rungs of power: Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay slept in the White House while Bush Sr. was president, played golf with President Clinton, and was on a first-name basis with George W., who gave him the nickname "Kenny boy." As the company slid into bankruptcy, Enron officials talked directly with Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, pleading for help.

Enron was intimately involved in the formulation of key government policies on energy, deregulation, commodities trading, and other issues. Enron officials secretly met six times with Vice President Dick Cheney last spring as he formulated the Bush administration's energy policy--and Cheney refuses to say what was discussed.

There's been a revolving door between Enron and government--Enron officials serving in government, government officials resigning to join Enron.

Bourgeois politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, are frantically ducking the muck being thrown in every direction by Enron's collapse. George Bush first lied about how long he'd known Enron Chairman Lay, then lied that Enron had supported his opponent in his campaign for Texas governor. The White House claimed no one there had discussed Enron's situation; that too was exposed as a lie within days. A host of officials are now returning Enron campaign contributions, as numerous official investigations are getting underway.

A Massive Web of Ties

As new revelations of ties between the White House and Enron ooze out by the minute, it's hard to keep track of who's an Enron executive and who's a government official. Enron's ties extend deep into George W's staff, appointments, Cabinet members, friends, family and his own past. Just to name a few:

At least four Enron consultants and executives hold high positions in the Bush White House, including Army Secretary Thomas White who, as an Enron executive, held stock and options totaling up to $50 million.

In 2000, Lawrence B. Lindsey was economic adviser to presidential candidate George W. He was also a paid consultant to Enron and attended meetings of Enron's economic "advisory board." Lindsey says ideas from Enron's Kenneth Lay were key to coming up with the Bush campaign's energy policy.

Newly appointed Republican National Committee Chairman Marc F. Racicot was an Enron lobbyist. Bush campaign adviser Ed Gillespie, sent in when Bush took office to get their Commerce Department up and running, was an Enron lobbyist.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham received campaign contributions from Enron.

Bush's homeland security director, Tom Ridge, also had Enron ties. At "Kenny boy's" urging, Bush called Ridge in 1997 when he was Pennsylvania governor to help with Enron's bid (eventually successful) to enter the Pennsylvania market.

Top government officials have quit to work for Enron, including Wendy Gramm, wife of powerful Texas Senator Phil Gramm and former chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In 1992, six days after she helped exempt energy futures traders like Enron from oversight, she resigned. Five weeks later she joined Enron's board of directors. According to a Public Citizen report, "Enron paid her between $915,000 and $1.85 million in salary, attendance fees, stock options and dividends from 1993 to 2001."

Such incestuous relations between the White House and huge corporations are a tradition: Harvey Pitt, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, used to be a lawyer for Arthur Andersen--Enron's accountants. Vice President Dick Cheney used to be head of Haliburton, a giant energy conglomerate. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose personal financial holdings are estimated to range from $50 million to $210 million, is a former drug industry executive. And Robert Rudin, Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, is now an officer of Citibank, which has extensive business dealings with Enron.

Such "job changes" are seen as perfectly normal among those who serve the interests of the U.S. ruling class, whether in or out of government.

Who will investigate the investigators?

The taint of Enron goes far and deep, and one problem the rulers have is figuring out just who's going to investigate Enron's collapse.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Banking Committee might do it. But it turns out that all but 5 of the 56 members of the House Committee got contributions from Enron or Arthur Andersen, and the Senate Banking Committee is headed by Phil Gramm who's received hundreds of thousands from Enron over the years. Overall 71 of 100 senators and 188 of 435 House members have gotten Enron money. And U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a recipient of Enron campaign contributions, has recused himself from any Enron investigations.

And Washington officials aren't the only ones having trouble finding people who at least appear to be "impartial" investigators. The entire U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston has been recused from the case because too many of its lawyers have personal ties to current or former employees of Enron. This happened the same day as Texas's top public utility regulator quit--because he was a former Enron executive.

Enron has been George W's biggest patron. Enron and its top executives donated nearly $2 million to W's political campaigns since 1993, and Enron contributed more money to Republican and Democratic politicians than any other corporation--$2.4 million in the 2000 election alone.

Enron gave 27% of its contributions to Democrats and many have gotten tens of thousands in Enron money.

In fact, during the 2000 elections businesses (mainly big corporations and financial institutions) gave Republican and Democratic politicians $841 million! $529 million was spent on the 2000 Presidential campaign and over $1 billion on Congressional races--75 percent of this money came from corporations and businesses.

The mantra of the entire ruling class--Democrats and Republicans, business leaders and politicians--has been faster and faster capitalism, fewer regulations, fewer oversights, fewer impediments to trade and investment, fewer barriers to the concentration and centralization of capital. Profit for the biggest financial groups is their measure of progress. This is the climate in which Enron, with all its ties to government, thrived.

During the Clinton administration, Enron got political support and $3 billion in import-export assistance to push forward its $2.9 billion Dahbol power plant project in India. Then Vice President Cheney picked up where the Clinton administration left off to personally lobby Indian officials for Enron.

Enron fought tooth and nail for deregulation. For instance, last year, Enron Chairman Lay met with Curtis Hebert who had recently been appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that oversees part of Enron's operations. Lay said he'd support Hebert if he pushed for further electricity deregulation. After Hebert refused, he was removed and replaced by an Enron ally from Texas.

Enron supported the Bush administration's opposition to regulating offshore tax havens, then helped Bush design his latest corporate tax cut--the so-called economic "stimulus package." Enron stood to get a $254 million tax rebate--even though it had avoided paying any income taxes for four of the past five years thanks to those same offshore tax havens.

The whole Enron scandal reveals a deep rot that is politics in America: A presidency enmeshed in a network of financial backers, political cronies, policy advisors and consultants--closely tied to a predatory corporation that thought nothing of robbing its employees blind.


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