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the rules in their favor
June 1, 2006
HOUSTON, Texas -- A Houston jury convicted both Ken Lay and Jeff
Skilling, despite the fact that Kenny Boy packed his Bible to the
courtroom every day.
Since it is a long and noble Texas tradition for the accused to fight
all allegations by finding Jesus, this indicates a major degree of
guilt. (While on trial for murder, T. Cullen Davis, the Fort Worth
millionaire, not only found Jesus but also threw a big party to
celebrate at the mansion, with piles of shrimp and BBQ and a soundtrack
that announced over and over throughout the grounds that night, "The son
of Stinky Davis has found the son of God.")
Meanwhile, Houston reacted as though the Rockets had won the NBA
Many a thoughtful analyst has given us to understand that Lay and
Skilling are guilty of arrogance and hubris. Actually, they were
convicted of fraud -- massive, overwhelming and monstrous fraud. They
also stole money and looted pension funds. They rigged energy markets
and almost drove California (seventh-largest economy in the world) into
And all along the way, this monstrous fraud was connected to government.
Enron bought the politicians who bent the rules that let them steal, con
and gyp. Lay and Skilling talked state after state into following the
California model and deregulating electricity. Happy summer, everyone.
And then, of course, there was the thumbing-the-nose thievery, the
offshore partnerships tricked out with the clever names so insiders
would know how slick they were.
As the late Rep. Wright Patman Sr. observed: "Many of our wealthiest and
most powerful citizens are very greedy. This fact has many times been
The interesting thing about Lay and Skilling is they weren't trying to
evade the rules, they were rigging the rules in their favor. The fix was
in -- much of it law passed by former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, whose
wife, Wendy, served on the board of Enron.
Where does that sense of entitlement come from? What makes a Ken Lay
think he can call the governor of Texas and ask him to soften up Gov.
Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania on electricity deregulation? Not that being
governor of Texas has ever been an office of much majesty, but a
corporate robber wouldn't think of doing that if it were Brian
Schweitzer of Montana or Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
The extent to which not just state legislatures but the Congress of the
United States are now run by large corporate special interests is beyond
mere recognition as fact. The takeover is complete. Newt Gingrich and
Tom DeLay put in place a system in which it's not a question of letting
the head of the camel into the tent -- the camels run the place.
It has all happened quite quickly -- in less than 20 years. Laws were
changed and regulations repealed until an Enron can set sail without
responsibility, supervision or accountability. The business pages are
fond of trumpeting the merits of "transparency" and "accountability,"
but you will notice whenever there is a chance to roll back any of New
Deal regs, the corporations go for broke trying to get rid of them
I'm not attempting to make this a partisan deal -- only 73 percent of
Enron's political donations went to Republicans. But I'll be damned if
Enron's No. 1 show pony politician, George W. Bush, should be allowed to
walk away from this. Ken Lay gave $139,500 to Bush over the years. He
chipped in $100,000 to the Bush Cheney Inaugural Fund in 2000 and $10K
to the Bush-Cheney Recount Fund.
Plus, Enron's PAC gave Bush $113,800 for his '94 and '98 political races
and another $312,500 from its executives. Bush got 14 free rides on
Enron's corporate jets during the 2000 campaign, including at least two
during the recount. Until January 2004, Enron was Bush's top
And what did it get for its money? Ken Lay was on Bush's short list to
be energy secretary. He not only almost certainly served on Cheney's
energy task force, there is every indication that the task force's
energy plan, the one we have been on for five years, is in fact the
Enron plan. Lay used Bush as an errand boy, calling the governor of
Texas and having him phone Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania to vouch for what
swell energy deregulation bills Enron was sponsoring in states all over
It seems to me we all understand this is a systemic problem.
We need to reform the political system, or we'll lose the democracy. I
don't think it's that hard. It doesn't take rocket science. We've done
it before successfully at the presidential level and tried it several
places at the state level. Public campaign financing isn't perfect and
can doubtlessly be improved upon as we go. Let us begin.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators
Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
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