Viewpoint: Enron symbol of sick system

Viewpoint: Enron symbol of sick system

By Joe Baker

Enron symbol of sick system

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

The odor emanating from the American political system is becoming overwhelming. It has been grossly aggravated by the Enron scandal, which sharply points up the need for thorough reform.

We need to have complete investigation of the former energy giant and answers to the many questions surrounding this debacle. Are we likely to get them? Not hardly.

Yes, there’s lots of whooping and hollering in Washington about investigations by congressional committees and government agencies. Don’t be taken in. It will amount to more sound than substance, and when everything is finished, little will be done about it.

The reason is that if this scandal is completely unraveled, it could bring down the government and turn Washington into a giant museum. We know that already because investigators and some segments of the press have uncovered a number of Enron’s tentacles.

Enron, according to a report in the Hartford (Conn.) Advocate, has 2,832 subsidiaries; 874 of them registered in the Cayman Islands, which are notorious for banking secrecy and as tax havens for those with-ill-gotten gains. By contrast, ExxonMobil, no small potatoes

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in itself, has only about 24 subsidiaries.

A report by Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen stated: “The sheer number of offshore subsidiaries…provide the company with tremendous incentive to funnel large sums of cash into…nations with few or no bank disclosure regulations.”

While The Wall Street Journal and some other members of the major media carry water for the establishment and try to sell the idea that there need not be any big investigation, Nader presents an entirely different picture.

Nader maintains that Enron was not losing money but was, in fact, stealing billions of dollars from California residents while those unlucky souls were experiencing 37 “rolling blackouts.”

Speaking of “blackouts,” Nader has quite rightly pointed out that he has been largely ignored by the supposed mainstream media. He actually researches issues and asks uncomfortable questions of the powers that be.

Researcher Tyson Slocum said a bill put through the Congress by Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, effectively removed buying and selling of electricity from the books. It went to Enrononline’s secret exchange, Slocum said, where it was hidden from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The profits from that activity had to go somewhere, and Slocum believes offshore accounts are the most likely bet. “I don’t know all the facts,” he said, “because I can’t get to it. We need Congress to investigate.”

That is precisely where the rest of the problem begins. As the Los Angeles Times recently commented, the problem is not whom did Enron taint, but whom did it not taint. It is difficult to find anyone.

About 35 members of the Bush administration are former Enron employees. Bush himself has a long-time association with Kenneth Lay, the former CEO of Enron; so does Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Last January, before leaving office, President William Clinton pardoned Marc Rich. You may recall that he is the international alleged swindler who fled the country in 1985, accused of $40 billion in fraud and tax evasion.

Guess who has turned up tightly bound to Enron? That’s right, ol’ buddy Rich. Enron and Rich have been lavish with gifts of green. Their cash bait was taken by members of both houses of Congress, including the legislators who say they will investigate this mess.

Further, Enron influence extends to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Government Accounting Office, not to mention the firm of Arthur Andersen & Co., who did Enron’s accounting. The head of GAO, until 1998, was a board member and a director of the Andersen company.

The bait also was taken by a former governor, now a lobbyist and lawyer for Enron. The web also contains a former chairman of the SEC, the present chairman, George Bush Sr., the bin Laden group, the Carlyle Group and a Michigan company which held an exclusive contract with the government for making anthrax vaccine.

Some affluent Texans and oil industry magnates also may be involved. Everybody in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Houston, home base of Enron, has disqualified themselves regarding Enron because they are involved.

The same is true of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. Some say there are many within the Justice Department with links to Enron, Marc Rich, and Arthur Andersen.

The Enron affair touches the federal judiciary as well. The judge assigned to hear a pending case against Enron officials in Houston was a law partner of James Baker III, who is intimately connected with the Bush family and a key figure in the Florida elections, and with contacts in Enron, the Carlyle Group and the bin Laden Group.

The Texas Supreme Court likely will hear some cases involving Enron in the future. Sources say seven of the nine judges on the court have ties to Enron.

Even some journalists, sad to say, accepted money from Enron.

That’s only a part of the mess we have. Full disclosure of this combine’s activities would reveal illicit activities by the CIA, jeopardize the U.S. tax collection system and discredit the three principal branches of the federal government.

This is the reason Cheney is stonewalling on releasing documents pertaining to his energy task force and why George W. Bush is trying to block any probe of his involvement by invoking “national security.”

Even though GAO is threatening to file suit to obtain Cheney’s double speak, don’t look for any massive result because of the aforementioned reasons. Besides, the GAO is the supposed “investigative arm” of Congress, and Congress whimpers as the lapdog of the administration, defanged and drooling because of the lack of their complete lack of will and any real campaign finance reform.

A mighty need percolates to rip the cover off this one and air it out—else the stink will cling for a long time. Watch for the feds to try to step up the war on truth, er, terror. They badly need a distraction. Some of the press and the people are starting to ask too many potentially explosive questions.

If you haven’t noticed, not too much in the way of real particulars have come forth from the “farce estate” about the death of former Enron Vice-Chairman J. Clifford Baxter.

He was found dead in his car with “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.” This is the guy who quit and “complained mightily” about the phony companies set up to sheath Enron’s debt.

He quit last May. He was going on with his life. Why would he kill himself? Do we have another Vince Foster here?

Amid all the Machiavellians, Congress is making all the appropriate loud motions. The administration gurgles the usual, “It’s all about partisan politics, and we must protect the power of the presidency.” The media rattles their microphones and keyboards. The kids’ shell game is in full elementary form. Whether or not anything comes of this play, at least they’re going through the contortions.

Wouldn’t it have been nice to see the Patriots’ Act (we stress act) get this kind of national media coverage—before the bill passed the House and Senate?

They don’t call them “bills” for nothing. Like the Patriots’ ACT, the debt due the poor employees who were loyal to their company will cost them and cost us and probably never be paid off.

After all, isn’t the Bush administration our new deficit spenders? If you think that illness went away with Reagan, think again. Clinton’s policy was just an end run, or is that Enron?

Editor & Publisher Frank Schier contributed to this editorial.

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