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Enron / Bush

Connecting Enron with Bush. From www.bushwatch.net.
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Congressman Waxman On Enrongate

BUZZFLASH: Today, we're calling specifically to ask you why you have an Enron tipline on your website and what sort of information that you're looking for.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: We have a tipline on Enron on our website because we're asking people to give us information that they may have as we take on our own investigation of Enron; especially as we investigate Enron, not only for its financial dealings, but also for the larger political connections that this corporation and its leaders have had with the Bush administration. What has happened with Enron is quite breathtaking. This was the seventh-largest corporation in the country. And it collapsed while its executives were able to walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars. Their employees and their investors were left in the rubble.

The fact of the matter is that Enron and Ken Lay, who was the Chief Executive Officer of Enron, had an extraordinary amount of influence and access to the Bush Administration. Lay was called a close friend by both the President and the Vice President. When the Vice President chaired an Energy Task Force, Ken Lay had an opportunity to meet privately with the Vice President and to have a great deal of influence in their recommendations. We know he met one-on-one with Karl Rove. We also know that many people in this administration came right out of Enron and went to the administration. So we are seeking more information as we look at all these times that the Enron corporation had contact with the Bush Administration, how they handled their own financial affairs, how they came to the situation they are in, which I think is an outrage. Their executives had inside information about the fragile condition of this corporation, were able to bail themselves out, but left everybody else in shambles.

BUZZFLASH: You sent a letter on December 4, which is also accessible on your website, to the Vice President of the United States, a four-page letter, asking for more information about Enron and particularly, among other things, their role in the deliberation process by which the Vice President came up with an energy policy for the administration. Have you received an answer from the Vice President?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: We have not yet received an answer from the Vice President. I'm disappointed that he hasn't responded, yet. I'm even more disappointed that when he did respond to earlier requests to make the information public about how his Energy Task Force operated, he refused to do so. We had asked the General Accounting Office, which is a non-partisan watchdog for the Congress, to do a report about this Energy Task Force. They, by the way, did a similar report on the Clinton Health Task Force in the last administration. And when they sought information from the Clinton Administration, they received everything that there was to receive. The position that the Vice President took when he was requested to furnish information about his Energy Task Force by the General Accounting Office was that he just refused to give it to them. The General Accounting Offices issued what is called a demand letter. And it's quite an extraordinary move on their part. To send it to the Vice President is the first time in their history they've ever sent such a letter to any Vice President. They had stonewalling by the Administration, continued stonewalling by the Administration. And they're contemplating filing a lawsuit to force the Administration to give them this information.

Now I think that the Vice President ought to make public or certainly give to the General Accounting Office everything that went on with the Energy Task Force. With Enron's collapse, it's even more important that we know at least what went on with Enron. Because it may well be that the Enron executives misrepresented their corporation's situation in asking for policy recommendations from the Administration. And that could also be that they told the Administration that they needed certain legislative or executive actions because they were on the brink of bankruptcy. Either way, this is not the kind of thing that ought to be kept secret, kept secret by the Bush Administration. The President has often talked about how he believes in transparency in government. I certainly believe that there is a fundamental principle of accountability. And that they are trying to keep their actions secret and not to be accountable for either the simple routine information about how a task force on energy policy was organized when they met and how they came to their recommendations.

BUZZFLASH: In your letter of December 4, you include references to an article from the Los Angeles Times and other sources about alleged direct influences of Enron upon the resulting energy recommendations. It's my understanding that beyond confirmation of that, the Vice President has not even released to you a list of people he met with as part of this process. Isn't that right?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: That's my understanding. The Los Angeles Times did an outstanding job of investigative journalism. And they were able to point out how there were all sorts of different ties between people either who are in the Administration or contacting the Administration to advance energy policy on behalf of some of the energy corporations, particularly Enron.

So when the LA Times did its scathing report about what they were able to find out about the Energy Task Force, it certainly came as no surprise and it's hard to imagine there is much more left to hide. But the Bush Administration is trying to hide everything they've done and the information about everyone they met with as they formulated their own thinking on energy policy.

BUZZFLASH: It was in your letter that you include information that Bush Senior Adviser Karl Rove owned over $60,000 worth of Enron stock and reportedly spoke frequently about energy policy with Mr. Lay, and that Mr. Lay and his company, since 1993, donated nearly $2 million to the Bush campaign. Are there any conclusions to be drawn from that or do we still just need to hear from the Vice President about the details of what went on during the deliberation over the energy policy?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: I think those facts you cite raise very serious concerns, not just about the Energy Task Force, but further, about people in the Administration like Karl Rove who gave Ken Lay, the CEO of Enron, the opportunity to talk to him one-on-one to talk about policy -- and at the same time, that Karl Rove had a large sum of money in Enron stock, which would appear to be a conflict of interest. We asked Karl Rove -- and we asked the White House counsel -- whether Karl Rove had any waiver from the traditional conflict of interest laws that would prevent him from having such a meeting. The White House said he didn't need it, which is in our view contrary to the law.

We asked other information of the White House counsel's office about Karl Rove's apparent conflict of interest -- to determine if he did in fact have a conflict of interest -- and they stonewalled us on that information as well. It's worth noting in some of the particulars that you get from our letter that there are a significant number of ties between Enron and the Bush Administration. Not only did Karl Rove hold a substantial amount of stock in Enron, but Lawrence Lindsay, the President's chief economic advisor, was an advisor to Enron itself (reportedly receiving $50,000 last year from Enron) -- and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick served on Enron's Advisory Council. Others had stock. The Enron executives had given substantial amounts of contributions to Mr. Bush over the years. There are a lot of ties that raise a lot of concerns about -- with such intimate contacts between Enron and people in the Administration -- how much did they knew about what was going to happen with this corporation, which took us all by surprise when it suddenly collapsed.

[BuzzFlash Note: According to Congressman's Waxman letter to Cheney, "Secretary of the Army Thomas White, a former Enron executive, valued his company stock between $25 million and $50 million earlier this year.]

BUZZFLASH: On the political side, you're the ranking Minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, led by President Clinton's nemesis, Dan Burton. Is the Republican side cooperating in this effort to let the American people transparently see whatever relationship might exist between Enron and the executive branch?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: By and large, it's the Republicans who control the House of Representatives who are trying to treat the Enron issue in a very isolated way. There have been hearings about some of the financial aspects of Enron, or how the accountants handled the information. I think they're making hearings on the fact that the Enron employees couldn't dispose of their stock. But I think the Republicans can't avoid the issue. This is a dramatic collapse of such an important corporation. But the Republicans don't want to take on the broader perspective of how Enron has been able to manipulate a lot of the policies this Administration is pursuing because they are the recipients themselves of substantial campaign contributions from Enron.

I think their strategy is to try to take disparate aspects of the Enron story and try to bore people to death with the sliver that they're looking at, and have people think, well, that this is a complicated financial picture and maybe we'll never know what all went on. And it was interesting how the Republican majority leader Dick Armey responded when he was asked about the Enron corporation. Armey, who is also from Texas, responded that Enron is a private corporation, so therefore what happened to Enron is their private business. I don't look at it that way. When people are thrown out of work right before Christmas, when investors find that their investments become worthless and the executives of the company are able to loot hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves, it seems to me that something criminal has probably taken place, and we ought to get to the bottom of it.

BUZZFLASH: Meanwhile, Enron's pension plan went under.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: That's right. The people who were in the know sold their stock, while the employees who didn't know anything were forced to buy the stock for their pension plans and were prohibited from even selling that stock. So they ended up seeing their investments evaporate right before their eyes.

BUZZFLASH: During the Clinton Administration, the chairman of the Committee on Government Reform, was relentlessly tenacious in calling an investigation any time there was even the merest allegation of alleged impropriety in the Clinton Administration. To us, it seems a little hypocritical at this point that they are sort of sitting back on Enron and any other number of issues that have emerged in the Bush Administration. Do you have any comment on that?

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Well, there is no question about the hypocrisy of the Republicans. You only have to look at this from the perspective of what would the response be of the Republicans if this were the Clinton Administration? If the Clinton Administration had such close and intimate ties with a corporation, or put it another way, a labor union, in which executives walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars while the union's pensions were dissipated. They would be not only calling for an investigation before they got the facts; they would be calling for impeachment. I have made no accusations because I need to get more facts to find out if there has been wrongdoing by the Bush Administration. And all we are asking for is an honest investigation of the facts. I don't think that we're going to get it from the Republicans. That's why we're doing it on our own.

It's interesting also to note how this administration has handled policy information. They are not only withholding the information about their ties to Enron and Enron's role in the Energy Task Force and how the Energy Task Force operated, but they've lied to the American people about a Social Security surplus. They have been very careful to try to keep the public from getting information that I think, that should rightfully belong in the public domain, that they single-handedly changed the presidential records that should be made available to public and academics. And to try to withhold those records, they've used executive privilege most recently in one of the hearings in the Government Reform Committee, which even prompted Chairman Dan Burton to speak with outrage that we had information being withheld on the pretense -- and I think it was a real reach for them -- of claiming executive privilege.

But those are the policy issues. If you evaluate the constant ways that the Bush Administration has treated certain facts in the time that they have been in office, it's disconcerting. Because if you look back, there was a time when it looked like Vice President Cheney had a heart attack. And they said, "No, he didn't." But it turned out he had. They came into office and immediately claimed there had been vandalism by the Gore people. And that it turned out that there were no facts behind that allegation. It was just a fiction.

In August, the President was faced with a difficult decision on stem-cell research, so he came up with the idea that there were 63 lines. It turned out later that it was all made up. There was no such thing as 63 lines that were available for research. And even on September 11, when the issue was raised where the President might be and he received some criticism for not returning to Washington, Karl Rove issued a statement that there was specific and credible evidence that Air Force One was going to be a target of terrorists. And then it turned out later that the Vice President I think said that just wasn't anything they could verify, that they had no real information about it. So if they're in a tight squeeze, they're willing to make up information that's not real. And when it comes to policy matters, they want to withhold information that is real and ought to be available to Congress, which has the legal responsibility to conduct oversight of the administration on behalf of the public that ought to know how their government is operating.

BUZZFLASH: So instead of the transparent administration that they promise, they're giving us an opaque administration.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN: That's right.


Bush and Enron: An Overview
By: John Hoefle

Under energy deregulation, Texas and the South have become the most notorious havens for pirates since the Barbary Coast, home to energy companies which charge obscene prices for natural gas and electricity, and which get downright obnoxious whenever anyone dares to challenge their right to loot. The worst case may be Houston's Reliant Energy, on whose board sits Bush family consigliere, former Bush Administration Secretary of State and current lawyer for the robber barons, James A. Baker III. Reliant had the nerve to charge the State of California $1,900 per megawatt-hour for electricity in May, power which the state urgently needed to avoid blackouts. When California Gov. Gray Davis (D) publicly criticized Reliant--by name--for price gouging, a shill for Reliant amazingly replied that California had set the company up by accepting their bid, to embarrass poor innocent Reliant....

The involvement of Houston scion Baker with the energy pirates is but one of a plethora of incestuous connections between the Bush family, the Bush Administration, and the energy cartel. Enron, a company close to both the Bush hearts and the Bush pocketbooks (is there a difference?), has served as a virtual home away from home for members of the previous and current Bush administrations. When the one-term President George|I went down to a well-deserved defeat, several top-level officials went to work for Enron, either as officers or consultants--including Reliant's Baker--and George himself collected numerous, lucrative speaking fees from the company. Enron has also provided employment for a number of officials in the Bush II Administration, in addition to being the single largest financial contributor to the political career of President "Duh-bya.'' The relationship between Enron and the Bushes has been long, and profitable. As Vice President under Ronald Reagan, George Bush (George|I) headed a task force which pushed deregulation in both finance and energy, including advocating the repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA), the law passed by Franklin Roosevelt to bust up the Morgan electricity cartel. While the PUHCA is still on the books, it has been substantially outflanked, in much the same way that the banks ignored Glass-Steagall--the FDR law which broke up the House of Morgan into J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley--prior to the repeal of that act in November 1999.

Enron repaid the favor in February 1993, when it announced that two former George|I Cabinet members, Secretary of State Baker and Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher, had agreed to help the company to secure natural gas projects overseas. Both Baker and Mosbacher had previously been directors (and Baker's family among the founders) of Houston's elite Texas Commerce Bancshares, where Enron chairman Ken Lay was also a director.

Their international business experience and knowledge of governments around the world, as well as their great understanding of the energy business, will greatly enhance Enron's goal of becoming the world's first natural gas major,'' Enron's Lay said in announcing what the company described as a joint consulting and investing agreement with Baker and Mosbacher.

Enron also added Lt. Gen. Thomas Kelly (ret.) to its board. Kelly had served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Bush's Persian Gulf War. In 1993, according to journalist Seymour Hersh, Baker, Mosbacher, and Kelly accompanied Sir George Bush on a trip to Kuwait, to help Enron secure a contract to rebuild energy plants that had been destroyed during the Gulf War. Enron also established close relations with Britain's Prince Charles, through large contributions to his Prince of Wales Trust. Such top-level influence-peddling opened doors for Enron around the world....

If the connections between Enron and the administration of George|I were tight, the connections between Enron and the "Duh-bya'' Administration are so close that it is difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends. The Bush Administration's two nominees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) were approved in advance by Enron; the pair, former Texas Public Utilities Commissioner Pat Wood III, and former Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commissioner Nora Mead Brownell, are both close to Enron. Wood, a former Baker & Botts attorney, was appointed to his Texas position by then-Gov. George W. Bush, while Brownell (who some prognosticators have dubbed "Nora Mead Brownout'') helped Enron move into Pennsylvania. Needless to say, both Texas and Pennsylvania are deregulated states. Wood has been slated by the Bush Administration to become the next chairman of FERC, replacing current chairman Curt Hebert. Hebert, a deregulation zealot and protégé of Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), told the {New York Times} that a few weeks after Bush had appointed him as FERC chairman, he received a call from Enron's Lay, offering to support his chairmanship, if Hebert would support Enron's campaign to further deregulate and force states and utilities to open up their electricity transmission lines to Enron and its fellow marketers. Ultimately, Enron swung its weight behind Wood, to replace Hebert. (Behind the Wood-Hebert fight, according to rumor, is a battle between Enron and Southern Co. over coal. Enron wants stricter environmental regulations on coal, to boost its business selling coal-pollution credits, while Southern, a big supporter of Lott, wants looser coal regulations, to boost its generating profits. Southern, through its Southern Energy/Mirant spin-off, is also a major player in the non-utility electricity market.) Even without Wood and Brownell, FERC has proven to be a disaster. Part of its mandate, from FDR's PUHCA, is to enforce "just and reasonable rates'' for electricity, but FERC has been hard-pressed to find, much less correct, any price gouging in California. After all, as Enron President Jeffrey Skilling likes to ask, who's to say what "just and reasonable'' means? Skilling asked that very question on the June 5 edition of PBS's "Frontline,'' and then answered it by claiming that under the old regulatory system rates were way too high, and that under deregulation, rates would fall. Even more impressive, he said it with a straight face.

Enron also had significant input into the administration's national energy plan, including personal meetings between Lay and White House energy task force head Vice President Dick Cheney. Lay and Cheney are old acquaintances. While Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, his Houston-based Brown & Root subsidiary built Enron's new baseball park in Houston, modestly named Enron Field. Numerous other administration officials have either worked for Enron or have owned Enron stock. Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White, a retired brigadier general, was the vice chairman of Enron Energy Services, while economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey had a $50,000-a-year consulting job with the firm. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick served on Enron's Advisory Board. Both White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove and the Vice President's Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter'' Libbey, owned significant amounts of Enron stock.

Enron, as we indicated previously, has been the single largest financial contributor to the political campaigns of President George W. Bush, with the company and its executives providing more than $550,000. Enron, Lay, and Skilling also gave $300,000 to the Bush-Cheney 2001 Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Other energy-related companies and their executives have also contributed heavily to Bush's political career. Brothers Sam and Charles Wyly, who run both the giant Maverick Capital hedge fund and independent energy company Green Mountain, have donated more than $220,000 to Bush's campaigns. Among the Pioneers, a designation for those who raised more than $100,000 for Dubya's Presidential bid, are the former head of Reliant Energy, Don Jordan, its current head Steve Letbetter, Edison Electric Institute head Thomas Kuhn, and, of course, Ken Lay. --posted 12/16/01

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