Sunday, January 13, 2002

TARGET: GEORGE
We all knew it wouldn't last, right? Those non-partisan, we're in this together wartime vibes are crumbling like stale bread as Washington and the media latch onto the ever-swelling Enron scandal. There's a good chance GW will emerge unscathed from this - either because he did nothing criminal or because it's a dense, complicated story and one that won't be easy to translate for the general public. But as I read it, there are already a few juicy hooks to ponder:

1) Enron stock made up most of the Enron employee 401K plan. The plan had a lockout clause which prevented employees from selling that stock. Before being fired (post-bankruptcy), those employees were forced to watch their holdings drop in value for months - from over $80 to about 25 cents a share. At the same time, Enron executives kept telling them and the media that the company was in good shape.

2) While Enron employees watched their retirement funds evaporate, company executives with stock from vested options dumped $1.1 billion of Enron stock before the really bad news hit. Planned sales of stock by executives are not uncommon, but these appear to go well beyond that. One report said CEO Ken Lay was selling Enron shares almost daily. Can you say Insider Trading?

3) Many, many Republicans and Bush appointees have connections to Enron. Attorney General Ashcroft has already recused himself from any Enron investigation because of extensive ties to the company via previous campaign contributions. And CEO Ken Lay was one of GW's biggest contributors during the 2000 Presidential election.

4) The oddest connection is perhaps former Senator Phil Grahm, who's wife serves on the Enron board in an audit capacity. Might this be why Phil quit his government gig in such haste? Hmmmm.

5) To be fair, many Democrats are also connected to Enron. The Clinton Administration supposedly fast-tracked approval for an Enron power plant and the Dems promptly received a $100,000 contribution from a thankful Enron. And Clinton's Imperial Dwarf, Robert Riech, is accused of asking a Treasury official to pressure a bond ratings agency on Enron's behalf. Ooops.

Much, much more is to come, but the little lies are already starting to fly. The best was GW's quote that he first met Enron CEO Ken Lay when Lay was supporting Ann Richards, Bush's opponent in the Texas Governor's race. According to reports, Ken Lay gave three times more money in that race to Bush than he did to Richards and in fact, Lay met Bush much, much earlier as the two worked together during the presidental term of GW's father.

Scan the media's viewpoints by checking Enron's Short, Dizzying Plunge From Success Story to Debacle (NY Times), Enron is not Bush's Whitewater; it's worse (CBS Marketwatch), the CNN.com coverage or the contrasting reports from FOXNews.com. Fox is particularly entertaining, as every time I've seen this story pop up there, within 45 seconds, their hosts and guests downplay its significance and make a comparison to a Clinton-era scandal (NEWSFLASH TO FOX - CLINTON IS NO LONGER PRESIDENT. DEAL WITH THE NEWS, NOT HISTORY).

And for you conspiracy theorists, read Hell To Pay, an essay by one William Pitt (That links leads to his front page. If Hell To Pay isn't there, check his Archives). Mr. Pitt is a Boston-based professor and writer with an obvious leftist slant. Even I can tell some of his facts/characterizations are questionable. But as the classic refrain goes, if even a quarter of what he writes is true, GW's gonna have a dandy domestic scandal on his hands.

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