The collapse of Enron, a once powerful Texas energy company, has served as a basis to attack the Bush administration as corrupt and a captive of big business. In many news reports, from the Washington Post and the New York Times to Nightline, it has been prominently reported that former Enron Chairman Ken Lay was a major fundraiser for Bush, both when he ran for governor of Texas and in his campaign for president. But one would be hard put to argue that the Bush relationship has benefitted Enron.
Missing from all these news stories are the links between the Clinton administration and Enron. One has to go back quite a way to find such links. But there is strong evidence of clear quid pro quos, evidence sorely lacking in the stories that link President Bush to Enron.
Clearly Enron, its accountants and top executives have failed their stockholders and possibly committed serious crimes. Enron is accused of cooking the books to hide huge debts and losses, while executives and directors of Enron made nearly $600 million dollars by selling their Enron Stock over the past four years. At the same time, employees with Enron stock in their 401K personal accounts weren’t allowed to sell their stock as it plunged in value from more than eighty dollars a share to less than eighty cents.
Robert Scheer, a leftist columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has jumped all over this. He called it “Whitewater in spades.” He said, “It isn’t some rinky-dink land investment like the one dredged up by right-wing enemies to haunt the Clinton White House.” Scheer argues that Bush’s deregulation policy in Texas “allowed dubious bookkeeping and other acts of chicanery.” He rightly questions whether or not Bush associates such as Karl Rove sold their stock before it crashed. These are legitimate questions.
But according to several reports, it was the Clinton administration that did favors for Enron, and received large donations in return. Time magazine reported in 1997 that Clinton chief of staff Mac McLarty reached out to Enron Chairman Ken Lay, at President Clinton’s urging, and for nine months closely monitored a $3 billion dollar power-plant project in India. Four days before it was announced that Enron won the contract, it gave over $100,000 to the Democratic Party. Robert Rubin had worked closely with Enron when he was with Goldman Sachs. He recused himself from dealing with Enron matters during his first year in the White House as Clinton’s economic adviser, but not when he became Treasury secretary in 1994. According to the Houston Chronicle, Enron got permission to build a pipeline from Mozambique to South Africa after National Security Adviser Anthony Lake threatened to withhold aid to Mozambique if it didn’t approve the project.
Enron clearly had friends in high places in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. If Enron’s top executives lied, falsified records and profited while their stockholders and employees lost huge amounts of money, they should be prosecuted as should Bush officials if they knowingly profited from the corrupt deeds of the Enron executives.