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The Enron Story Everyone Is Missing: The Bush-Ken Lay Connection

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Posted on May 26, 2006
Bush and Ken Lay
From rotten.com

President Bush shares the stage with then-Enron chief Ken Lay.

With the May 25 conviction of former Enron chief Kenneth Lay on charges of conspiring to commit securities and wire fraud, it may seem as though justice has been done. But as Truthdig Editor Robert Scheer has been writing for years, no accounting of the Enron scandal will be complete until we have full disclosure of Lay’s entanglements with the White House.

Check out this classic Scheer column (reprinted in his new book, “Playing President,” and below), which reminds us:

  • Lay was the primary backer of Bush’s rise to the presidency.
  • Lay privately met with Dick Cheney to create the administration’s energy policy.
  • In 1997 Bush called then-Pa. Gov. Tom Ridge on Lay’s behalf to open that state’s market to energy trading.
  • Connect the Enron Dots to Bush

    By Robert Scheer

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    Square, Site wide
    Published Dec. 11, 2001, in the Los Angeles Times

    Enron is Whitewater in spades. This isn’t just some rinky-dink land investment like the one dredged up by right-wing enemies to haunt the Clinton White House—but rather it has the makings of the greatest presidential scandal since the Teapot Dome.

    The Bush administration has a long and intimate relationship with Enron, whose much-discredited chairman, Kenneth L. Lay, was a primary financial backer of George W. Bush’s rise to the presidency.

    It was Enron that provided the model for the administration’s trickle-down attempt to revive an economy that’s been in steep decline during Bush’s tenure. That model gives the fat-cat corporate hotshots everything they want in return for bankrolling political campaigns. Not to worry about the rest of us because, hey, what’s good for Enron is good for America. That it hasn’t been is now painfully clear.

    What did Enron get in return for its contributions? It got its way on deregulation, for one thing. Remember when the administration refused to assist California and other states during the energy crisis, and consumers paid the steep price?

    So greedy was Enron that it locked its own workers into a pension plan based on inflated company stock values and suspect hidden partnerships, while the top leadership led by Lay made out like bandits.

    Bush should be called as a witness in the congressional hearings scheduled to unravel this mess. One thing that should come up in the hearings is then-Gov. Bush’s October 1997 telephone call on behalf of Lay to then-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge to help Enron crack into the tightly regulated Pennsylvania electricity market.

    “I called George W. to kind of tell him what was going on,” Lay told the New York Times about the 1997 phone call, “and I said that it would be very helpful to Enron, which is obviously a large company in the state of Texas, if he could just call the governor [of Pennsylvania] and tell him [Enron] is a serious company, this is a professional company, a good company.”

    Since we now know Enron lacked those virtues, it’s clear Bush was used to sell a bill of goods to the unsuspecting Pennsylvania folks.

    That Lay was instrumental in Bush’s rise to the presidency is indisputable. Since 1993, Lay and top Enron executives donated nearly $2 million to Bush. Lay also personally donated $326,000 in soft money to the Republican Party in the three years prior to Bush’s presidential bid, and he was one of the Republican “pioneers” who raised $100,000 in smaller contributions for Bush. Lay’s wife donated $100,000 for inauguration festivities.

    As governor, Bush did what Enron wanted, cutting taxes and deregulating utilities. The deregulation ideology, which George W. long had adopted as gospel, allowed dubious bookkeeping and other acts of chicanery that shocked Wall Street and drove a $60-billion company, seventh on the Fortune 500 list, into bankruptcy.

    This emerging scandal makes Whitewater seem puny in comparison; clearly there ought to be at least as aggressive a congressional inquiry into the connection between the Bush administration and the Enron debacle. Facts must be revealed, beginning with the content of Lay’s private meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney to create the administration’s energy policy.

    What was Lay’s role in the sudden replacement of Curtis Hebert Jr. as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman? As the New York Times reported, Hebert “had barely settled into his new job this year when he had an unsettling telephone conversation with Kenneth L. Lay, [in which Lay] prodded him to back ... a faster pace in opening up access to the electricity transmission grid to companies like Enron.” Lay admits making the call but in an unctuous defense of his influence peddling said, “The final decision on [Hebert’s job] was going to be the president’s, certainly not ours.” Soon after, Hebert was replaced by Texan Pat Wood, who was favored by Lay.

    Other questions: Was there any conflict of interest in the roles played by key Bush aides? Political advisor Karl Rove owned as much as $250,000 in Enron stock. And economic advisor Larry Lindsay and Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick went straight from Enron’s payroll to their federal jobs.

    There are other Enron alum in the administration, including Army Secretary Thomas White Jr., who, as an Enron executive, held stock and options totaling $50 million to $100 million.

    We have a right to know whether the Enron alums in the administration were tipped off in time to bail out with profit the way Lay and the other Enron top execs did, while their workers and stockholders—and eventually U.S. taxpayers—are being left holding the suddenly empty bag.


    New and Improved Comments

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    By bil, July 19, 2006 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    GO VOTE get this country back!!!!

    Report this

    By Travis G, July 5, 2006 at 4:15 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    And now, our beloved Mr. Lay dies of a heart attack.  Where is the justice in all of this mess!

    Report this

    By aj, June 4, 2006 at 7:32 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    To Doug Lane:#10461,

    You sound as if you once believed in the Fundamentalist Christian concepts of Hell, punishment and reward. So did I, once.
    I would not be so glum however. There is abundant reasons to believe that those that apply dishonest self-serving applications to their life will keep that “Karma” for a while after they physically die.
    After all, you can fool Mother Nature for a while, but not forever.

    Report this

    By Mace Price, May 31, 2006 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    No, that’s a bunch of shit too. There’s no such thing as an purely honest fortune. To quote Honore de Balzac “Behind every great fortune there lies a crime.” Actually it’s more like a hundred. The Greek God of Commerce and Theft were one and the same; and on the whole dishonesty is far more profitable than honesty and pretensions of humanity; which you never had from the beginning—And that’s just a drop in the bucket. No sense grinding flour twice. That and if you think you’re going to compel Swiss and other offshore Banking Institutions to cough up their laundered and unlaundered deposits, then you’re considerably more naive than you think I think you are. Personally, I’d like to see all of ‘em in action and sweatin’ under public scrutiny. Ya know, “Hey you you son of a bitch? Where’s my pension check? You’re behind!” If that ain’t enough? Joan Baez says “Prisons don’t work.” Well, no, not unless they contain your Political enemies; i.e. those you want to trade places with in the hierarchy. Which is to say the Political dynamic is between the Middle class and the Upper class. While the low class? very old story: They get fucked. So take a lesson from Old Joan, as hard a duplicitous Leftist as ever demand social justice. She’d make this Website look like it was edited by Phylis Schlafly—-There, that oughta hold you sensitive souls for awhile—Roll all this up and smoke it…be good for ya…

    Report this

    By Kim, May 31, 2006 at 4:08 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Sorry Mace, DM is right.  These criminals belong in jail and their secret stashes of cash should be routed out and distributed to their victims.  It’s just too bad they won’t go to a hard-core prision with the rest of the theives and low lifes.  If they were so brilliant they would have made their money honestly.

    Report this

    By Mace Price, May 30, 2006 at 11:54 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    You’re right, I may be seriously flawed, I might even be half nuts for that matter. But Mr. Fastow, Kenny Boy Lay and especially that Goddamn Skilling are most assuredly not. Skilling’s a financial and business genius. A laisser faire goose with a character disorder known for laying golden eggs and none of them, not one, would have the slightest trouble generating fortunes on an uphill playing field let alone a level one. They need to make restitution—and at 9% interest. But they can’t make restitution from Camp Cupcake. Can they? Do you think it did any good to put Martha Stewart in there on the actual basis of having a nasty personalty? Waste of time and taxpayer dollars. Plus look what she did when she got out. She made a fortune. These guys were responsible for a much larger bottom line than Martha ever was. Some people are born to steal cars while others are born to make vast fortunes for themselves, and then piss on the Stockholders-Pensioners legs and tell ‘em raining in order to make another vast fortune—-And in all objectivity these larcenous fiscal savant’s are 3 perfect examples, and they need to repay what they stole at 9%—-Flawed reasoning my ass.

    Report this

    By DM, May 30, 2006 at 8:45 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Sadly the ideas about putting Lay & Skilling to work earning money as restitution to their victims are seriously flawed.  These guys aren’t so much good at MAKING money ... they are good at STEALING money through fraud.  How they would fair on an even playing field is most questionable.

    The good news is that there is an alternative ... their personal fortunes will no doubt be tied up in trusts, off-shore accounts and gifts/bequeaths to family members.  Surely a fair and just response here would be to spend a few hundred thousand unpicking and exposing all this money and distributing that around to the victims. 

    Fairness would dictate that there would be no free-hold houses, private educations, inheritances or pensions for any Lays or Skillings whether in prison or out ... let them punch that clock at McDonalds.  They can tell Ken and Jeff about it during prison visits.

    Oh ... and while you’re at it, go after the Gramms at least.  That should expose some of the Bush/Cheney involvement too.

    Report this

    By Barbie Bigg-Busch, May 30, 2006 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Hahahahaha…and to think the neo nazi conservative bushites are still shamelessly floating around oh-brother-where-art-thou Jeb to run using oh so tarnished Bush namesake against Hillary in 2008. Hahahahah….what fools….us Americans…to think there will be another stolen election by yet another Bush crime family capo…..isn’t HBO due to make a series about these guys….I cry with tears of laughter….oh JOY….will we never learn?
    Please, I beg thee, vote in Mrs.Bubba Clinton for 2008. At least she can speak English…
    Laters…

    Report this

    By R. A. Earl, May 29, 2006 at 7:46 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    I agree with Mace Price (#10552) that Lay, Skilling, et al, should all be put on leg bracelets and made to put in 12 hour days on Wall Street earning money that will go directly to those they stole from. For each 10 million over the first 100 million they earn, they should be allowed to work 30 minutes less per day. That would be justice.

    However our system doesn’t work like that. In our system, YOU, the victims, get screwed TWICE… first by the perpetrators and secondly by the system.

    Report this

    By Kim, May 29, 2006 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Now that Ken Lay is a convicted felon, we should petition the government to make all those energy meetings with Cheney a matter of public record.  A felon has affected our national energy policy, and Big Oil seems to be running the same scam Enron ran on California—seems like compelling grounds to me for an investigation.

    Report this

    By Jaded Prole, May 29, 2006 at 9:55 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Nice to see some poetry in response to comment #10559. He might feel differently if he saw more relevant, progressive poetry.

    Report this

    By SamSnedegar, May 29, 2006 at 4:23 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    I must have missed the story telling how come no sentence has been set down, and how come these bandits are still free pending appeal, which might take YEARS. No one thinks the moron isn’t going to pardon his fellow criminals anyway, but it will be a quiet pardon in the dark of night on a long weekend, and it won’t occur until there is a real threat that Kenny Boy will have to start serving his time on the golf course at some country club prison.

    If you don’t believe that these people are shameless, look back to the Weinberger pardon—-BEFORE any trial ever began. Cheney went to great lengths to keep Lay out of the energy story; if I were Lay, I’d be worried that it might be easier to bury me beside Hoffa than to keep worrying about me tattling on the Bushitter thugs.

    Report this

    By Mace Price, May 28, 2006 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    ...The only thing worse than poetry is silly ass poetry.

    Report this

    By Mace Price, May 28, 2006 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Nahhhh, that’s too high a voltage of a connection to be made…it won’t ever form a circuit. Meanwhile Lay and Skilling’ll more than likely be given 10 year sentences same as Fastow. Hell of it is, I don’t think these guys belong in custody. That doesn’t do the people whose pensions they busted out a damn bit of good; especially when you think of what it means having to punch a time clock at MacDonald’s, at 70. The heavy fines imposed on them should be returned to The Enron Scandal’s victims in lieu of The Federal Treasury. They should then be paroled to Wall Street or the Chicago Commodities Market on a $1000 a month stipend with their talents at making money thereby exploited as further restitution. Prison is not for Harvard Business School luminaries—-like Jeffrey Skilling—-Prison’s for cutthroats, vicious assholes, murderers, psychopaths and thugs and if you ask me it’s a thoughtless waste of this trio’s obvious capabilities. Why not put them to good use for once? I mean, the folks at Enron worked for them? Why shouldn’t they work for the folks at [R.I.P] Enron—For the rest of their lives? Hell, just think of it—Kenny Boy Lay could even teach Sunday School on the weekends. I oughta write a letter to The Decider and run the idea past him…It’d never happen, but that’s my idea of Justice anyway.

    Report this

    By Tantrurm, May 28, 2006 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Oh America! You sleep while all that is wrong prospers

    Report this

    By Ric, May 28, 2006 at 5:25 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Politics and Business Leaders…

    What if I google “Ken Lay” “Bill Clinton”?

    The TRUTH I found in a comment comparing the democrats and republicans in congress to the Gambino and Genovese crime families…

    Ric

    Report this

    By Jaded Prole, May 28, 2006 at 4:41 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Though it is Un-American to remember past last week, I’m grateful for your ability to do so. The false energy crisis in California was the first of many impeachable offenses by this administration and the corporate press swept it under the rug. Thanks for bringing it back and flinging it in their faces. We can only hope Kennie-boy has long coat tails.

    Report this

    By bbbellman, May 27, 2006 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    WHEN KEN LAY WAS ASKED FOR HIS REACTION TO THE

    GUILTY VERDICT HIS REPLY WAS [IHAVE A GOOD CHRISTIAN FAMILY] HE WILL NEVER SERVE A DAY IN JAIL THATS GOOD ENOUGH FOR CHRISTS MESSENGER
    SENT TO US TO SAVE US FROM THE ISLAMISTS TERORISTS
    GOD SAVE KING GEORGE AND HIS GREAT CRUSADE TO SPREAD DEMOCRACY TO THE INFIDELS.WITH THE UNDYING
    SUPPORT OF ALBERTO TORCHORO GONZALES AND THE
    GENIUS OF CARL ROVESPUTIN AND FOX NEWS AND THE
    POPES SUPREME COURT ITS A SLAM DUNK

    Report this

    By firstprimate, May 27, 2006 at 4:16 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Scott, Scott, Scott… Such a cynical person. And no religion to boot!!

    What can I say, except I agree with you. But don’t forget Blair - he gets away scott-free (pun intended) as well.

    Galloway says it would be morally justified for Blair to be killed by a suicide bomber.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/27/ngalloway27.xml

    As expected Western ‘civilisation’ is aghast at the suggestion.

    Report this

    By Gregg, May 26, 2006 at 11:59 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    What happened to the stories about Kenny Boy providing Dim Son with the Enron corporate jet during the latter crooks various election campaigns?

    Report this

    By Doug Lane, May 26, 2006 at 10:31 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Now that the convictions are finally in, it’s unbelievable how silent the big media are on the longtime intimate connection between “Kenny Boy” and Bush, including Enron’s huge input into Cheney’s energy policy and FERC’s disgraceful failure to rein in Enron during the great California energy ripoff of Spring 2001.  See Greg Palast for more on this.  The poem below relates to comment #10545:


        Where’s Hell When You Need It?

    God I miss hell.
    Not hell on Earth
    —-that’ll always
    be with us.
    Just as it’s with
    our legless, armless, faceless,
    IED’d
    18,000
    and counting.
    Just as it’s with
    those who loved
    and love
    the boxed, flagged, unphotographed,
    2,300
    and counting
    and
    the shocked & awed
    30,000 to100,000
    and counting.

    No,
    what
    I miss
    is the hell
    AFTER Earth
    I wish
    I still
    believed in.

    ‘Cause if I did
    I’d rest assured
    the evildoers
    who lied
    us
    into war
    would
    one day
    be
    going to
    their just
    re
    war
    d.

    If I could
    once again
    believe
    in hell
    after Earth
    I’d sleep in peace
    knowing
    the warmakers
    awarding taxcuts
    to the rich
    while exacting
    sacrifice
    from us

    would
    forever
    slow-turn & squawk
    like chickenhawks
    on demons’
    spits.


    Instead
    I toss & turn
    all night
    seeing
    the architects
    of invasion
    fleeing
    their mess
    to run
    The World Bank
    or
    ranch
    out West,
    spinning tall tales
    by the fire…..
    telling more lies
    about their lies.


    And when each one
    finally
    dies
    what if he
    simply dies?
    —-Guiltlessly,
    complacently,
    somehow
    imagining
    he’s
    done
    something
    right?

    Report this

    By Bigwoods D, May 26, 2006 at 10:20 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    I still can’t believe that there are people in America(some of my friends and family included) that think that our current administration is void of corruption and wrong doing. I send them proof, factual proof, backed up by our leaders own words, where they said them, what they are saying now and how they lied. I can’t make it any easier to follow and they still think that there is either a conspiracy to discredit Bush or they just plain are so wrapped up in thier own lives that they don’t have time to care. It is so frustrating.

    This Enron deal is just another notch on the bedpost of injustice in America that will soon pass as soon as another Panda is born or another LA Police chase happens to distract most of America away from what is really going on.

    May God help us all…but I have to agree with Scott…I just don’t think there is anyone listening.

    Report this

    By Scott, May 26, 2006 at 8:58 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    What will likely happen is that Bush and Cheney will die comfortable and warm in their own beds. There will be no eternal heavenly reward nor will there any eternal hellish damnation.

    Nothing.

    I hate to be such a cynical atheist, but…I call ‘em as I see ‘em.

    Report this

    By peace4all, May 26, 2006 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Yeah, but not a golf-course, country-club type of prison.  Not by any means!  They deserve 100-year terms with the rowdiest and nastiest bunch of gang members.

    Report this

    By Carlos A. Townsend, May 26, 2006 at 6:25 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    the truth is too much for corporate media.


    that’s why truthdig is #1 on my press sites.


    as usual, keep up the good work mr. scheer.

    Report this

    By FreeMan4aFreeAmerica, May 26, 2006 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    I hope Bush and Cheney go to prison with these assholes!  New Rule!  If you voted for Bush in 2000 & 2004 then you should help pay for the lost pensions the Enron employees lost!!  Ken Lay should be locked up for life.  Those people who’s lives are now ruined will never get what they lost back.

    Report this
     
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