Enron and its politician pals
February 15, 2002 | Page 1
THE NERVE of this guy! Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling managed to keep a straight face when he told a congressional committee last week that he knew nothing at all.
Nothing about how Enron cooked its books with crooked partnerships that hid billions of dollars in debt. Nothing about how these accounting tricks led to bankruptcy, layoffs and a wipeout of workers' retirement savings. Nothing about how 29 top executives sold $1.1 billion worth of stock in the years before the company went belly-up.
"On the day I left, on August 14th, 2001, I believed the company was in strong financial condition," Skilling huffed.
Even Skilling's mother wasn't buying it. "When you are the CEO, and you are on the board of directors, you are supposed to know what's going on with the rest of the company," Betty Skilling told Newsweek magazine. "You can't get off the hook with me there."
No wonder Skilling's mentor, Enron founder Ken Lay, plans to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress this week. "Kenny Boy"--as he was known to his pal George W. Bush--knows no one will believe a word he says.
Now that it's clear that Bush not only stole the 2000 presidential election with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, but financed his campaign with funny money from his top contributor Enron, the White House is battening down the hatches.
Bush put his government papers from his days as Texas governor into his father's presidential library, where access is strictly limited, thanks to his own executive order.
And Vice President Dick Cheney is stonewalling congressional investigators who want records from Cheney's private meetings with Lay last year to develop the White House's energy policy.
Democrats in Congress have been talking tough about Enron. But they're terrified of really exposing the Enron sewer--because they're in it up to their necks, too.
"The Enron scandal should bring down the curtain on a whole philosophy of free-market capitalism and a whole style of government-corporate cronyism," the liberal magazine American Prospect declared.
The fact is that Enron shows exactly how the system really works. The free market, which is supposed to reward hard work and initiative, is fixed to work for insiders--and dominated by corporate titans who will say or do anything for profits. And America's supposedly democratic elections offer a choice between two corporate-backed candidates.
Enron isn't just the story of a single crooked company. It's an indictment of the whole rotten system.