The True Crime Behind Enron

Andy Young, former mayor of Atlanta, once observed: "Nothing is illegal if a hundred businessmen decide to do it."

This is what strikes me as true about the ongoing Enron scandal. The significant thing about Enron's escapades is not what the top executives did that was illegal ... but what they did that is considered to be perfectly legal. The politicians and media have quickly narrowed the focus of their inquiries to legalistic violations of securities law, and conflict-of-interest violations between Enron execs and the Bush White House. But this completely ignores -- indeed, hides -- the Big Crime: Allowing a single, avaricious corporation to amass such power in our democracy that it can rig the game to suit itself, then, when its empire begins to collapse, get direct access to the highest officials in the land.

In a screwy perversion of a national democratic system, Enron executives used massive campaign contributions (genteel bribes) and hired lobbyists (political mercenaries), to dictate a disastrous energy policy of deregulation, to win congressional exemptions from financial oversight of their chicanery, and to get one-sided pension rules that let them fleece their own employees.

Enron and its conniving CEO, Kenneth Lay, were wired directly to the top: they were the largest money backers of George W's campaigns; they rushed money to Florida to help Bush's lawyers ramrod him into the presidency; they helped pay for his inaugural party -- and they even flew Daddy and Momma Bush to George's inauguration on an Enron jet.

So, when Enron was collapsing, Lay was able to call Bush cabinet officials for help. The question is not how much help he got ... but why was he able to get through at all. If your business went bankrupt, you couldn't get the treasury secretary to take your call, as Enron did.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... The Enron scandal is not about George W. and Ken Lay ... it's about us. Why are we allowing corporate money to corrupt our democracy?


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