Enron dooms GOP’s
Social Security plan
by PAT MURPHY
enduring sound bite from America’s worst corporate scandal prior to
Enron was uttered by savings and loan swindler Charles Keating.
whether his campaign donations in the 1980s to key U.S. Senators Alan
Cranston, Dennis DeConcini, John Glenn, John McCain and Donald Riegle (the
infamous "Keating Five") had bought influence, Keating
want to say in the most forceful way I can: I certainly hope so."
In the end,
however, Keating’s cash bought him no comfort. Keating went to prison
until released on appeal, but still faces billions of dollars in
shareholder claims. But the political careers of the Keating Five were
blemished permanently: only McCain is still in office.
congressional committees and Justice Department prosecutors hover over the
carcass of Enron, founder and chairman Kenneth Lay surely must be asking
himself whether the $500,000 he donated to President George W. Bush over
the years (plus other thousands of dollars to Democrats and Republicans in
Congress) will help pull him through his mounting legal problems, civil
and perhaps criminal.
likelihood is that they won’t, not with the whole country looking on and
watching for any signs of special treatment that might suggest favoritism
from the Bush White House.
heavy ladling of donations did buy access to Bush’s inner circle: he
served on Vice President Dick Cheney’s closed-door energy strategy
committee; he apparently was able to get an unfriendly regulator fired,
and he induced Wendy Gramm, a former government regulator and wife of Sen.
Phil Gramm, to serve on the Enron board’s audit committee.
But Lay is
learning that even politicians who took handouts won’t jeopardize their
reputations when arrogance and greed have plundered the lives of so many
As a final
touch of irony, Lay turned out to be the kiss of death to President Bush’s
and the Republican Party’s pet goal ¾ privatizing Social Security with
investments in the stock market.
Republicans with a political death wish will argue now that American
workers can trust Wall Street, trust corporate auditors and trust
corporate CEOs to protect their life’s savings with investments in
convincing evidence are thousands of Enron employees who have zilch left
of their investments in their own company that betrayed them.
the topic of influence, Boise’s Ridenbaugh Press has published its
periodic list of people it considers Idaho’s 100 most influential.
impressive list — plenty of politicians, plenty of corporate big wigs,
plenty of lobbyists.
being a heavy hitter translate into having vision and courage?
state finances are in shambles. Yet stubborn Republican leaders — from
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne down through the Legislature — seem hidebound to
ignore one obvious interim solution.
They so far
have refused to consider rolling back any portion of the ill-timed,
ill-advised $100 million tax cut that principally benefits corporations
and wealthy individuals.
Republican leaders are asking schools and other public services to
sacrifice by taking cuts in their budgets.
possible some of Idaho’s other influential heavy hitters have the
courage to uncork some of their influence and pressure lawmakers to do
what’s best for Idaho?