Kenny Boy, I Hardly Knew Ye|
by Kim Sayers (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As reported in the Washington Post recently, George W. Bush used to be proud of his nickname for Kenneth Lay, “Kenny Boy.” This familiarity certainly befits the position of a loyal long time family friend, visitor to the Lincoln Bedroom during one’s father’s White House occupation, business partner of one’s brother, employer of many of one’s father’s former staffers, employer himself of former Enron execs, and largest contributing Bush Pioneer in his presidential campaign, but not a mere acquaintance, and best buddy to the Democratic Party that the Bush Super Spin Cycle is attempting to portray him now. This spin cycle needs a good wash first.
Despite the president’s claims, as was shown by the Center for Responsive Politics’ recent report on Enron’s, contribution activities, and Texans for Public Justice, Ken Lay and Enron did not support Ann Richards against George W. Bush in any significant way, They gave just enough support to Richards to ensure good graces should Bush lose. Their money went behind their boy “W” all the way. Nor, despite claims by the White House, did Bush ignore his largest campaign contributors when they needed help in return in 2001.
Attached to the Bush Energy Plan, which the president and high-ranking Republicans have tacked onto virtually every bill coming down the Congressional pipeline in a desperate attempt to get it passed, are tax breaks that would have netted Enron hundreds of millions of dollars. Maybe it would have been enough to save their greedy heinies, but it didn’t get signed into law, and Enron became more desperate with the passing months. While Enron brass with Ken Lay leading the charge, engaged in pell-mell insider trading stock sell offs netting them many millions of dollars each throughout 2001, the Bush administration tried time and again to pass tax legislation that benefited their campaign Sugar Daddies by millions more.
Reluctantly, the White House has now been forced to admit that they took many calls from Ken Lay and Enron executives prior to its announcement of bankruptcy—despite the conflict of interest by many White House officials who owned stock in the company--and took campaign money from them. They were even invited to meet with Dick Cheney to set the new energy policy that resulted in the Bush administration opening relations (closed by the Clinton administration in late 2000 as a lost cause because of terrorism) and giving financial aid to the Taliban.
Try calling the White House some day--non campaign contributors don’t get the kind of access Enron did—that kind of access can only be bought. The administration’s very willingness to take and return Enron’s calls gives at the very least the appearance of a large degree of quid pro quo.
The administration bent over backwards to keep the river of money flowing from Enron to Republican coffers, by giving every windfall possible to the wealthy. It can even be argued that the administration only refused to intervene with the banks because they were convinced that the tax windfalls would take care of the problem.
Despite the disgraceful financial woes of Enron, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that the steady stream of money from Lay and Enron, 90 percent of it to Republicans, continued through 2001. What did they hope to gain? Rhetorical question, we know what they hoped to gain.
Why is Bush now so desperate to distance himself from the company and individual who gave more than $300,000 to his inaugural and millions to his presidential campaign? Why would he tell such an elaborate fib about the relationship? Just a few years ago, according to the June 30, 2000 New York Times, Bush was more than happy to make calls to his friend Tom Ridge, then governor of Pennsylvania, to vouch for Lay and Enron. Is that something one does for someone barely known and to whom nothing is owed? The Times also reported that Governor Bush worked hard for and was proud of the gas de-regulation bill he signed into law at the urging of Enron and Lay in 1999. Lay must have expected the lucrative relationship to continue in Washington, D.C. as it did in Texas.
When Ken Lay was chairman of the George H.W. Bush presidential library committee in Texas, it is difficult to believe that George W. Bush, then heading up his father’s unsuccessful bid for a second term, had no more than a passing glimpse of Ken Lay. Indeed, does one send hand written personal birthday notes like W did to Lay on his 55th birthday, calling Lay an “old friend” to virtual strangers?
It bears a striking resemblance to the Texas Funeralgate case, in which Bush also distanced himself from longtime corporate friends and campaign supporters, and provided stories that conflicted with the record when questioned about it under oath.
But even more disturbing are the revelations in a book released in France last month, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, that big oil interests are reason the Bush administration reversed the Clinton administration decision in late 2000 to sanction the Taliban, and began dealing with the rogue nation and sending it aid in 2001. This coupled with their ignoring the Hart-Rudman Commission’s report on national security and terrorism, gives us plenty of reason to question which has top priority for the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans; national security or windfall paybacks for well-heeled oil industry campaign contributors.
Lining the pockets of big time benefactors is one thing, but piggybacking on national security issues to do as much of it as one can for them when the nation is reeling in shock and grief is another. As much benefit of the doubt as we would like to give our leadership in time of war, the record speaks for itself; the Bush administration sought to take advantage of the situation and under the guise of “bipartisanship” to create yet more windfalls for the people from whom the baksheesh flows.
If the Bush administration is interested in justice, it will pierce the protection of the Enron corporate veil, order the personal assets of all of the Enron executives frozen, pooled, and split amongst the Enron employees and creditors. That would be a good start. The Republican Party, Republican Congresspeople, and George
W. Bush should follow the Democratic Party lead and return their campaign
contributions to the Enron settlement trust for the Enron employee¹s 401(k) fund and recuse themselves from any investigations. Then appoint an independent prosecutor, since there doesn't seem to be much of anyone in the Bush administration, Justice Department included, without cozy financial ties to Enron.