The widely televised indictment and arraignment of the hand-cuffed
Enron CEO, Ken Lay -- one of George W. Bush's closest friends and
funders -- should not lull anyone into thinking that this is anything
but a limited move against corporate crime in an ocean of still-at-large
With trillions of dollars stolen or drained away from small
investors, pensionholders and workers, this corporate crime wave
receives less Justice Department enforcement money than the cost of an
annual Congressional salary grab.
To place the defiant, media-touring, though indicted, Ken Lay in
perspective, watch Lou Dobbs on CNN who has a regular tally on how few
of these corporate crooks are even prosecuted. Ken Lay now says he did
not know what his immediate subordinate executives were doing cooking
the books and inflating the stock which increased the value greatly of
Ken Lay's stock options. He just plumb did not know. What a gas for a
corrupt energy company that collapsed on the backs of thousands of its
employees now without their jobs and without their 401(k)s!
Listen to Doug Heller who with his associates at the Foundation for
Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) (consumerwatchdog.org) has been
fighting electricity de-regulation for years:
"The indictment of former Enron CEO and Chairman Ken Lay provides
cold comfort to California taxpayers and electricity rate-payers who
lost billions of dollars as a result of the Ken Lay -- driven energy
deregulation disaster and the related crimes." Heller's group estimates
the cost to California consumers at $71 billion. The State of
California has demanded $8.9 billion in refunds from energy companies
like the bankrupt Enron. President Bush has blocked significant
refunds. None of the eleven counts in the Lay indictment touched on
this well-documented manipulation of California's electricity prices.
Recently released Enron tapes show the Enron manipulators joking about
jacking up a grandmother's monthly electric bill many times over.
Note this shameful exchange by the Enron boys:
"KEVIN: So the rumor's true? They're f--kin' takin' all the money back
from you guys? All those money you guys stole from those poor
grandmothers in California?
BOB: Yeah, grandma Millie, man. But she's the one who couldn't figure
out how to f--kin' vote on the butterfly ballot.
KEVIN: Yeah, now she wants her f--kin' money back for all the power
you've charged right up -- jammed right up her a** for f--kin' 250
dollars a megawatt hour.
California taxpayers also paid, along with ratepayers for this
gigantic price-fixing and supply-fixing conspiracy that still has not
been properly punished.
The media has had a field day with the evidence of this conspiracy.
Under the California deregulation law, shaped by California electric
companies, energy companies and the collaborative Natural Resource
Defense Council's Ralph Cavanaugh in 1996 -- there was no legislative
inquiry or real debate as it passed unanimously -- the debacle of
obscene profits oozed out.
A notorious December 2000 memo from Enron's lawyers, described deals
with code names like "Fat Boy", "Death Star" and "Get Shorty" that
Enron's energy traders used to skyrocket electricity spot market prices
to mountain peak levels by creating phony shortages and
congested transmission lines. One taped conversation had an Enron
employee asking for information about the (illegal) "over-scheduling
load and making buckets of money on that,"... to "prove how valuable it
is to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling."
Electricity is a necessity. It should never be turned into a
commodity for speculation, which is just what de-regulation allows in
one form or another. So Ken Lay is not indicted for these "massive
energy crimes," as Heller calls them, but only for securities frauds.
So while the Justice Department is chasing non-violent individuals
who are addicted to drugs and jailing them, the corporate criminals
escape or, if caught and convicted -- a rare initiative -- are given a
In the meantime, the no-fault federal and state governments continue
their anti-consumer binge by pushing for the repeal of the electric
company regulation law -- known as the Public Utility Holding Company
Act (PUHCA). This brilliantly drafted law, passed when Franklin D.
Roosevelt was President, has worked as directed to end the
holding-company stability that plagued utilities in the Twenties and
So long as there are no penalties for failures, big time corporate
bosses and their cozy government officials will continue their deals and
the consumers and taxpayers will pay, pay and pay. That is why you must
demand a say, a big say in your economic future.