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Ari & I: May 31, 2001

Russell Mokhiber questions White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

Russell Mokhiber questions White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer gestures as he speaks to reporters at the White House briefing room April 2, 2003 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mokhiber: Ari, Kenneth Lay is a close friend of the President's, and he is also the head of Enron Corporation in Houston. The New York Times reported last week that Mr. Lay made a call to Curtis Hebert, who is the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and that he offered him a deal, according to the Times:

If Mr. Hebert changed his views on electricity deregulation, Enron would continue to support him in his new job. The Times reported that Mr. Hebert refused the offer, was offended, and thought that -- he knew of Mr. Lay's affiliation with the President -- and thought the refusal could put his job in jeopardy.

Two questions. One, is this dignified to have the President's friends mau-mauing regulators who regulate their companies?

And second, is Mr. Hebert's job in jeopardy?

Ari Fleischer: The President makes all of his decisions on personnel based on the merits of the people that he would seek to name.

In terms of -- I think your word was mau-mau, mau-mauing regulators -- for example, Governor Wilson has had some interesting things to say about members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In fact one of them will be meeting with Governor Wilson at the Governor's request. So, it is not unusual at all for people on Commissions to meet with -- I'm sorry, Governor Davis -- to meet with people who have expressed concerns about matters. But the President makes his decisions on personnel about people based on the merits of the people.

Mokhiber: Is his job in danger? Is his job in danger?

Fleischer: No.

. . .

Mokhiber: Ari, to follow up on the tax deal in the Senate --

Ari Fleischer: Yes, Russell.

Mokhiber: Princeton economist Paul Krugman put it this way -- he said "they simply waived their hands and made all of the revenue that will actually be lost in the last year of the ten-year tax period -- hundreds of billions of dollars -- disappear from the accounting."

He called it "white-collar crime, pure and simple." And he said Democratic Senators and Republican Senators alike who were involved with it should be sentenced to "a minimum security installation somewhere unpleasant."

I'm wondering --

Ari Fleischer: Would they be provided with lifelong subscriptions to Mr. Krugman's columns while they were there?

Mokhiber: Or the Corporate Crime Reporter?

Ari Fleischer: You did say something -- I'll leave it there.

Mokhiber: I had a question actually. . .

(Ari moves on.)

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