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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Diminishing Marginal Outrage?

Robert Scheer wants to know why the media is mostly ignoring connections between George Bush and Enron, particularly connections to Ken Lay:

Kenny Boy's Connections, by Robert Scheer, The Nation: The Bush Family consistently acted to put Enron and its longtime CEO Ken Lay into a position to rip off investors and taxpayers. Why is the mass media ignoring that fact now that Lay has been convicted in arguably the most egregious example of white-collar fraud in US history?

Until he hooked up with the Bushes, Lay was just another mid-level energy trader complaining endlessly about being hemmed in by onerous government regulations and those terrible consumer lawyers who prevent free market hustlers from doing their thing. But after he and his company became top supporters of the Bushes--eventually giving $3 million combined to various Bush electoral campaigns and the Republican Party--doors opened for them in a big way. In particular, once Bush the father got rid of key energy industry regulations, Lay was a made man and Enron's fortunes soared...

Another huge gift from the first Bush regime came in the form of a ruling by Wendy Gramm, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, that permitted Enron to trade in energy derivatives, making possible the company's exponential growth. Five weeks after that ruling, Gramm resigned and joined the Enron board of directors... Six years later, Gramm's husband, US Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, further enabled Enron greed by pushing through additional anti-regulation legislation.

A long list of George H. W. Bush's Cabinet and inner circle, including Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher, went to work for Enron after his 1992 defeat. An even greater number of Enron officials returned the favor by joining the George W. Bush Administration in 2001 shortly before the Enron scandal exploded.

The close connections between President Bush and Lay began when they both worked on the 1992 Bush ... presidential re-election campaign. ... "Dear Ken, one of the sad things about old friends is that they seem to be getting older--just like you!" wrote then-Texas Gov. Bush in April 1997. "Thank goodness you have such a young beautiful wife." In Lay's typed responses--some are handwritten--he sometimes crossed out Bush's formal titles to scrawl a friendly "George," ... [copy of Bush letter].

Typical was Bush's role in Enron's lobbying Pennsylvania's governor to permit Enron to enter his state's energy market. As Lay wrote in a letter dated Oct. 7, 1997, "I very much appreciated your call to Gov. Tom Ridge a few days ago. I am certain that will have a positive impact on the way he and others in Pennsylvania view our proposal." After the Enron crash, Bush attempted to distance himself from the "Bush pioneer," who had sent more than $2 million in Enron funds George W.'s way, as well as supplying him with the Enron company jet on at least eight occasions. "I have not met with him personally," Bush said after the scandal broke. What Bush left out was not only his hundreds of personal encounters with Lay before he assumed the presidency but, more important, Lay's key role in drafting the Bush Administration's energy policy, meeting with energy task force chairman Dick Cheney at least six times...

So far, California has recouped some of the billions in taxpayer and pension funds it lost, and several of Enron's top dogs are looking at hard time. Perhaps, after this November, if the opposition party can retake at least one branch of government, the connections between these corporate criminals and their buddy in the White House can be more fully investigated as well.

I'll take shot at the answer as to why the press isn't intensely focused on every potential scandal this administration is involved in. Well, part of the explanation anyway -- I don't think this explains it all.

I'm finding I am subject to diminishing marginal outrage, and maybe I'm not alone. It's hard to get worked up about every potential scandal when there are so many. There are revelations about this administration almost daily it seems at times that would have been huge news during the Clinton years. Because the events were relatively isolated under Clinton, each was the subject of intense focus. But now, with the number of potential scandals multiplying so fast as time passes, the added news value of each new bit of information is diminished and much of it passes by with barely a squeak from the press.

    Posted by on Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 10:35 AM in Economics, Politics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (17)

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