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Enron Ties to White House Senate Panel Subpoenas

Enron Ties to White House Subject of Senate Panel Subpoenas

From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
http://www.btlonline.org

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Between the Lines Q&A

A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release June 3, 2002

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Enron Ties to White House Subject of Senate Panel Subpoenas
Audio Version: http://click.topica.com/maaan0TaaSnCWb1BioWb/
Needs RealPlayer

*Despite California energy crisis. Congress continues to deregulate energy industry

Interview with Public Citizen's Wenonah Hauter

by Scott Harris

Congress continues its investigation into the collapse of the Enron Corporation, while the White House does its best to block information requested examining its connections with the failed energy company's executives. The U.S. Senate, controlled by the Democrats, recently voted to issue the White House subpoenas demanding documents that could shed light on the influence Enron had in the development of the Bush energy policy; its conduct during the California energy crisis; Enron's collapse and the administration's appointment to various regulatory posts.

Army Secretary Thomas White's possible involvement in market manipulation and price gouging during California's energy crisis at a time when he served as vice chair of Enron's Energy Services Division, have prompted consumer groups to call for his resignation and a Justice Department probe.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, who summarizes the latest developments in the investigation into Enron's corporate collapse and political scandal.

Wenonah Hauter: Well, I think Enron is an example of corporate and government corruptness when we see government officials cooperating with a corporation to help them make money. Last week a Senate panel voted to issue subpoenas. The General Accounting office had issued subpoenas, in February, a little bit of information had come to light that basically the Bush administration had been stalling.

Now a memo has come to light that has further indicated that Army Secretary Thomas White's former Enron division was involved in market manipulation and price gouging during the California electricity crisis. White, who was appointed by Bush to be Secretary of the Army, is the highest-ranking official who worked for Enron and then was appointed to the cabinet of the Bush administration.

The Bush administration and the Republican Party has had very, very close ties to Enron. So we have seen a very, very close relationship between a key Republican, members of Congress and supporters of the Bush administration. And rather than being really forthcoming and admitting that certain officials had relationships with Enron, the Bush administration is continuing to stonewall and not give the information that's being requested by Congress and by arms of Congress like the General Accounting Office. So it's a fairly outrageous situation.

Between The Lines: What specifically is the Senate looking for in these subpoenas and what kind of information is the White House preventing from going to the Senate -- and of course to the public -- about their involvement with Enron?

Wenonah Hauter: Well, the Senate panel is basically looking (to see) if any officials at Enron asked anyone at the White House for help before the Enron bankruptcy last December. They want to see -- there are many, many employees at the White House who could have received phone calls from Enron. So we're talking about thousands of pages of documents.

Now, we do know that some of the material that was disclosed last week showed that there were private meetings, for instance, in mid-April. Enron chairman Kenneth Lay had a meeting with Cheney in which energy policy and the power crisis in California were discussed. And remember that Cheney also was the head of the energy policy task force. A meeting was disclosed last year between Cheney and Enron and that was on a PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) television documentary.

So, basically (the Congressional investigation is looking) to see if there was any illegal behavior going on between officials in the Bush administration and Enron.

Between The Lines: How far do you think the White House will take this fight to prevent Congress from getting a hold of these documents? Implicit in that "stonewalling," as you put it, is that they have a lot to hide. Do you think that's the case?

Wenonah Hauter: It seems like it, because they have made a much bigger deal of this, than if they had just released documents -- if they didn't have something to hide.

One can only suspect that there were meetings or conversations that they don't want the public to be aware of or they would release these documents. It makes disclosure and the need for disclosure that much more important.

Between The Lines: The Enron corporation before its collapse poured lots of money into lobbying for deregulation across the country of our energy markets. We saw the disastrous results in California. Is there any move afoot now to roll back some of that deregulation to protect consumers?

Wenonah Hauter: You know you would think that after the debacle with Enron and the experience in California that our policy makers would be very nervous about deregulation. But instead what we've seen with the energy bills that have passed the House and Senate, that there's further deregulation planned. There is language in both bills to repeal the Public Utility Holding Company Act that protects electricity consumers. If it had not been weakened recently it might have prevented the Enron debacle. So as far as we can see, the energy companies still intend to pursue deregulation, to lobby for deregulation and to move it forward.

The unfortunate aspect of this whole debacle is that the U.S. media, Wall Street, government officials. They would like us to believe that this is one bad apple, an unusual situation. But I'm afraid that what's going to happen is that we're going to see many Enrons in the future if we don't have major changes and reforms in a number of different areas. It doesn't bode well when we see Congress passing an energy bill that furthers deregulation and is just absolutely irresponsible.

Contact Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project by calling (202) 546-4996 or visit their Web site at http://click.topica.com/maaan0TaaSnCXb1BioWb/ (www.citizen.org)

See related links and listen to an excerpt of this interview in a RealAudio segment or in MP3 on our Web site at: http://click.topica.com/maaan0TaaSnCVb1BioWb/ (www.btlonline.org)

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Scott Harris is the executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines, for the week ending June 7, 2002.

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