View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, April 14, 2004

B-School Blues - XIX 

Would that it were only Part XIX. Our Global Ethics class today, even as I type, is covering Enron. You think there might be some ethical problems there? But Mr. Seawell, old Democrat that he is, has apprently decided that the only political connections that mattered were Republican ones. George W. Bush received $774,000 from Enron & executives. Vice President Cheney met with Enron execs in the course of his energy policy review. And 74% of their federal campaign contributions went to Republicans. Paul O'Neill received phone calls asking for help when the whole thing started to go south.

Of course, Enron collapsed in 2001. But their house-of-cards business plan had been in effect for years under the Clinton administration. There is no evidence that the Vice President did anything other than discuss energy policy with what was, at the moment, a major energy company. The majority party in Congress always gets the lion's share of the contributions. And O'Neill, whatever his lack of foreign policy insight, doesn't seem to have done anything more than listen patiently, express his regrets, and put down the phone.

Look, there's a great case to be made that the government fell down on Enron. The guys who were running this shell game deserve whatever they get. These thieves, stealing from investors and employees, have also set back the cause of energy deregulation by years, if not decades. One of the purposes of bringing in government connections into the course is to bring up the proper role of government in regulating business activity.

But Enron's political connections didn't buy them much, did they? They were giving to the party out of power in good times, who didn't lift a finger to save them when bad times hit. In the meantime, the entire telecom industry, which Buie might also say was recklessly deregulated, was tying actual federal regulators up in knots.

Enron is connected to Republicans, who weren't even in office when most of the abuses happened. One of the students brought up Global Crossing and its connection to Terry McAuliffe. Too bad the professor couldn't be counted on to mention it on his own.

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