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TinotopiaLog → Enron, the Government, Corporate Bribes, and You (18 Jan 2002)
Friday 18 January 2002

Enron, the Government, Corporate Bribes, and You

The Washington Post today carries a story headlined Enron’s Influence Reached Deep Into Administration. I think the Post is “reaching”, personally.

A lot of Enron’s “reach” comes from nothing more than the fact that the President is a Texan who was involved in the oil industry, and that Enron is a Texan pipeline company. When he looks in his Rolodex to find people to work for him in the White House, he’s naturally going to come up with a lot of people who’ve worked for Enron at some point.

What I’m interested in is John Ashcroft’s recusal of himself from the Enron investigation because he’d taken about $57,000 in campaign contributions from them while he was a senator. I think that Ashcroft did the right thing; I don’t think it would be fair to expect the man to be impartial in investigating a company that had been his benefactor like that. The Attorney General apparently understands that.

However, the fact that Ashcroft feels the need to step back from the Enron investigation because of their generosity in supporting his campaigns forces me to question the validity of his votes in the Senate on energy matters. If Enron’s gifts in 1999 and 2000 — actually, they were gifts from Enron executives, but that ultimately means the same thing — were enough to taint Ashcroft’s judgement now, then what were they doing in 1999 and 2000? What are Enron’s contributions to every other member of the Senate doing in that body today?

I’m sure that Ashcroft, if questioned on the matter, would say that he’d recused himself merely to eliminate the possibility of any “appearance of impropriety”. If it’s just a matter of appearances, though, doesn’t Ashcroft owe it to the American people — his employers — to do his job and to thoroughly explain how what he’s doing is not improper, in light of those campaign contributions?

I don’t mean to pick on Ashcroft here; he’s not alone in this, and so far he appears to be treading carefully in an attempt to do a conscientious job. But if taking large campaign contributions from corporate donors like Enron renders you unable to fully perform the job you’ve been hired (appointed, elected) to do, perhaps accepting those donations is cause to disqualify you from holding the position. That seems to be the Attorney General’s opinion, at least with regard to himself in this case.

Posted by tino at 15:13 18.01.02
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