February 8, 2002:  Four Enron officials have taken the fifth, including Andrew Fastow, the chief financial officer who is apparently the most actively crooked of the bunch, the one with his fingers in the most different pies (pies that don't exactly comply with the food health and safety laws, if you know what I mean).  But Jeffrey K. Skilling, the ex-CEO who left for "personal reasons" and was replaced by the chairman, Ken Lay, took a different stance: he denied absolutely everything.  Nobody there believed a word of it, of course; his statements simply made no sense given the facts that are known.  Lay himself still hasn't been made to testify.

Molly Ivins points out that during the holiday lull after Christmas, the Bush administration quietly repealed the rule that criminal companies can't receive government contracts.

The splatter from Enron has also stained the suit of Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida.  Enron was lobbying him to install a California-style deregulation scheme, and now Jeb is denying that he recalls ever speaking to Enron even once about anything.  But besides the many hours that Enron lobbyist Bill Bryant put into working Jeb Bush, there are records of a half hour phone conversation with Ken Lay, and an email from Jeb saying he would "love to meet with Ken."  Jeb is caught in desperate and implausible lies now, just like Jeff Skilling.  Looks to me like Florida will have a Democratic governor next year.

(Speaking of Florida, we note that internal documents from the office of Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and deleted files and email recovered from her computers' hard disks, show her to have been actively working for the Bush campaign from right there in the same office where she oversaw the election.  The Republican denials of her obvious partisanship in the vote-counting dispute are defunct.)

The Department of Justice is now asking not just the White House, but the Pentagon as well, to preserve and be ready to show them all Enron-related documents and email they have.  The Secretary of the Army, Thomas White, was an Enron vice president before Bush won (?) the election.  Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had to divest himself of a bunch of Enron stock to take his job, and for some reason it was the Department of Defense that issued the administration's rebuttal when the Center for Public Integrity issued a report listing the extraordinary number of top Bush administration officials with Enron ties.

I would like to mention that I predicted before the election that George W. Bush would show a knack for "crooked money-making deals that nobody in the white house has equalled since the days of Teapot Dome."  His is indeed looking like the bribe-takingest administration since those days, maybe since before Theodore Roosevelt.

February 4:  I see that Ken Lay has declined to testify before Congress today.  Doesn't feel like putting up with a "prosecutorial tone".  The congresspeople on the committees are apparently having a hard time deciding whether to subpoena him.  After all, as one democrat put it, "a subpoena forces him to show up, but it doesn't force him to testify."  He can always take the fifth.  But do you really think that Ken Lay, given a choice between refusing to testify on grounds of incriminating himself, and perjuring like an opera diva, will take the fifth?  This is, after all, the guy who just claimed to be personally bankrupt and selling off his posessions, though he still owns ten houses that aren't for sale and never did explain what happened to the $100,000,000.00 he got from selling off his stock before it crashed.  So what's so damn difficult about subpoenaing him?  When it's a matter of public record that someone's made off with $100,000,000.00 which is owed to others, do we have to ask his goddamn permission to question him about where it went?!?

Woops, correction, it looks now like they are going to be subpoenaing him in a day or two.  Maybe the remark above was taken out of context.  Or maybe he got some quick feedback from those remarks and decided he'd better not be so timid and polite with Mr. Lay.

Nope, "a day or two" was too optimistic.

Arthur Andersen is aggressively working to clean up its act before it's forced to.  They've appointed a commission headed by former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker to tell them what to do to restore integrity to their operation, and are promising to follow those recommendations no matter how much it hurts.  Volcker is losing no time in pointing out that many of Andersen's competitors are in need of similar reforms.  One obvious reform is already being put in place -- avoiding conflicts of interest in doing two kinds of work for one customer.

Given that one has gotten oneself into such a mess, this is clearly the right way to deal with it after the fact.  This is exactly the behavior we are not seeing from Ken Lay...  or from the White House, despite Bush's campaign promise to have no tolerance for cover-up behaviors.

One salubrious side effect of this scandal is that we're having a rash of individual financial defrauders flushed out.  In the last twelve hours I've heard two different news stories about high-rolling financial wizards suddenly bolting from their companies and, apparently, fleeing the country with whatever millions they'd accumulated.

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