Senator Phil Gramm is staunchly defending the Bush administration's ties with Enron. "I'm really concerned about this idea that listening to people and talking to people is corrupting," says Gramm. Yes, this is the Phil Gramm whose wife was on the Enron board of directors.
Here's an article that says that one reason Enron fell apart was because of a rivalry between two top officers: Jeffrey Skilling and Rebecca Mark. Mark thought the way to make money was to build or buy power plants and sell electricity. Skilling thought the way of the future was to buy and sell intangibles without investing anything real. Skilling out-backstabbed Mark and got his way. Mark is now telling everyone that her division of Enron -- the overseas branch -- was still profitable at the end. But her division is also responsible for the atrocities at Dabhol.
March 22: John McCain has, after seven years, finally passed his soft money campaign finance reform bill, or something fairly close to it. Congressional republicans finally folded and stopped fighting it. And in doing so, he's managed to put George W. Bush's hand in a vise: if he signs the bill, he will outrage the core right-wing support of his biggest constituents, who have talked themselves into believing that it's morally wrong to limit the use of special interest money in politics... and if he vetoes it, he will outrage the majority of voters, who will quite rightly see him as defending a corrupt system of influence buying -- something he only needs to defend if he or his friends want to continue having their influence up for sale. (The money spent on such contributions has spiraled rapidly upward, reaching a total of half a billion dollars in the 2000 election. That's a pretty good incentive to keep selling.)
There is widespread speculation that Bush and the other opponents of this reform are going to be counting on the courts to gut the measure. A 1976 supreme court decision found that campaign contributions are a form of free speech and there has to be some overriding public interest in order to regulate them. It's probably a good bet that the crew who effectively awarded Florida's electoral votes to George W. Bush before even hearing the arguments of the case, with their December 9 order to stop counting, are not going to find such a public interest very easily. But this approach is not going to make his friends happy... Guess who said this? "If the President does not veto this bill, and leaves the dirty work to the Supreme Court, he runs the risk of tarnishing his legacy." Rush Limbaugh, I kid you not. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who led the Senate fight against the measure, is now saying he'll lead the fight to overturn it in court. The bill contains language to send it rapidly to the supreme court after one review by a panel of three judges, instead of gradually winding through multiple levels of the court system. The part most likely to be struck down is the ban on "issue" advertising that supports or attacks individual candidates, despite not being counted as part of any candidate's campaign, within 60 days of the vote (30 days for a primary vote).
McConnell warned that it might deprive the parties of the money to throw their big showing nominating conventions with. Since those conventions no longer do anything, this seems like a peculiar threat of loss. Another alarm raised is that it would weaken the two major parties. (This is bad??) A more serious charge is that it would help incumbents by restricting the party bankrolling of challengers.
Apparently Bush has decided to sign it, while expressing reservations about its constitutionality. It takes effect after this coming November's election.
House speaker Hastert admitted that reducing special interest soft money would hurt the Republican party more than the Democratic. For that reason, it behooves us to be suspicious that the bill was tweaked to give something to the Republican side to offset this threat. Nothing pops up in any obvious way, though some are saying that the increase in the individual "hard money" donation limit from $1000 to $2000 could help Bush be re-elected. This increase is entirely reasonable given that the $1000 limit was set back in the seventies.
By the way, for those of you who suspect that Democrats are just as dirty as Republicans when it comes to the Enron scandal, here's some ammunition from William Greider in The Nation: "Enron Democrats". For anyone who thinks the Democrats are squeaky clean, this article is especially important. One leading Democrat who comes out looking especially bad here is Joe Lieberman. It reenforces the notion that John Kerry, the junior senator from Massachusetts, is one of the good guys, a possible 2004 presidential contender who is far more untainted than many of the other names being mentioned for that election.
Update: Oh my God, guess what attorney is going
to be representing Mitch McConnell's court attack on campaign finance reform.
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