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Enron Gate: For Democrats the Wrong Battle
Online Research Has Doomed the Demos’ Effort

January 15, 2002


“Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious” – Sun Tzu

Congressional Democrats have chosen their first major assault on the presidency of George W. Bush.  But they have chosen the wrong time to fight.  Two of President Bush’s likely challengers are leading the effort – Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn)  and Senate Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).   They have called for an full investigation into the Enron bankruptcy, hopefully to forge a link between the likely illegal and immoral activities of Enron Corporation corporate and the Bush Administration.

But the emergence of extensive Internet data resources has enabled traditional and online news services to rapidly present a far different story than the one being pushed to the media by the Democrats.

As an early indication of the folly of Lieberman and Daschle attacks, two other possible Democrat Party challengers in 2004 have been silent on the accusations – Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and California Governor Gray Davis.  Both have wisely chosen silence as they too have Enron Corporation links.

Senators Lieberman and Daschle have couched their ambitions by stating the official purpose of the Congressional investigations is to protect Enron employees who indeed suffered from the way the company entered bankruptcy.  Certainly Enron employees could not have been aware of the shady loans taken to save the company through hidden partnerships.  And they were blocked from selling company stock held in their retirement funds, while company executives made over $1 billion in their liquidation of company stock.  So, there are legitimate reasons to hold congressional hearings on the Enron Corporation bankruptcy.  President Bush has wisely and quickly called for a thorough investigation into the employees plight, despite his acknowledged long term friendship with Ken Lay, chairman of Enron Corporation.

During the Seventies’ Watergate scandal, the combination of media investigations and congressional hearings led by the Democrats was successful in bringing down a  president.  But there has been a major evolution and expansion of media since the Seventies.   Traditional media reporters and Internet websites can use vast online resources to develop background for breaking stories.

Using vast array of online and in-house database tools, Net and traditional media blunted the impact of the first announcements by democratic leadership of an alleged Enron – White House link.  For example, within twenty-four hours, it was revealed that Bill Clinton had accepted a $100,000 political contribution just prior to facilitating a $3 billion major overseas contract for Enron.

This brings us to Senator Hillary Clinton.  Since becoming a U.S. senator, she has attempted to distance herself from her husband and his administration.  Her husband acted on Enron’s behalf after receiving a hefty political contribution.  The Bush White House did not respond to Enron pleas to bail out the company.  Enron also contributed to Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns.

Within 48 hours following the Democrats initial allegations of a link to the White House to the Enron debacle, media researchers, like the Center for Responsive Politics and National Review Online, using sites like tray.com were able to assemble the mass of important background information.  They found that Enron had contributed to Democrats including U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), $21,933, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), $14,124, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), $38,000 and Tom Daschle (D-SD), $9,000.  In fact, they discovered that half of Congress had received contributions from Enron.

In the Watergate incident, the famed Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein needed months to trace campaign contributions, as they followed the money.

Using the vast Internet resources, websites like WorldNetDaily also established close links between Enron and the Clinton White House, as well as Bill Clinton himself.  For example, that Enron executives got seats on at least four Energy Department trade missions and at least seven Commerce Department trade trips.  Traditional media like the Washington Post were able to instantaneously call up documents and previous stories that relate to Enron.  Like that Former Clinton Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin telephoned a top Treasury official last fall to probe whether the Bush administration could intervene on behalf of Enron Corp. as the giant energy company neared collapse.

There’s an irony there.  The Washington Post, which broke the Watergate story in the Seventies and launched “investigative reporting,” was now holding Democrats feet to the fire by showing an Enron/Democrat connection.  The Washington Post then and now is no friend to the Bush White House.

The second reason the Democrats have chosen the wrong battle is, as the media has uncovered, Enron has been so successful in infiltrating government at all levels.  Even campaign finance reformer, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) received $9,500 from Enron. This brings us to the fourth possible Democrat challenger in 2004 — California Governor Gray Davis.

Last summer, in the middle of the worst energy crisis in California history, it was revealed through public financial disclosure records, that Gov. Davis's spokesman, Steve Maviglio, owned between $10,000 and $100,000 of Enron stock.   At the same time he and his boss were accusing Enron and other energy wholesalers of making “obscene” profits while California has been “on its knees.”  Then it was shown that a business leader appointed by Governor Davis to a state energy board, Bruce Willison, reported having more than $1 million of Enron stock.  Enron’s influence was in fact direct to Governor Davis.

When electricity prices soared in California and blackouts hit, it was Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay who was sought out for consultation by Governor Gray Davis, even as Davis charged Enron with a “wildcatter attitude” about soaking the state.

Finally, the Democrats have chosen to launch “Enron-gate” at a time when the nation is still at war and in danger from worldwide terrorists.  The economy is undergoing a recession, and the President’s popularity is vast and significant.  The American people are accustomed to alleged scandals and the endless congressional hearings that follow the allegations.  They pay scant attention until the final days.  Then they evaluate and judge for themselves.

At the end of this episode, they will approve reforms which will likely be instituted to protect employees of failing companies.  They will applaud that some Enron executives will pay dearly for the windfalls they collected through  inside information by selling their shares as the company’s stock price dropped.  And they will appreciate, that with his usual clarity and forthrightness, President Bush gave no special favors to a lifetime friend even in a time of critical need.  The President will be stronger after this episode.  And Democrats who staked a claim to this “scandal” will earn the distrust and perhaps contempt of the American people.

“Those who know when to fight and when not to fight are victorious” – Sun Tzu


Award-winning TV producer, talk show host, and Republican leader Arthur Bruzzone has written over 150 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political issues for American and European television and radio networks.  His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications.

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