Enron, it became clear, had thousands of off-shore partnerships most of which
had been established by its former Chief Financial Officer,
Andrew. S. Fastow. The company had a sprawling accounting mess which allowed
over $1billion in debt to be filtered through these partnerships. Through a
combination of mismanagement and downright deceit, Enron inflated profits
massively by hiding these debts which led, ultimately, to a collapse in share
More of a disclosure, however, was exactly how intrinsically linked Enron had
become with governments throughout the world. The myth of globalisation which
says that it reduces politics to a mere irrelevance was debunked. This, it
emerged, was one of the most indecorous meshes of political and corporate power
Enron's descent into bankruptcy came as no surprise to some. Many groups such
as Corp Watch, the
Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch knew of Enron's
pervading predisposition for corruption before its insolvency. The
trouble was, few in power, both in the media and in government, wanted to listen
when they were riding high.
One of the biggest stories that emerged from this whole affair was the extent
to which Enron had become linked to the Bush Administration, the
Republican Party and various other key
political cabals throughout the world. It emerged that Enron had a grotesque
amount of influence within the affluent halls of power in the United States.
Chairman Kenneth Lay (or "Kenny Boy" as he was affectionately known) struck
up an agreeable friendship with President George. W. Bush and they became
golfing buddies. The pair must have been on exceptional terms for Bush to have
coined him such a familiar nickname. Enron also almost certainly had more
influence on Vice President Richard Cheney's Energy Policy than any other
organisation. Cheney or his aides met with Enron at least six times
during the course of 2001 alone.
An insight into exactly how far Enron had its steel-toed boots over the
threshold of American politics is illustrated by the personalities it managed to
manipulate. Amongst them was Tom DeLay, the Texas House Republican Majority Whip
who received $28,000 from Enron in campaign contributions. His Political Action
Committee, `Americans for a Republican Majority', received over $50,000
from 1995 - 2000. DeLay has been one of the fiercest advocates for energy
deregulation in Congress, so it serves as no surprise that Enron would take an
interest in him.
Other characters that have benefited from Enron's `generosity' include:
Linda Robertson - Robertson was a senior U.S Treasury Official during
the presidency of Bill Clinton. During this time she was paid by Enron to fly to
Enron's executive headquarters to talk with company management. Enron saw
Robertson as an important connection between Congress and the Whitehouse.
Wendy Gramm and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission - In 1993,
Wendy Gramm and the Commission allowed an exemption of energy derivatives from
government oversight. This move was welcomed, of course, by Enron and 5 days
later she resigned from her position within government and took a place on the
Enron board. Wendy Gramm still holds this position to this day.
Karl Grove - President Bush's most prominent advisor sold between
$100,000 and $250,000 of Enron stock amidst claims that he had a conflict of
The degree to which Enron had influence in the corridors of power seems
illimitable. For example, in India the company was lambasted for their role in
suppressing peasant dissent. It was its misadventure in the small Indian coastal
town of Dabhol which earned it an
investigation from both
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
In 1992, the Enron Corp. announced it would build a $3 billion natural-gas
power plant in Dabhol in the western state of Maharashtra. This investment was
the biggest in India's history. Local villagers staged protests on the grounds
that the environment and their livelihoods would suffer. A Human Rights Watch
report stated instances of police brutality in suppressing the mostly peaceful
protests. Interestingly, the State Police held responsible for these abuses
provided paid security for Dabhol Power Corporation, the
Bechtel Corp. and
General Electric, all of which were
overseen by Enron. The corporation effectively paid goons to issue a beating to
the villagers in order to repress their vocal opposition.
Internationally acclaimed pressure group, Human Rights Watch's report stated:
"Enron is now being widely accused of arrogance and lack of transparency, but
the people of Dabhol have known that all along. Enron was complicit in human
rights abuse in India for several years."
The British left-wing newspaper, the
Guardian, in a special report entitled
Mired in Enron Row (January 29th, 2002) implied that Enron also managed
to gain a foot-hold in British politics. The opposition Conservative Party
dubbed it, "A very murky business for the Government" and Downing Street
quickly leapt to defend itself.
Enron's courtship with the Blair Government, if one digs deep enough, goes
back a long way. Prime Minister Tony Blair accepted Enron sponsorship for
countless Labour Party conferences. In 1998, after one such conference, former
Government Minister Peter Mandelson gave preference to Enron allowing it to buy
Karl Milner, a former aide to British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon
Brown, and an Enron Europe recruit disclosed to an undercover Guardian reporter;
"We have many friends in government. They like to run things past us some
days in advance to get our point of view."
In 2001 the British Government awarded Chairman of Enron Europe, Ralph Hodge,
a CBE `for services to the power generation and gas advertising.'
Britain's involvement with Enron has been conveniently shadowed by the recent
events of September 11th and the war in Afghanistan which has followed. The same
goes for the Bush administration - such a scandal in peace time would surely
have been on the same scale as Nixon's Watergate affair.
Enron, by no means, is the only corporation that seems to have affected the
balance of power within governments. There are many examples of where a company
or eminent individual seems to have had an evident amount of influence
suggesting some kind of mutual profit being attained.
For example, the cash-for-passports scandal which rocked the British
political establishment back in 2000. Again, Peter Mandelson played a key role.
He is alleged to have granted two extremely wealthy Indian brothers British
citizenship in exchange for an investment into the condemned Millennium Dome's
Recently the Government proposed a ban on tobacco advertising in Formula One
racing. Many believed that such a ban would lead to a lack of financing and
eventually kill the sport. Self-appointed head of Formula One, Bernie
Ecclestone, another extremely wealthy businessman was particularly
hostile to the plans. It was also revealed that Bernie Ecclestone was a major
Labour Party benefactor. A ban on cigarette advertising was differed for Formula
In February 2002, the papers furiously proclaimed how Tony Blair had
privately given his backing to Indian businessman, Lakshi Mittal and a proposed
Romanian steel deal. Blair did this despite the fact that this was not a
British company, and Downing Street dismissed the furore that followed saying
Mr. Blair was "unapologetic." It then emerged that Mittal had made a £125,000
donation to the Labour Party.
Is a non-objective government that diligently serves the people that elected
it too much to ask for? As this essay shows, Western governments seem to be all
too easily persuaded by the vast bribes waved beneath their noses by big
Does the fate of stable governments lie in who can provide the most cash,
rendering the electorate obsolete? The ethical questions that such influence
raises do not, I believe, have to be pointed out by me. It is clear to any
observer that corporations are pushing their own agendas through successive
governments and it's been going on for some time. Do we, as society, need to
stop being so inert and passive? The voters are the only ones who possess the
power to force governments to be accountable for their actions.