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 Day 19

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The Enron Model:

A Preamble for the Constitution of the Corporations of the USA

by Tom Turnipseed

We the corporations of The United States, in order to make more money, establish our profits with campaign contributions and lobbying, insure a revolving door of greedy executives, provide pink slips for our employees and steal their retirement, promote theft from our shareholders, and secure the hatred of the people of the world through economic exploitation, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Corporations of the United States.

Corporate power and its control of government and information in the United States is transforming our great experiment in democracy as expressed in the Preamble to the United States into a mockery of the meaning of “We the people…”. The Enron collapse exemplifies how corporate America conspires to change and circumvent laws and regulations meant to protect everyday people. Most Americans are not greedy or ruthless enough to be anywhere near the “discreet” decision making process of Enron executives like “Kenny Boy” Lay, whose bold and imaginative acquisitiveness gave him access to the corporate titans of the world and their political minions in Congress and the White House.

George Will recently wrote, “…a mature capitalist economy is a government project.” Will, a high brow “conservative,” strained to impress intellectuals with a demeaning description of Washington as “narcissistic and solipsistic” in his column about Enron. For a wealthy corporate elite apologist in a country that has seen the greatest increase in income disparity in its history over the past 20 years to admit that the bad ol’ government is really a tool of his beloved capitalism is interesting. Will went on to say, “A properly functioning free market system does not spring spontaneously from society’s soil as dandelions spring from surburban lawns. Rather, it is a complex creation of laws and mores that guarantee…transparency, meaning a sufficient stream…of reliable information about the condition and conduct of corporations.” Mr. Will did not tell us how our “mature capitalist economy” can remedy the errors of Enron when the largest corporations successfully use campaign contributions and lobbying against laws and regulations, put their lackeys in charge of the regulatory agencies that would guarantee such transparency, and control the major media and the information “We the people…” receive.

General Electric, like Enron, has been lauded as an excellent example of an American corporation and they also happen to own NBC, CNBC and half of MSNBC. GE is a big defense contractor and their media subsidiaries have led the hype of America’s New War 24-7 since 911 along with other major media, but now they are finally covering the collapse of Enron. Enron’s collapse hit so close to the corrupt core of our corporate culture that their talking heads are demanding jail time for Enron executives, distancing themselves from the corporate “evil ones.” Enron had an esteemed CEO known to President Bush as “Kenny Boy” Lay, who “cashed out” on his employees, and GE’s honored former CEO, “Neutron Jack” Welch earned his nickname for putting profits over people by firing thousands of employees and making GE a “model of corporate efficiency” when he took over as CEO of General Electric.

A revolving door among executives of Enron, their accounting/auditing/consulting firm of Arthur Andersen, and their “outside/inside” law firm of Vinson and Elkins, appears to have facilitated the shady deals that led to Enron’s disastrous downfall and allowed Enron executives to “cash out” for more than a billion dollars while leaving their employees jobless with worthless 401K plans and their shareholders holding the bag. Several of the executives involved will most likely face both criminal and civil conspiracy charges. The door also revolved into several strategically high places in government with: Enron consultant Lawrence Lindsay who was paid $50,000, becoming the White House economic advisor; former Enron Vice-President Thomas White, who owned $50-100 million in Enron stock and $50,000 in stock options, becoming Secretary of the Army; former Enron advisory-board member Robert Zoellick, who was paid $50,000, becoming U.S. Trade Representative; and Karl Rove, who owned $100,000 in Enron stock before he sold it in June, 2001, becoming Senior advisor to the President. Lawrence Lindsey did a study for the White House that concluded Enron’s collapse would not hurt the U.S. and global markets.

Harvey Pitt, an attorney for Arthur Andersen and defender of the controversial practice of an accounting firm being allowed to do unlimited consulting services for a client for whom they were auditors, was appointed by Bush as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Auditing and consulting has been cited as a contributing cause for the Enron/Andersen debacle. Former SEC chairmen Arthur Levitt proposed legislation in 2000 that would have forced accounting firms like Arthur Andersen to choose whether they would provide auditing or consulting services to clients, but not both. The proposal that might have helped prevent the Enron/Andersen fiasco was defeated by the powerful and outspoken opposition of Senator Charles Schumer, who received $329,631 from the accounting industry (1995-2000), Senator Phil Gramm, who received $200,950 from the accounting lobby (1995-2000) and congressman Billy Tauzin, who received $143,424 from the accounting industry (1995-2000).

Enron’s total political contributions as reported from 1989-2001 were $5.78 million with 73% going to Republicans and 27% to Democrats. Over $700,000 went to various members of the seven Congressional Committees who will be investigating Enron’s collapse.

Here in South Carolina, the media covers the announced candidates in the U.S. Senate race in “horse race” style with stories about who is raising the most money but nothing about issues that effect the lives of everyday people in these recessionary times. It is no longer about We the People, it’s all We the Corporations and the wealthy elite.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, South Carolina. http://www.turnipseed.net