More important: When Lay called then Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans to help him avoid filing bankruptcy (as happened in December 2001), Kenny Boy won no favors. When Robert Rubin -- Bill Clinton's Treasury secretary, then head of Citigroup, an Enron creditor -- called a top Treasury official to suggest that the administration take steps to prevent Enron's credit rating from being downgraded, the official refused.
Asked about Sen. Boxer's remark, criminal attorney Victoria Toensing noted, "This is a criminal case. So that's not going to bring money to the people of California." What's more, the charges against Lay allege a conspiracy to defraud investors; they have nothing to do with California consumers.
Boxer spokesman David Sandretti didn't disagree but added, "The reality is, there's enough evidence clearly to demonstrate that California was ripped off by Enron. She's just making the parallel."
More likely, this is a way to pin the tail of the energy crisis on a non-Donkey. There was no Republican in charge when blackouts hit Northern California in June 2000, but if the Dems can tie Lay to Bush, voters may forget.
In fact, when the blackouts began, Gray Davis was governor. Bill Clinton was president. Clinton played golf with Lay. Clinton's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wouldn't agree to price caps even though Davis desperately sought them. Perhaps, as Cabrero put it, it begs the question.
Don't get me wrong. I believe Enron traders engaged in cheesy market manipulations that drove up electricity prices in the West, and I'd like to see them pay for whatever costs they drove up illegally.
Californians, nonetheless, should understand that state politicians and voters helped Enron bilk the state. Cities blocked the building of new power plants. State law forced utilities to buy electricity for more than it allowed them to charge. Davis refused to raise energy rates early on when market responses might have eased the problem.
For writing this, I expect a few e-mails asking me how much Enron is paying me. I would be tempted to answer that no reputable journalist would take money from Enron. But I forget the columnist who, before joining The New York Times, received $50,000 to serve on an Enron advisory board. He later gushed about Enron in a Fortune magazine piece, without disclosing his Kenny Boy connection. His name is Paul Krugman.
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