the FERC is Going On?
by Richard Prasad
The official line from the Bush administration is that Ken
Lay and Enron received no special treatment from the White
House, that executives from Enron repeatedly called the White
House and received the cold shoulder from the fine, upstanding
cabinet members of the Bush team.
But as more information leaks out about the meeting between
Ken Lay and Vice President Cheney, the more evidence there
is that Lay did indeed get preferential treatment from Cheney
and the Bush administration.
According to Common Cause, a non-partisan, non-profit group
who tracks campaign contributions, Enron gave almost $2 million
in the 1999-2000 election cycle. 70% of that money went to
Republicans. What did they get in return from the Bush administration?
The San Francisco Chronicle published a story recently which
said the following, Ken Lay gave a memo to Clay Johnson, President
Bush's personnel director. The names of 8 members of FERC,
(The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) were suggested
by Lay. Of they 8 names Lay suggested, two were appointed
by Bush and Cheney, including Pat Wood, now the chairman of
It seems incredible that a government commission, which is
supposed to be free of the influence of private enterprise,
can be manipulated in such a blatantly heavy-handed way. The
new commissioner of the commission regulating energy prices
now had Ken Lay and Dick Cheney to thank for his job.
The new PBS show "Now With Bill Moyers" goes even further.
Moyers' show suggests that Lay had a hand in ousting outgoing
FERC Chairman Curtis Hebert, because Hebert didn't agree with
Lay on the construction of a national energy grid, which would
have benefitted Enron a great deal.
Hebert is hardly a liberal, although he was appointed to
FERC by Bill Clinton in 1997. he was a Mississippi utility
regulator, and a protege of no less than Trent Lott. President
Bush thought highly enough of Hebert to name him Chaiman of
FERC in January 2001. In the past, Hebert was criticized for
being too laissez faire on energy matters, but he opposed
Lay on the creation of the national energy grid, and on August
14th, Hebert was replaced by Pat Wood.
At the time, the Bush Administration claimed that Hebert
was not forced out, but Moyers show seems to hint that if
Hebert had played ball with Lay, Lay would have supported
Hebert's continuation as chairman of FERC. Since he did not,
Lay in essence said 'off with his head' and Cheney, the Bush
administration's hatchet man, told Hebert he was history.
Not only did Hebert oppose the creation of a national eneregy
grid, he finally imposed price caps on energy for the Western
states in May 2001. Lay was bitterly opposed to price caps
on energy as he made clear in the memo to Cheney. So by getting
Hebert removed, Lay was doing no less than dictating energy
policy to Dick Cheney and the White House. No influence???
Let's put this in context shall we? During the whole time
this immense power struggle was going on California was suffering
though rolling blackouts. Governor Gray Davis of California
tried to meet with Cheney's energy commission during the rolling
blackouts, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, "was
never invited to the meetings." Similar complaints of lack
of access to Cheney's energy ommission... sorry.. commission
meetings were voiced by California senator Diane Feinstein.
I suppose if Feinstein and Davis had given campaign contributions
to Bush, they might have gotten access and quite a bit more.
Fast forward from last April to January 30th 2002, the GAO
announced a plan to sue Vice President Cheney over the notes
from those private energy commission meetings. Cheney responded
by saying that releasing the minutes to those meetings would
have a chilling effect on how the President conducts policy.
Cheney asserted he's standing on principle to protect future
Presidents. Apparently, from the leaks that have already come
from the Lay/Cheney meeting, all Cheney looks like he's seeking
to protect is his reputation, and that of George W. Bush.
And now comes news that Enron CEO Ken Lay won't testify to
Congress. Is anyone surprised by this development? Senator
Feinstien, for one, had stated that she was going to ask Lay
about his memo to Cheney. Now, the Senate has had to subpoena
Lay in order to try to get the answers.
The Bush Administration would like all of us to believe that
the events of last April are all a series of coincidences.
The huge campaign contributions to Bush, the invitation of
Lay to meet with Cheney to discuss energy policy, the memo
given to Cheney by Lay through an intermediary. The contents
of the memo, not only asking for significant policy changes,
but also asking to replace sitting members of FERC. The 'resignation'
of conservative FERC chairman Curtis Hebert, because of policy
disagreements with Ken Lay. The refusal of Vice President
Cheney to release the notes of that meeting with Lay and finally
the refusal of Ken Lay to testify before Congress.
Put all these 'coincidences' together and they paint a picture
of Ken Lay buying influence from the Bush administration and
not only setting energy policy, but deciding who gets to sit
on the commission who regulates energy prices. Simply put,
quid pro quo.