Democratic Underground  

The Party of Excess
July 13, 2002
By Bridget Gibson

"I get good advice, if you will, from their people based upon how we're doing business and how we're operating — over and above just the sort of normal by the books auditing arrangement."
Dick Cheney as CEO of Halliburton in a 1996 promotional video for Arthur Anderson

If, as has been said, money is the root of all evil, then any and all new evil roots should be exposed as they appear. The citizenry of the United States is awakening in a brave new world of vast uncertainties and daily terrors. Almost every able-bodied and working person goes out to do his or her job wondering if the dreaded “pink-slip” awaits. Too many good people have done the foot-soldiering for the corporations that hands of greed and dishonesty have guided.

Many studies have been performed showing the disparity between the wages of the general class of employees, and the compensation packages of the corporate executives. They should study a few other things, also. They hold the accountability of the lowest rung of the ladder to a degree that the highest rung never sees. If a document is mislaid, the secretary must answer for the skill level that is in question. Yet it would appear that the executive officers cannot be held accountable for knowing any of the detailed workings and intricacies of the financial statements that are part and parcel of their jobs.

A classic example is Dick Cheney. In 1999, Mr. Cheney’s CEO compensation package for Halliburton was $26,400,000. It's growing more obvious by the minute that things were not as they appeared during Mr. Cheney’s tenure with Halliburton. The SEC (chaired by the former attorney for Arthur Anderson, Harvey Pitt) has had to acknowledge that there were accounting improprieties, i.e., Halliburton cooked its books by registering income as “received” that was “future money.” The amount in question is not chump change either. The amount was one quarter of the annual revenue for the corporation: $100 Million. Perhaps Mr. Cheney should answer some questions about accountability. The smoke and mirrors tricks taught by Arthur Anderson are not holding up well to the light of day.

There should be a day of reckoning for the most basic lack of compass that has enveloped our nation. This country has sat back and idolized wealth as the end-all and be-all and allowed anyone who possesses enough of the green to flout any and all rules that they have not bought into legislation. The United States flag has fifty stars depicting the states, but with the corporate influence at the helm, perhaps those stars will be exchanged for corporate logos. Ironically, it would more accurately reflect exactly who is being represented in this country.

Power companies (and I’m not just talking electricity) have taken their “label” to heart and become power brokers in the halls of justice. We have very few, if any, legislators or elected officials that have not been tainted with the money that is stuffed daily into their pockets. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas is a poster boy for deregulation and privatization. He has steadfastly refused to allow any investigations into the money laundering techniques of the corporations or the very wealthy and firmly stood in defiance to any common sense legislation.

In no particular order, a short list of companies and their actions

Enron - overstatement of profits - $2 Billion - over 700 offshore bank accounts
Arthur Anderson - found guilty of “Obstruction of Justice”
Tyco (based in Bermuda) - CEO charged with tax evasion on $13 Million in art
Global Crossing - overstatement of earnings - $1 Billion
WorldCom - misstatement of earnings - $3.9 Billion
Merck (pharmaceuticals) - overstatement of earnings - $14.05 Billion
ImClone - charged with “Insider Trading” Reliant Energy (formerly Houston Industries) - overstatement of earnings - $7.9 Billion
- overstatement of earnings - $1.4 Billion - fined $10 Million
Merrill Lynch - settled charges “of systematically misleading investors” - paid $100 Million fine
Qwest - currently under investigation for accounting practices (revenue boosting)
Dynergy - currently being investigated for questionable accounting practices
Halliburton - currently being investigated for questionable accounting practices
El Paso Corporation - currently being investigated for questionable accounting practices
Williams Cos. - currently being investigated for questionable accounting practices
CMS Energy - currently being investigated for questionable accounting practices
Piper Jaffray - fined $300,000 for extorting its business services
Sotheby’s - its Chairman was given a one year prison term for price fixing
EDS (Ross Perot’s firm) - currently being investigated for marketing software to assist in crooked corporate bookkeeping

The last presidential election cycle was paved with millions of dollars representing corporate greed, and the midterm election cycle of money raising techniques has shown that nothing has changed. So far this year (2002), the GOP has raised in excess of $100 Million, mostly from corporate donors. They may call this “soft-money,” but it's cold hard cash. When money buys influence, it’s called a “bribe.” Let’s start calling a spade a spade, and quit confusing it for a spoon. The dirty money in the political arena is tainting all of the politicians. For George W. Bush to stand before the assembled corporate thieves and shake his finger as though he had a right to do so made me laugh. Mr. Bush is a dirty ol’ pot, and he’s calling the kettle black.

The resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may have shared his secret of success with Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron, on how to cover the losses from bad business transactions from his experience with Harken Energy. Mr. Bush has managed to leverage his way out of each of his corrupt business practices with more of other people’s money in his pocket every time. I’ll take bets that Kenny Boy will get to keep his $7 Million Houston, Texas condominium. Nine months have passed since Enron declared bankruptcy and they have filed no criminal charges against him.

WorldCom’s $100,000 donation/contribution to the Republican Party on June 19 (six days before they came clean with the financial “misstatements”) has not been returned by the RNC for use for the 18,000 workers that are currently being laid off. And it's for certain that the $1 Million donated by WorldCom to establish the Trent Lott Leadership Institute in Mississippi will not be sent back either.

I would've thought that the government had completely given up on enforcement of taxes and regulations but for reading last month that the Internal Revenue Service had decided to go after the waiters and waitresses of the United States for “underreporting” tips. The IRS has determined that since everyone receives a minimum 15% tip for every item served, whether it's take-out or eat-in, those nasty wait-staffers were skimming from the till.

The party is over folks and the greedy revelers have left us a huge mess. What do you say? I say, let’s throw the bums out!

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