EMAIL PAGE EIGHT
COLUMN SIXTY-NINE, MARCH 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
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COMPANIES LIKE ENRON BUY AND SELL OUR CONGRESSMEN
Bernie Sanders: Enron and finance reform
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 21:14:49 -0800 (PST)
From: portsideMod <email@example.com>
To: ps <firstname.lastname@example.org>
on Tuesday, January 29, 2002 by Common Dreams
Enron Debacle Tells Us That We Need Campaign Finance Reform Now
Representative Bernard Sanders, I-VT
Enron Corporation ripped off the pensions of thousands of its workers by denying
them the ability to sell their Enron stock when it was plummeting.
ripped off investors by not being honest about the financial condition of the
ripped off ratepayers by manipulating the energy market and forcing electrical
rates to soar in California and elsewhere.
ripped off taxpayers by playing fast and loose with the tax code, by not paying
its fair share of taxes, and by receiving hundreds of millions in tax rebates
from the federal government.
is a poster child of how a group of powerful corporate leaders come to exert
enormous clout over elected officials and get the rules changed in their favor.
Its growth and decline are a perfect example of why we need strong campaign
finance reform. Special interests cannot be allowed to continue wrecking havoc
with our political and economic life.
contributed nearly $6 million to both Republicans and Democrats over the past
year. What did they get for the money they spent then and in the past? In four
out of the last five years this hugely profitable company paid no taxes. In
fact, according to The New York Times, they received $382 million in tax
refunds. Further, if the House Republican economic stimulus package ever becomes
law, they would receive another $254 million in tax rebates.
one thing they got for their money was tax breaks. Not just them, but the many
wealthy contributors who could afford to pay $2500 a plate to have dinner with
George Bush. He got elected, and guess what? He eliminated the budget surplus,
which could have paid down the national debt, in order to give huge tax breaks
to the wealthy, averaging $53,000 annually. Meanwhile for the 78 million
taxpayers in the lowest 60 percent of the income scale, the tax cut will average
$347 a year. And the House Republican Economic Stimulus package would do even
worse damage. Over fifty percent of the tax cut would go to the richest one
percent, those with incomes over $384,000, while the bottom 60 percent of
taxpayers would get just 7 percent of the tax cuts.
offered candidate George W. Bush its fleet of corporate jets for political
travel during the 2000 campaign, and the Chairman of Enron, Kenneth Lay and his
wife have contributed almost $800,000 to the Republican Party since 1988.
did they get for their money? Is it an accident that Enron was able to arrange
secret meetings with Vice President Cheney to help craft the
Andersen, the firm that allowed Enron to overstate its profits by some $580
million over the past 4 years, spent more than $5 million in campaign
contributions to both Republicans and Democrats since 1989.
did Arthur Anderson get? The rejection of a proposed rule by former SEC Chairman
Arthur Levitt that would have banned independent auditing firms from receiving
consultant fees. Last year alone, Andersen received $27 million in consulting
fees from Enron. In fact, while the Big 5 accounting firms were paid $909
million for their auditing work last year, they were paid $2.65 billion for
consulting and other services, a very serious appearance of a conflict of
interest. Can an auditor be independent and honest when two thirds of its income
comes not from auditing but from consulting about how to take advantage of every
legality and loophole?
it's not just Enron and it's not just Arthur Anderson. Campaign spending is out
of control. The simple truth is that large, powerful corporations like
you can believe it, political parties and candidates spent more than $3 billion
on the 2000 elections according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive
Politics. Eighty percent of political contributions come from the wealthiest
one-quarter of 1 percent of the population. And what are the results?
the same time that Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs of
any people in the industrialized world, the pharmaceutical industry spent over
$180 million in campaign contributions, advertising and lobbying during the
the same time that some of the largest companies in America including IBM, GE
and Chevron were in line for a $25 billion corporate welfare check from the
House Republican economic stimulus bill, they spent over $45 million in campaign
contributions over the past 10 years.
the same time that 44 million Americans do not have health insurance, HMO's,
health service providers and the health insurance industry spent over $20
million in campaign contributions, advertising and public relations during the
the same time that the House Republican energy bill would provide $33 billion in
tax breaks for energy companies, the energy sector spent nearly $65 million in
campaign contributions to both major political parties.
our campaign finance system needs to be fundamentally changed. We need to be a
nation in which political influence is determined by one person, one vote. Not
by large corporations and wealthy people contributing hundreds of millions to
the political party and candidate of their choice.
a first step, Congress needs to pass the Shays-Meehan Campaign Reform Act as
soon as possible. The Senate has already passed the similar McCain-Feingold
Republican leadership does not want campaign finance reform to come to a vote,
because they know that people nationwide will demand that their legislators pass
it. So the House Republican Leadership has used every political device, every
bit of arm-twisting they can muster, to prevent the Shays-Meehan bill from being
brought forward for a vote.
good news, though. The legislation just got four signatures two more than were
needed on a discharge petition, which requires the House to take up
would be a fitting irony if the final result of Enron's huge campaign
contributions were to bring about campaign finance reform, so that such
contributions could never again be made.
Sanders, Independent Congressman from Vermont, has signed the discharge
petition, as well as Shays- Meehan. He has never accepted contributions from
Enron or Arthur Anderson or any corporate donor.
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