I had hoped to be reporting in this space today the answers of disgraced Enron CEO Ken Lay to a host of impolite questions. As you might have heard, Lay was scheduled to make his first appearance before a Congressional committee this morning–and I had planned to join the gawkers at the press tables. But yesterday, Lay canceled, claiming that recent remarks from members of Congress had led him to conclude that an anti-Lay bias had set in on Capitol Hill. Which meant that a lawyer finally had managed to talk some sense into Lay. Since he is the potential subject of criminal investigations and civil lawsuits, it would not have been wise for Lay to subject himself to wide-ranging questions from members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Consequently, I–and you–did not get to see him respond to such questions as:
* What did you expect in return for the hundreds of thousands of dollars you donated to George W. Bush over the years?
* Did you or anyone else at Enron ever try to exert influence over a regulatory matter of the US government? If so, could you please run us through all the details?
* Did you pull strings to replace the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year? Did campaign contributions come in handy in such an endeavor?
* Why did you find it useful to retain as lobbyists high-level GOP operatives, such as Ralph Reed and Ed Gillespie? Did Enron place Reed on its payroll as a favor to the Bush campaign, as has been reported (but denied by Reed)?
* Did your donations to the Democratic party during the Clinton years help Enron win highly-coveted seats on trade missions led by Commerce Secretaries Ron Brown and Mickey Kantor?
* What did Enron officials and the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force talk about?
I am presuming the Senators would have dared to ask such direct questions. But Lay is lying low, and these and other mysteries will remain for the time being.
As a public service, then, let me put to good use the space otherwise reserved for the Lay testimony.
A few days ago, the inimitable Molly Ivins called me. There was a slight dire tone in her voice, which is unusual. Molly gets dire about few things. What had riled her was a quote put out by the White House. In yet one more attempt to distance Bush from his (previously) good friend Lay (once known to Bush as “Kenny Boy”), a White House aide had told reporters that Bush was outraged that Lay and other executives had sold hundreds of millions in Enron stock before the company collapsed and the stock plummeted. The aide quoted an angered Bush as saying, “I thought the captain was supposed to be the last one off the sinking ship, not the first one.”