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A Walk in the Valley of Greed | The Nation

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A Walk in the Valley of Greed

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What would Jesus do? It's a no-brainer; he would leave the Christian Coalition, take a consulting job with Enron and then use his divine power to make George W. Bush president.

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Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer, a contributing editor to The Nation, is editor of Truthdig.com and author of The Great American Stickup...

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Read that way, there's nothing sinister in the recent revelation that it was Bush's top political advisor, Karl Rove, who in 1997 hooked up former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed with Enron. After eight years of making Pat Robertson look good, Reed was exhausted and ready for a career change. The private sector is even more lucrative than televangelism, and Enron was just one of many fat consulting contracts that was Reed's for the asking.

For the Bush people, it was also a good deal. George W. was still a few years away from announcing for the presidency. In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to park the former spokesman for the Christian right with the Bushies' close friends at Enron. Think of the synergy in that relationship. Two years later, when the campaign was officially announced, Reed would be added to the Bush payroll without having to sever his ties to Enron, since there were lots of other folks in the Bush camp doing the same thing. Reed knew that Bush would win because "He (God) knew that George Bush had the ability to lead in this compelling way."

But in the interim, a fellow has bills to pay and that Enron consulting job--which paid $10,000 to $20,000 a month and lasted until Enron's bankruptcy--was a nice little favor.

Of course, that's not the way White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer sees it. He 'fesses up that "Karl Rove gave Ralph Reed a good recommendation" for the Enron job but insists that was only because he was the most qualified. "Ralph Reed is excellent at what he does," Fleischer opined.

Makes perfect sense. What Reed did before entering the private sector was spread the message of the Gospel, and of course that's exactly what Enron was looking for. Particularly the commandment that says, "Thou shall not honestly report corporate profits." Or the other one, "Thou shall not regulate electricity."

Reed hit the corporate ground running: "I met with three executives at Enron in September of 1997. They wanted assistance in building grass-roots support for electricity deregulation in Pennsylvania, which was supported by then-Gov. Tom Ridge and which, by the way, has become a model for the nation."

Apparently, Reed was expected to mobilize the state's Christian right to support deregulation. Unfortunately, Reed is right about Enron's approach to deregulation becoming a model for the nation--all the way to California and bust.

But why be so modest? It was a hard sell. Otherwise Enron wouldn't have had to spend all those millions lobbying, not to mention bringing out the big guns, such as then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, to make its case.

A month after Reed came on board, as Enron's erstwhile chief executive, Kenneth Lay, tells it, "I called George W. to kind of tell him what was going on, and I said that it would be very helpful to Enron, which is obviously a huge company in the state of Texas, if he could just call the governor [of Pennsylvania] and tell him [Enron] is a serious company, this is a professional company, a good company."

Darn right it is, or was, "serious," "professional" and "good" up until the whole dang company mysteriously imploded.

Reed now says he didn't witness any evidence of wrongdoing during his four years with the company and he is happy to report that Enron paid the bills owed him right up to the day of bankruptcy. Some guys have all the luck.

He's not alone in that category among the Bush folk. There seems to be no end of Bush Administration officials and former campaign consultants who made a bundle off Enron but had not a glimmer of warning that anything was ever wrong.

Even the President himself, who was exchanging chummy birthday cards with his "good friend" and patron "Kenny Boy" Lay, wasn't clued in enough to save his mother-in-law from losing more than $8,000 on Enron stock. As in a messy divorce, sometimes those closest to the family are the last to know.

So, what would Jesus do? Heck, according to the teachings of the Rev. Pat Robertson, he'd be out there just like Ralph Reed and George Bush serving God and greed--or rather Mammon--in the same moment.

But what would he really do, faced with all those employees who lost their pensions? Jesus would cry.

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