2002-03-23 / Letters

Need Campaign Reform

Need Campaign Reform

Dear Editor,

The collapse of Enron has again exposed the seamy side of American politics, how money corrupts the political process.

Please do not consider this an anti-Bush attack. We need campaign reform to protect us from the lobbyists and influence peddlers on both sides of the aisle. We certainly know here in Rockaway that a community, as well as a nation, can be exploited by Democrats as well as by Republicans.

As George Bush flew around America in the Enron jet during his Presidential campaign, Enron was undermining democracy and exploiting consumers, not only in the United States but in places like India, Argentina, and England, leading to financial crises and scandals in these countries as well. The Bush family even has lobbied foreign governments such as Argentina on Enron's behalf.

In America, Enron's campaign contributions to the Democrats and Republicans were a major force behind one of the great consumer frauds in American history, energy deregulation, forcing consumers to pay as much as a trillion dollars to bail out the nuclear industry while also causing the recent huge price increases and energy blackouts in California. Enron's business strategy in the U.S.  was based on the belief that it could make more money speculating on electricity contracts than it could by actually producing electricity.

The question is whether once our political leaders have tripped over
themselves expressing shock as to how this could have occurred, will they just go back to business as usual, as Congress has done in every major financial scandal in recent decades, or will real reform occur? Name for instance, one major reform that resulted from the $500 billion Savings and Loans scandal.

We need to have a credible Independent Prosecutor appointed to investigate Enron. Congress certainly can't do it since so many members received payments from Enron. The Bush administration has made it clear that they believe the American people have no right to know the truth about what they do in our name. Cheney continues to refuse to disclose to Congress and the American public the details of his secret meetings with the energy industry
in developing the Bush energy policy. (In a related matter, both Bush and
Cheney have pressured the U.S. Senate Majority Leader to not conduct a full investigation of September 11th).

The Enron scandal is just the latest example of why we need campaign finance reform. Wall Street knows that a campaign contribution remains the best investment, returning far more in the terms of tax breaks, government contracts, and relaxed oversight. In the last decade, 71 Senators and 188 Representatives in Congress received payments from Enron funding; 94 Senators and more than half of the members of the House had received campaign donations from Arthur Andersen. The present proposal by Sen. McCain
and Feingold and Cong. Shays and Meehan barely rises to the level of a
bandaid. The Green Party and other good government groups support
eliminating the ability of special interests to use campaign contributions
to buy political access and favors. We need the Clean Money, Clean Elections approach to public campaign financing.

We need a major overhaul of the accounting industry. The same major auditing firms that conspired with Enron to defraud investors are the same ones that have been at the center of the major financial scandals in recent decades. Ralph Nader has outlined a number of essential reforms to prohibit the conflicts of interests that have become rampant and to ensure strong government oversight. Companies such as Arthur Andersen that have been repeatedly guilty of criminal activities need to have their charters revoked. It should be unlawful for companies to falsify or destroy

We need to reverse energy deregulation. Why would a government allow the lifeblood of its economy to be transformed into a high stake poker game?  If the political power of the energy industry is too great, we need to at least strengthen federal Security and Energy Exchange oversight of energy marketing, and reestablish regulation of the trading of energy futures.

We certainly need reforms to give employees rather than employers control of their pension funds.

Watergate was supposed to open up our government to public scrutiny. It
didn't. We need to ensure that the Enron scandal does. We need to put some teeth into the Freedom of Information Law, starting with making sure that it applies to Congress and the State Legislature. Twenty-five years ago we won the landmark case in New York State under the Freedom on Information law.

The sad truth is that the public has far less ability to access public
records today than it did twenty-five years ago.

Call your Congress member and Senators today. Demand some real reform.


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