Thin Line Between Company and Party (Part 1)

I know that Enron has fallen off of the front pages lately but I think looking back with hindsight might offer insight into the “corporate responsibility” problems.

A few months back I was reading about all the cash that Enron had been giving to the Republicans. Then I learned that Enron was also making significant indirect contributions to The Party. That got me tracing campaign money in general, and the question occurs to me, “Where does the company end, and “The Party” begin?”

Here’s an example of Enron company money indirectly used to benefit The Party. Perhaps you remember reading that Enron employed Ralph Reed while he really worked for the Bush campaign. Enron payroll -> Bush campaign employee. Here’s four stories about this – one, two, three, four.

Now take a look at Ed Gillespie, former communications director at the RNC and a top communications advisor to the Bush campaign. He was paid at least $525,000 from Enron for “lobbying” immediately after the campaign ended. This sounds a lot like the Reed arrangement. This year-old story (from before Enron’s collapse) seems very relevant today. From Page 2:

In May, Gillespie launched the 21st Century Energy Project, financed by such pro-Bush conservative groups as Americans for Tax Reform and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Ostensibly, the group’s aim is to advance Bush’s energy plan. But its other mission is to kill any attempt by Democrats to institute price caps to alleviate the energy crisis in the West. Which also happens to be the main goal of one of Gillespie’s newest clients, Enron–the energy behemoth with closer ties to the Bush administration than perhaps any other corporation. (The company’s employees and executives have given more to Bush than has any other single company.) Last week the project ran its first round of ads, which will neatly complement the series of town meetings the White House is conducting on energy policy. With the energy project, which expects to spend $500,000, Gillespie not only helps Enron but also serves as the “bad cop” attacking the Democrats on energy policy while the White House remains above the partisan fray.

We can get into Citizens for a Sound Economy and Americans for Tax Reform later. (There’s a lot there.)

This leads us into Enron “lobbying” cash that is really just more indirect cash to The Party. Here’s an article that tracks $1,785,000 of “lobbying” money that Enron spent just in the first half of 2001. How much of that money really went to activities to benefit The Party?

Yet another path for Enron corporate contributions to The Party is the so-called “think tanks.” There are several supposedly independent think tanks that are really just extensions of The Party. Here’s a story.

OK, OK, you get the point, Enron found lots of ways to give a LOT of money to the Republicans. Where am I going with this?

I’m only writing about Enron tonite. There’s much more. (In Part 2) Amway, tobacco companies, drug companies, and many others are operating as if they are the funding arm of The Party! Where does the company end and The Party begin?

How does it benefit the shareholders of a company when the executives are pouring untold millions into The Party rather than to shareholders as profits? We might cynically say that they are buying government benefits, tax breaks, etc. that increase profits, but it’s ILLEGAL to donate money with the expectation of political favors, isn’t it? And if they don’t KNOW they’ll be granted favors they’re pissing away shareholder money. So either they’re acting unethically by donating with the understanding that it’s a bribe or by pouring shareholder money into The Party. It is one or the other.

“Corporate Reform” reforms nothing if it does not address the freedom with which Boards and Executives are working hand-in-hand with the Republicans! Independent Boardmembers are not independent at all if they are merely ideological soldiers of The Party, infiltrating our corporations to carry out Party funding missions. Fat Chance the Congress will address this, but the shareholding public needs to be made aware of this additional way that their Boards and Officers have their hands in the till.