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The Whistleblower

The Whistleblower #11 - Mar 18, 2002

Bailing out Andersen -- and the accounting profession. It's barely been five months since Andersen's role in one of the greatest corporate scandal in American history was revealed. Investigators are only just beginning the effort to figure out who at Andersen helped cook Enron's books and who ordered the shredding to cover up the crime. But the Bush Administration has joined with the accounting industry in an effort to whitewash the matter. Administration officials are trying to get Andersen -- the corporation -- to plead guilty to an "obstruction of justice" charge right away. Case closed. Thursday's indictment was designed to up the pressure for a quick deal that will let Andersen "move on" with a maximum slap-on-the-wrist fine of $500,000 and five years probation (whatever that means). Meanwhile, the remaining large accounting firms are trying desperately to figure out a way to buy Andersen without getting stuck with Andersen's civil and criminal liability. Their motivation: the longer the investigation goes on, the more likely that Congress will actually pass significant restraints on the conduct of the accounting profession.

US Senate making bad thing worse. We didn't think the US Senate could do much worse than the energy deregulation plan proposed by Senate Leader Daschle. They sure proved us wrong. Over the last couple of days the Senate has approved amendments to weaken the already paltry consumer protections in the Energy Policy Act (S.517). Sections imposing restrictions on utility mergers, federal intervention against unjust electricity prices, and consumer refunds have been either scaled back or excised entirely. Apparently, California Senator Feinstein is now prepared to scale back her Enron prevention proposal, which would have re-regulated energy trading. Even the environmental cover for the bill has been ripped off, with the energy and auto industry killing increased fuel economy standards and requirements for scaling back dependence on oil and gas. In short, this energy proposal is a bonanza for energy companies, and they're not even trying to hide it anymore.

Wright on the Money. California's Assembly Utility Chair Rod Wright has confirmed it: he's lobbying hard to have President Bush appoint him to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which did nothing for months while electricity prices skyrocketed in California last year. Wright would be a perfect choice for Bush, who by law is required to appoint a Democrat to fill the coming vacancy. Wright's a Democrat from LA who supports deregulation, authored the bill that he admitted was "a straight bailout" of Edison and would have cost ratepayers $5 billion to pay for the failure of deregulation. Indeed, he supports just about anything the industry desires. Last time we checked in on Wright, he disbanded an energy committee hearing in the middle of the energy crisis so he could attend a $5,000/plate fundraiser thrown for him and attended by energy lobbyists, among others. Democrats in the US Senate, who will have to confirm Wright, will want to take a careful look at his record, including his industry contributions; power companies are still donating to Wright's campaign committees even though he's not running for any office next year, according to a recent Associated Press report. The Senate should also look into Mr. Wright's expensive international junkets paid for by energy companies. Rod Wright, who once bought $7,000 worth of jewelry with campaign funds, may be solid gold as far as the energy industry is concerned, but for the rest of us he's far too tarnished.

NRDC -- Noxious Ruse to Defeat Consumers. The Natural Resources Defense Council's West Coast head, Ralph Cavanagh, is helping the utilities get Rod Wright on the FERC Commission (see above), despite the fact that Rod Wright single-handedly killed "renewables portfolio standard" legislation, proposed by the state's environmental and consumer groups last year, that would have increased the amount of renewable energy sources in California's supply mix. But fronting for the utilities is nothing new to Cavanagh or NRDC; it was that organization that gave environmental cover to the utilities and energy industry in 1996 when the Cal. Legislature unanimously passed the famously foolish deregulation law that has devastated California in recent years. NRDC has also been "green-washing" federal deregulation attempts by coming out early in support of the disastrous energy plan in the US Senate (See WB# 7).

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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization. For over a decade FTCR and its advocates have exposed and challenged injustices that betray the public trust. The Whistleblower newsletter addresses core issues of the corporate and governmental crises of today and blows the whistle on the brewing fiascos of tomorrow. FTCR does not take a position on candidates for any elected office.
For more information about FTCR's work, to DONATE, to join the fight, or to comment, visit our web site at www.consumerwatchdog.org. 310-392-0522 xt.309.
2002 FTCR


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