Phil Gramm’s Enron Favor

Watchdog: Senator Pushed End to Oversight for Campaign Contributor

Next, Robert Rubin, Clinton's secretary of the treasury and now chairman of Citigroup, called a top Treasury official, inquiring about Enron's situation. Citigroup was holding $750 million in Enron debt, not exactly chump change even in these high-flying circles. The Bush administration insists no one offered the corporation help, and they likewise seem to have ignored the needs of the public. White House officials failed to counter Enron's propaganda, the endlessly repeated claims to the general public, workers, and investors that the company was in fine fettle.

All this happened as official Washington was poised for the resignation—rumored but never tendered—of Treasury Secretary O'Neill. Among his much discussed replacements was none other than Phil Gramm.

Little noticed in the melee has been the transfer this month of Enron's major asset, the 17,000-mile Northern Natural Gas Company pipelines, to Dynegy, a smaller competitor. Northern pipelines carry gas from Texas's Permian Basin to the West and Midwest markets. The power behind Dynegy is ChevronTexaco, which has a 26 percent stake. When completed, this transaction will transform Dynegy into a vertical gas giant, with a hand in production, distribution, and end-use markets. In short, Dynegy becomes the next big player, controlling both the product and the pipes.

Evans talked on Sunday about the beauties of capitalism and the way everything worked just fine. Judging from the Enron case, the system's rightful fruit must be that executives get out unscathed, the little guys get screwed, and competition gets ditched in favor of a mega-monopoly on a scale not seen in America since John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust.

For his part, O'Neill sang the same carefree tune. "Companies come and go," O'Neill told the Associated Press this weekend. "That's the genius of capitalism."

Additional reporting: Michael Ridley

Plus: Enron Update: SEC Chief Has Potential Conflict of Interest By James Ridgeway

Also in the Voice this week: "Bushido—The Way of Oil: America Gets Into the Energy Business With the Former Evil Empire" By Roger Trilling

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