By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
WASHINGTON, D.C.President Bush, looking hardly conscious, said last Thursday's blackout was a "wake-up call." His free-market energy secretary Spencer Abraham told CBS that upgrading the technology will cost $50 billion. Who will pay that? Not the guys who caused the shut-down. "Rate-payers, obviously, will pay the bill because they're the ones who benefit," said Abraham.
With Abraham in the driver's seat of the so-called investigation into the blackout, the Bush guys can rest easy. Nothing bad is going to happen to them. But consider the following:
FirstEnergy, the big Akron utility, is the focus of the probe so far because its lines crashed in such a way as to trigger the systems collapse. The company is an amalgam of seven other companies, including Toledo Edison, Cleveland Electric, Ohio Edison, Pennsylvania Power, Pennsylvania Electric, Metropolitan Edison, and Jersey Central Power & Light.
With Abraham at the helm, the entire blackout affair has disappeared into a maze of technical gobbledygook. Nobody wants to talk about the politics involved because once againas with Enronone of Bush's pals and big fundraisers is at the center of the mess.
As independent advocacy group Public Citizen reports, "Top executives at FirstEnergy rank among the Bush campaign's top fundraisers. FirstEnergy President Anthony Alexander was a Bush Pioneer in 2000meaning he raised at least $100,000and then served on the Energy Department transition team. H. Peter Burg, the company's CEO and chairman of the board, hosted a June event that raised more than half a million dollars for Bush-Cheney '04."
On June 30, Burg hosted a Bush fundraiser where people paid $1,000 to get in. For another $1,000, they got to have their pictures taken with VP Dick Cheney.
FirstEnergy's Alexander wasn't just a Bush "pioneer," he was also elected to the Republican National Committee's star-studded Team 100 for raising another $250,000 for the GOP in 2000. And Alexander ponied up another $100,000 to help pay for the Bush-Cheney inaugural parties.
Public Citizen reports FirstEnergy's Political action committee gave more than $1 million to federal candidates in 2000, with 70 percent of it going to the Republicans.
FirstEnergy cuts a significant swathe in Congress. It spent $3.8 million lobbying Congress and the Bush government in 2001-2002.