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Enron giving in Mississippi was small potatoes

By By Sid Salter
Jan. 16, 2002
So just how much did Enron give to members of the Mississippi congressional delegation out of the $5.77 million the company and company executives gave the American political establishment from 1989-2001?
Grand total? $9,750. That amounts to .17 percent. If Enron was buying influence in Mississippi, it seems it wasn't buying very much influence.
During the campaigns from 1989-2001, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that Enron gave 3rd District U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering $3,750. U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran received $3,000 while U.S. Sen. Trent Lott received $2,000 $1,000 in direct donations and $1,000 to his "Celebration 2000" leadership political action committee. 1st District U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker received $1,000 from Enron. That's it.
The common denominator? The GOP members of the state's delegation received donations from Enron while the Democrats did not. That's about par for the course. Enron gave 73 percent of their millions in campaign finance to Republicans. That's a lot of influence. Enron's widespread connections to the Bush White House are undeniable.
Both parties cashed in
But while the Mississippi delegation was racking up that $9,750, Enron was laying $21,933 on Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. They even gave the other New York Democrat in the Senate Hillary Rodham Clinton $950. She felt their pain. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle got $6,000. U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman Al Gore's running mate in 2000 got $2,000 from Enron as well. Lockboxed. Democratic U.S. Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana got more than the entire Mississippi congressional delegation at $11,100. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Politics makes strange bedfellows? You know it, Bubba.
After giving millions to Republicans, Enron gave $100,000 to the Democrats a week before filing bankruptcy an action that plunged the company into ruin and saw Enron employees lose their life savings as the price of the company's stock dove from $85 a share year ago to below 40 cents a share in late December.
Attack ads on the way?
The bottom line here is that a huge corporation invested millions in trying to buy political influence in Washington. Enron tried to buy it from Republicans, then tried to buy it from Democrats. The money trail is compelling.
With congressional races coming this summer, you can bet that Mississippi voters will hear about Enron again. Pickering and Wicker will get hammered by their opponents for taking money from Enron a company that saw its executives rape and pillage the company and leave loyal employees holding the bag. Investigate Enron? No doubt about it.
The executives cashed out their stock before word of Enron's financial collapse went public. The employees lost 90 percent or more of the value of their retirement funds. It's a nightmare.
Word from Washington is that the Democrats intend to make Enron into President George W. Bush's Whitewater. And if Mississippi's anticipated showdown between Pickering and current 4th District U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows materializes, it's likely Shows will adopt the national Democratic Party line in trying to muddy Pickering with the Enron contributions.
But with the hands of fellow Democrats Daschle, Lieberman, Schumer and Clinton in the Enron cookie jar as well, that will be an interesting sell for Shows' forces to make stick with the voters.
Enron makes a solid case for campaign finance reforms that should be embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike. But whether it's Big Business money to the GOP or Big Labor money to the Democrats, the system is out of control.