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De-Enron America Now; Pass Campaign Finance Reform

Feb. 6, 2002

De-Enron America Now; Pass Campaign Finance Reform

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

The Enron scandal is a galling tale of deliberate misconduct in a climate of vanishing corporate accountability. While congressional investigators still have a lot to uncover, it is clear that both Enron and Arthur Andersen successfully used campaign cash as legalized bribery to limit government regulation and public scrutiny of their self-serving activities and shield themselves from accountability for bilking investors and employees.

I can?t say that I am surprised by these revelations of special access and influence. They are part and parcel of an undemocratic campaign finance system that helps the business elite ? multimillionaires like Ken Lay ? amass unfathomable fortunes and rub elbows with world leaders while leaving the working people of America to fend for themselves in a marketplace devoid of compassion, economic justice or even transparency for investors and employees.

In recent years, unlimited soft money has become a central feature of this malignant system. During the 2000 election cycle, Enron gave 70 percent of its contributions in soft money . This was by no means unusual. Ten major industries ? from airlines to tobacco? gave more than half of their contributions in soft money in 2000, up from just under a quarter in 1992. In another decade, most companies will probably be giving three-quarters or more of their contributions in soft money. Why? Because they can write unlimited checks. And because soft money supercharges their engines of influence, concentrating and strengthening their sway over party leaders swept up in an ever-escalating political arms race.

Because so many members have themselves taken Enron?s and Andersen?s dirty money (Enron gave $3.4 million in soft money from 1995 to 2001; Andersen gave more than half a million dollars), Congress now struggles to convince a rightfully skeptical public that it can conduct a credible investigation of the scandal. This dilemma lends further credence to the widespread belief that our political parties have essentially become wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate America and that their professed concern about their constituents is simply a carefully crafted mask.

Congress now has an historic opportunity to reinvigorate American democracy and restore public confidence in the integrity of lawmakers. Passage of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill will begin the process of dismantling the destructive corporate government that rules America.