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Enron's Shell Game Shouldn't Taint Markets

January 24, 2002

Re "Enron Got Its Money's Worth," Commentary, Jan. 22: So Robert Scheer believes that the way to develop an energy policy is without industry input. I thought that the Clinton administration tried that with health care. The results were spectacular, were they not? Any energy plan would be controversial, but if I were going in for brain surgery I wouldn't want my gardener to perform the operation.

The Clinton administration, eight years in office, had ample opportunity to develop an energy plan, as imports skyrocketed, but refused because there was no political upside in so doing.

Making electricity a commodity was Enron's objective. Its officials failed miserably and perhaps criminally, but they were on the right track. Futures markets are the way to provide the lowest possible electricity prices.

The market works for all but someone like Scheer.

Jerry Andersen

Pacific Palisades

*

Your Jan. 19 editorial ("Enron's Far-Reaching Web") conveyed the impression that (a) I was in some sense on the take from Enron and (b) I hid that involvement. Both impressions are totally false.

In 1999 I briefly served on Enron's advisory board. I ended that connection when I agreed to write for the New York Times in the fall of 1999.

I also disclosed that past relationship the very first time I mentioned Enron, in a column sharply criticizing the company's role in California's energy crisis, in January 2001.

Enron paid members of its advisory board $50,000 for attendance and presentations at two meetings (one of mine was canceled at the last minute), each spanning two business days. This payment, as a daily rate, was if anything somewhat less than I was regularly receiving for presentations to other companies: At the time, as an expert on international financial crises, I was in high demand as a speaker.

Your editorial quotes my remark that the board "had no function I was aware of." This was self-deprecating humor: I later wondered whether the board was of much direct value to the company. However, I devoted as much time and effort to my presentations as I would have for any other corporate event.

Given how scrupulously I have followed the strict conflict-of-interest rules at the New York Times, and how tough I have been on Enron this past year, I am astonished that the Los Angeles Times would imply that I had any ethical lapses.

Paul Krugman

Columnist, New York Times

*

Re your editorial: Enron's strategy in achieving its energy objectives through public policy was quite simple.

In effect, the company decided that if you can't buy one influential politician, then the next best strategy was to attempt to buy them all. The amusing part of this debacle was for how little money so many thought to be smart, intelligent politicians and public policy officials and others settled.

Nevertheless, Enron was quite successful in achieving its energy goals.

Chance Williams

South Pasadena

*

So Bush's chief economic advisor was a paid consultant to Enron, Bush's energy policy was dictated by his old friend and paymaster, Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay, and Bush appointees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission were vetted by Enron.

Bush brings Enron economics and Enron morality to the White House--God help America!

Kevin Jones

Los Angeles

*

The "shell game" existence of Enron makes me wonder: What if, instead of handing out millions to politicians and selling off inflated stock, Enron executives had actually used the money Enron took from investors to develop--heaven forbid--renewable energy plants? What if politicians couldn't be bought and actually used their positions to work for, as the Constitution provides, "the general welfare"?

Lynda Unterthiner

Rancho Mirage

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