July 08, 2004
"Not guilty!"

So sayeth Kenny Boy.

Former Enron Chairman Ken Lay pleaded not guilty today to charges he committed fraud and lied to his employees and others.

Afterward, he called a news conference and told reporters, "It has been a tragic day for me and my family.''

"An indictment came down that should not have occurred,'' he said.

While taking responsibility for Enron's collapse as its leader, "that does not mean I know everything that went on at Enron.'' He said that while "there may be some superman somewhere" who knows every single thing that happens at his company, that's an unrealistic expectation.

"I continue to grieve as does my family over the loss of the company, my failure to be able to save it,'' Lay said. "But failure does not equate to a crime.

"I firmly reject any notion that I engaged in any wrongful or criminal activity,'' he said. "Not only are we ready to go to trial, but we are anxious to prove my innocence.''

Whatever. He's free on bail now, and I've got a dollar that says he'll be giving that long-awaited interview to the Chron before long.

Meanwhile, the White House is saying Kenny Boy Who?

The White House is trying to put at least an arm's length between President Bush and indicted Enron executive Kenneth Lay, a campaign benefactor Bush nicknamed "Kenny Boy" when the two were up-and-comers in Texas.

It has been "quite some time" since Bush and Lay talked with each other, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said today, brushing off questions about whether the two were friends.

"He was a supporter in the past and he's someone that I would also point out has certainly supported Democrats and Republicans in the past," McClellan said.

Lay clearly favored the GOP. He and his wife, Linda, donated $882,580 to federal candidates from 1989-2001, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. All but $86,470 went to Republicans.


Lay's relationship with the Bush family dates from at least 1990 when he was co-chairman of former President Bush's economic summit for industrialized nations, which was held in Houston. Lay also was co-chairman of the host committee for the Republican National Convention when it was held in Houston in 1992.

The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based nonprofit group, said the Lays had given $139,500 to George W. Bush's political campaigns over the years.

Those donations were part of $602,000 that Enron employees gave to Bush's various campaigns, making Enron the leading political patron for Bush at the time of the company's bankruptcy in 2001.

In addition to Lay's political campaign donations, he and his wife contributed $100,000 to Bush's 2001 inauguration. Lay also was a fund-raiser for Bush, bringing in at least $100,000 for the president's 2002 campaign. That put Lay in "Pioneer" status as one of the president's top money-raisers.

Nice try, fellas. Even Dominique Sacshe of the Happy Talk Local News called him Kenny Boy and spoke of his longstanding ties to the Bush family. That dog won't hunt.

On a lighter note, check out this Gadflyer piece which highlights a few similarities between Kenny Boy and his former pal the President.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 08, 2004 to Enronarama | TrackBack

Speaking of dogs that won't hunt -- does anybody really believe after the high-profile people the Ashcroft Justice Department has gone after for corporate malfeasance (some of which took place during the CLINTON boom) that the issue has any salience at this point, or can be draped around the Bush Administration at all?

I mean, anybody besides just pure partisans? I understand the red meat aspect of it excites people and is fun to blog about, but analytically speaking, does anybody believe it matters a bit at this point?

I think it lost salience a long time ago, if it ever had any.

Posted by: kevin whited on July 9, 2004 12:00 PM

Kevin makes a good point (although I'm amused he seems to think the GOP is still running against Clinton): corporate malfeasance is a bipartisan affair; many Democrats are as guilty as the typical Republican, and the actual Democratic nominee, John Kerry, is hardly immune from charges of being too close to business interests (mainly telecom, in his case).

But I still think BushCo deserves a special place in the Enablers of Corruption Hall of Fame, with his "Pioneers" and (new this year) "Rangers," his "tracking numbers" on contributor checks, etc., coupled with the sheer obviousness, shamelessness, and just plain chutzpah of the paybacks to those contributors.

It's true that Kerry has begun to recognize large "bundlers," similar to Bush's Pioneers and Rangers, but there's still an important difference: many of Kerry's bundlers (Atrios comes to mind) are collecting large numbers of small contributions rather than the other way around. Fewer of Kerry's contributions come from big business executives wanting special favors from a prospective Kerry admistration; many more come from ordinary people who work for a living like myself.

Posted by: Mathwiz on July 9, 2004 12:59 PM