Readers: Don't forget Democrats

January 28, 2002|By Jules Witcover

WASHINGTON - Ah, e-mail. What did we ever do without it? No longer do folks unhappy with what they read in this space have to sit down with poison pens and write long, vitriolic letters. Now they can simply go on the Internet and fire away.

The latest round was inspired by a column on the Enron fiasco that merely suggested that the energy giant's heavy unregulated campaign contributions to candidate George W. Bush in 2000 might persuade Congress finally to enact long-pending legislation to prohibit such donations. It recalled that "you don't need the kind of brazen bribery that occurred when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew accepted cash in brown paper bags in his office from Maryland contractors" to make the case that money buys access and influence.

"Mike in Texas" e-mailed: "You fail to mention all the congressmen, both Dems & Reps, who took donations from Enron. Donations also made to Gore. Even Lieberman and McCain admit taking the donations. While the amount given Bush seems and is large, the percentage of the total collected by Bush in runs for governor and president is small."

Fair enough, Mike. I probably should have mentioned the Democratic takers too, but your comments only reinforce my argument about the influence of "soft money." So thanks for your e-mail.

I'm less thankful for the e-mail from John of Mansfield, Ohio, because of the tone if not the sentiments expressed therein: "I wonder if you or any of your liberal cronies have the guts to suggest an investigation of your liberal political friends, including your self-appointed God, Bill Clinton, as to the amount of money THEY accepted from Enron?"

Continuing: "Enron started down the tubes under the watch of the most disgraceful, dishonest man to ever occupy the White House, Bill Clinton. Don't try to pin this on President Bush. You guys will never get it, will you?"

Oh, don't fret, John, I get it. It's the old "so's your old man" argument that defensive Democrats trotted out during the Clinton scandals by pointing to the Nixon crimes in Watergate.

Then there was this from Bill in (believe it or not) Pretoria, South Africa: "Why did you not also report that Ruben [apparently Robert Rubin, Mr. Clinton's treasury secretary] telephoned the White House on behalf of Enron? Why did you also not report other campaign contributions to other Democrats and Republicans alike?

"Spiro Agnew?...Why do you liberals fail to mention the felonious actions of the disbarred president? Moreover, who was sitting in the White House when companies, e.g. Enron, began their shoddy internal accounting practices? Where was the oversight then? Do your readers a favor. Next time please attempt to provide a hint of objectivity. You may become more credible."

Bill, I'll try to do better, and meanwhile, thanks for making your comment without personal invective - toward me, anyway.

Jim, from where I know not, e-mailed: "I understand you make your living writing. Your bias is showing. Enron built its house of cards during the 1990s. I think Clinton and his cronies were misleading the country. It's a fact that one of Clinton's Cabinet members now works for the bank that is [its] largest debt holder. He asked Bush's team to help Enron! This case is a case of poor or illegal accounting practices. Questionable accounting practices are what should be discussed, [not] how much money Enron gave to Republicans and Democrats."

You're right that both should be discussed, Jim, which is precisely what 10 congressional committees and the Justice Department will be doing.

Finally, John of no stated address e-mailed: "Yours wasn't an opinion on finance reform, it was an uninformed and biased attack on President Bush." Sorry you think so, John. I meant it to point out that the Enron scandal could help bring campaign finance reform, which he said as a candidate he favored, to his desk for signature. In fact, the scandal has just provided the impetus for a petition that will bring the reform bill to the House floor shortly.

Meanwhile, keep those e-mails coming. I know you will.

Jules Witcover writes from The Sun's Washington bureau.

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