A fox for the hen house
There’s a movie out about the Enron crooks that is shocking to most people. President Bush, on the other hand, seems to be shock-proof. He has nominated as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission a man who helped bring about the Enron heist.
Enron was possible because of a loosening of the laws regulating corporate behavior. U.S. Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., spearheaded the move to unleash sleazy executives — like the president’s friend Kenny Lay — on an unsuspecting public. The rest is unhappy history.
Cox pushed his “securities reform bill” through Congress at a time when he himself was a defendant in two lawsuits for securities fraud. His legislation weakened protection for investors by shielding corporate executives, their accountants and lawyers from investor lawsuits for making misleading statements. Lying at will was authorized.
The 1995 law was passed by a Republican Congress over President Bill Clinton’s veto. A Duke University law professor, James Cox, called the law “the ultimate in special-interest legislation.” Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America, says the law “made it not only possible but likely that something like Enron would occur.”
SEC Chairman William Donaldson has fought the corporate malfeasance that Cox’s law encourages. Under Donaldson, the SEC has brought a record 1,700 enforcement actions against securities violators, collecting about $7 billion. The bad actors in the securities business, many of them large contributors to Bush, quickly had enough of strict enforcement. They demanded the replacement of Donaldson by someone who would let highbinders be highbinders. Bush placated them by putting forward Christopher Cox.
Cox still must be confirmed by the Senate. The public should make its outrage known to the senators. It may appear unlikely that the Cox nomination could be blocked in a Republican-controlled Senate, but Donaldson was an honest Republican. Maybe there are a few left in the Senate too.
Three of Arkansas’s four representatives voted to extend federal financing of embryonic stem-cell research beyond the limits set by President Bush, who apparently likes embryos better than people. The research could spare millions of people from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The embryos used in the research would otherwise be destroyed.
The bill passed the House, 238 to 194, and is before the Senate as of this writing. Bush has said he’ll veto it if it reaches his desk.
Marion Berry, Vic Snyder and Mike Ross are the congressmen who voted for research. Voting against was Bush’s poodle, John Boozman. Why don’t the voters of the Third Congressional District just send a real poodle to Washington? At least he’d be cute, and he’d fit in Bush’s lap.
Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas) made a run at imposing a stronger ethics requirement on the legislature, but she fell short. Her bill got a 20-6 favorable vote in the Senate, but as amendment to an initated act, an ethics reform measusre of 1988, she need 24 votes.
Hog fans just can't quit blaming the refs for the NCAA men's basketball tournament loss to North Carolina. Now the Arkansas Senate has gotten in on the act, with this resolution introduced by Democratic Sen. Keith Ingram and getting bipartisan co-sponsorship from that brutish and short sandlot roundball player, Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.