what an odd choice of words. I suppose Joachim von Ribbentrop and Attila the Hun could say the same thing, but fighting to stay out of jail is a small
imperial dream. Skilling and Lay did authorize blitzkrieg-worthy raids on West Coast utilities, where Enron traders bragged about stealing from
grandma Millie, and jamming their $250 a megawatt hour power right up her ass. And Enron did conquer the venerable Portland General utility, then
leave it a hollow shellI met a woman whod lost her entire retirement. So maybe those were the fights Skilling referred to. But these opponents barely
put up a struggle.
Maybe Skilling was talking about political battles. Enron lobbied through the laws that opened California up to utility deregulation, then gouged the states utilities for every possible cent, and sent them to edge of bankruptcy. If low-income rate-payers couldnt afford the costs or social needs went unmet because of the need for bailouts, that was someone elses problem. Enron also served as George W. Bushs single largest donor, even
lending him their private plane to campaign in, and their accounting firm, Arthur Andersen and their law firm, Vinson & Elkins, were close behind. In
return, Bush appoint the man Ken Lay recommended to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, replacing an earlier chairman whod begun to question
Enrons financing schemes. When California officials pleaded for price caps in the face of skyrocketing manipulated prices, the FERC and Bush enabled
Enron to make hundreds of millions of dollars more by refusing to help.
Enron also fought the good fight internationally. As described by Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, Enron overcame massive popular opposition to build a
power plant in the State of Maharashtra, contributing endless dollars to local officials until they finally agreed, and locking the province into a $30 billion contract. When the plant went on line, the electricity, as predicted by the critics, was so costly that the government decided it was
cheaper not to buy it, but to pay the mandatory fixed charges of $220 million a year to produce nothing.
I dont claim to know the soul of Skilling or Lay, or to understand how as America was still mourning 9/11, these men who had more money then most of
us could ever imagine, rationalized pulling their stock out of the company while destroying the futures of tens of thousands of employees and
stockholders. Enron was strong, Lay told his employees, at the time. If they all persisted and stood together, he said, theyd prevail. So he advised them not to sell what they had, but in fact to buy more, even as he dumped millions of dollars of his own stock. Enrons employees then watched
helplessly as their future melted away.
It was all a grand game, like the games played by all those who wheel and deal in the destiny of other peoples lives. Lay and Skilling needed no heroes. They made themselves their own Gods and worshipped their own soaring ascent. The actual people whose worlds were shattered by Enrons legacy were
invisible and expendable.