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What Enron’s political e-mails tell us about corporate lobbying

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During its investigation into wrongdoing into Enron, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made public almost 500,000 internal company e-mails. These e-mails provide a unique look into the workings of the company, including how the company conducted its political operations. A few years ago, my friend and Georgetown Political Science Professor Daniel J. Hopkins approached me about analyzing what was in these e-mails. The results of our research are now published in the latest issue of Legislative Studies Quarterly, and a copy of our paper, “The Inside View: Using the Enron E-mail Archive to Understand Corporate Political Attention” can be downloaded here. To sum up our findings briefly, the e-mails show Enron’s political operations as very engaged in the narrow details of policy , keeping close tabs on daily developments and devoting considerable resources to agency rulemaking. Meanwhile, we found only sporadic discussion of campaign finance.

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Consumer Group: Electricity Price-Gouging Feared Until Bids Made Public

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Enron Corp.'s manipulation of the California energy market in 2000 and 2001 is notorious. Electricity bills soared and blackouts affected hundreds of thousands of people as contemptuous traders with Enron, a power wholesaler, delighted in their scheme. Tapes of traders released in 2004 contained infuriating nuggets like this: "Just cut 'em off... They should just bring back f------ horses and carriages, f------ lamps, f------ kerosene lamps."

After investigating the scandal, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concluded that "supply-demand imbalance, flawed market design and inconsistent rules made possible significant market manipulation," and that many of Enron's trading strategies ...

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GUILTY:

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We haven't really been covering the Enron trial here at Sunlight too much but it is worth noting that both Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were found guilty on all counts today. There is, as everybody knows, a huge political angle to the Enron story - and not just Lay's relationship with President Bush - and if you're interested in that I would direct you to Alex Gibney's "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room". These guys are going to jail for a long, long time.

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Ralph Reed Introduced Enron to Abramoff:

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In e-mails examined by the Atlanta Journal Constitution former Enron lobbyist and current Republican candidate for Lt. Governor of Georgia Ralph Reed is revealed to have suggested that Enron hire Jack Abramoff to help their lobbying efforts in the House of Representatives. Reed, an ally of Abramoff who was paid $4 million from Indian gaming interests for his efforts in opposing a construction of a casino by a rival tribe of one of Abramoff’s clients, told Enron officials that they should hire Abramoff because of his close relationship with then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). Reed calls Abramoff, “arguably the most influential and effective GOP lobbyist in congress … he also is very close to [then-House majority leader Tom] Delay and could help enormously.” There is no record of Enron ever hiring Abramoff – the energy giant filed for bankruptcy 12 months after Reed introduced officials to Abramoff.

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