I had to laugh this week when I read media reports that Congressional Republican leaders, heading home to face voters anxious over retirement security, are promising to introduce legislation to seize the mansions and yachts of corporate criminals. "We need to do more to strip corrupt corporate kingpins of their ill-gotten gains," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. DeLay promised to take the mansions, the bank accounts, and the yachts; his news conference featured a photograph of the $15 million Florida mansion of Scott Sullivan, the former chief financial officer of Worldcom. That company is the largest American company ever to file for bankruptcy, and faces allegations of defrauding investors out of billions of dollars. Republican leaders said they will introduce their bill in September. They didn't say that the timing was coordinated with the upcoming Congressional elections in mind. The Congressional Republican leadership's contempt for the American people could not be greater.
Republicans feel politically vulnerable but not responsible. In response to their vulnerability, they approved a bill to increase criminal penalties for corporate executives and their third party professionals who lie, cheat, and steal in violation of their fiduciary duties to shareholders. DeLay and the boys added the dog and pony show, pledged their willingness to suspend the Constitution to give the SEC seizure powers, and showed voters how earnest they are on this issue. DeLay reminds me of Cardinal Bernard Law. Both men have proselytized about taking personal responsibility over the years, only to cling to their positions of power when their past leadership proved to be abysmal. It is time to seize these men's positions of power.
DeLay and the House Republicans are approaching a systemic problem as if it were a public relations issue. Congressional Republicans have promised to give the "bad guys," albeit guys who were recently their chums and financiers, a public flogging. Delay plans to take all their ill-gotten gains and toys. Next he'll be calling to take from the "corrupt corporate kingpins" their prescriptions of Viagra to ensure their total emasculation. The former exterminator understands vengeance: that is the emotion to which he plays. There are many similarities in the proposed Republican "War on Corporate Corruption" to their "War on Drugs." If history tells us anything, it will not only be a war we lose, but also a war in which the little guys go to jail and the "kingpins" get off.
To those that believe DeLay and Congressional Republicans are serious about corporate crime, I have some WorldCom, Enron, and Harken Energy stock to sell you.
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