Today the SEC filed insider trading charges against Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban.
No big deal? Think again.Here is the background on why this is happening. Cuban made his money as the founder of HDTV and the HD cable network. In 2003, Bethany MacLean and Peter Elkind of Fortune Magazine had penned a best selling book, Enron: the Smartest Guys in the room, the rise and fall of Enron, and were trying to get the story made into a movie.
Not so surprisingly, there were no studios willing to take a chance on a story that attacks Bush buddies at Enron at the time when Bush was riding a wave of popularity after 9/11,the Iraq War, and the Global War on Terror.
That is when Mark Cuban stepped in and decided to become the executive producer of the project and make the movie in his own HD movie studio.
My guess is that merited this retaliation.
Let's be clear, Mark Cuban may have broken the law, but what bothers me is the repeated patterns of playing politics with supposedly non-partisan agencies.
Remember Don Siegalman, or the Attorney General purges, or the way the not so lucky (or smart)
Lyyndie England took the fall for the Abu Ghraib scandals, while the Bush administration and all of her superiors escaped any real damage.
Got your attention? What did Maclean and Elkind say that was so bad? They not only revealed the rampant accounting schemes to defraud the stock owners and employees of Enron, but they also exposed the scheme Enron devised to cause rolling blackouts in California, which led to the California Electricity Crisis, which led to Gov. Gray Davis' recall and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And the real rub?
On May 24, 2001, future Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan met with Enron CEO Ken Lay, at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, at a meeting convened for Enron to present its "Comprehensive Solution for California," which called for an end to Federal and state investigations into Enron's role in the California energy crisis.
In October 7th, 2003, Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California to replace Davis.
Quotes released from the trials of these electricity scams are pathetic.
At a time when streets in Northern California were lit only by head lights, factories shut down and families were trapped in elevators, Enron Energy traders laughed:
"Just cut 'em off. They're so f----d. They should just bring back f-----g horses and carriages, f-----g lamps, f-----g kerosene lamps."
In another tape a trader laughed when describing his reaction when a business owner complained about high energy prices:
“I just looked at him. I said, ‘Move.’ (laughter) The guy was like horrified. I go, ‘Look, don’t take it the wrong way. Move. It isn’t getting fixed anytime soon.”
When a forest fire shut down a major power line into California, cutting down power supplies and raising prices, Enron energy traders were heard laughing and celebrating, singing ‘burn, baby, burn.’
Another conversation went as such:
Trader 1: “They’re f-----g taking all the money back from you guys? All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?”
Trader 2: "Yeah, Grandma Millie man. But she’s the one who couldn’t figure out how to f-----g vote on the butterfly ballot."
Trader 1: "Yeah, now she wants her f-----g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a-- for f-----g $250 a megawatt hour."
So why would Cuban be willing to stick his neck out? To paraphrase, he believed that as someone who had lived the American Dream and became rich, he was disgusted by these guys at Enron who had no ethical bottom that they could reach.
Problem? They were big buddies with the Bush administration.
From Democracy Now's Amy Goodman:
AMY GOODMAN: One of the things that wasn’t addressed very much yesterday, though there was wall-to-wall coverage of the trial and the verdict that came down yesterday for Skilling and for Lay—Ken Lay found guilty on every count—is the connection between President Bush and Enron. Enron founder Ken Lay and his family rank among President Bush’s biggest financial backers of his political career. The family donated about $140,000 to Bush’s political campaigns in Texas and for the White House.
The President personally nicknamed Ken Lay “Kenny Boy.” Overall, Enron employees gave Bush some $600,000 in political donations. According to the Center for Public Integrity, this made Enron Bush’s top career donor, a distinction the company maintained until 2004. Shortly after Bush took office in 2001, Vice President Cheney met with Enron officials while he was developing the administration’s energy policies.
ROBERT BRYCE: Well, remember that the Enron and Ken Lay connection to the Bush family precedes George W. Bush. Ken Lay was a donor to the presidential campaign of George the first, George H.W. Bush, when he ran for president in 1980, and Lay was also involved in and had close ties in the Reagan administration when they deregulated the natural gas market. So, you know, this was not by any means any kind of a secret here in Texas. Enron was pushing deregulation in Texas, they were pushing deregulation in California, etc.
So there you go, my defense of Mark Cuban. Now all we need is someone to start FOIA requests about the players who were moving behind the scenes to get this investigation of Mark Cuban started. Are their emails between people in the Bush administration and the SEC.