Larry Summers and His Cute Note to Ken Lay

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 15:12

Holy crap.  Check this out, from HarvardWatch.

Here's the text of the letter:

May 25, 1999

   Mr. Kenneth L. Lay
   Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
   PO Box 1188
   Houston, Texas 77251

   Dear Ken:

   Thanks very much for you kind letter of congratulations. I am grateful for your best wishes and deeply honored by the President's choice. As I said in the Rose Garden, Secretary Rubin's act is a tough one to follow and there are certainly plenty of challenges ahead. I am looking forward to the opportunity and to continuing on the course that has been set.

   I hope our paths will cross again soon.


   Lawrence H. Summers

   [Hand-written scrawl] PS - I'll keep my eye on power deregulation and energy market infrastructure issues.

Jesus.  Sign the petition against Summers.

Matt Stoller :: Larry Summers and His Cute Note to Ken Lay

Tags: , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

wow (4.00 / 1)
I don't have a problem with the typed portion, but this guy should be disqualified immediately from the handwritten part.  Though I felt that way anyway with his Harvard failure.

Personally, I'd pick Jon Corzine for Treasury, though the pros and cons of it could be debated.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

Whose smokescreen? (0.00 / 0)
This Summers drumbeat by the rumor mill, the normal (expected) reaction from the bloggers, and timely disclosures that reinforce the outrage must be to prepare for a less-than-perfect, yet-better-than-Summers, choice.  A Republican, a Wall Street insider?  It reminds me of the Bayh floater in August...  In all honesty, Biden as an agent of change after 30+ years in DC wouldn't have stuck at face value.


i can see this -- although, from everything i've read, it seems that (4.00 / 1)
bayh was actually being seriously considered.  

[ Parent ]
Maybe so for Bayh very real chance (0.00 / 0)
but, in my gut, the Obama message folks must have fretted over the ticket name and feared for easy GOP chants.  Bye, bye...


[ Parent ]
perhaps (4.00 / 1)
Still, I'm changing my sig line for the time being (used to be a McCain googleb*mb, no use for that now).

"I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."
-Lawrence Summers

[ Parent ]
Paul Krugman? (0.00 / 0)
Would he be qualified? He has good ideas, but is he a good, effective administrator?  

I mean (0.00 / 0)
theres no reason to think he can run anything at all. The guy is brilliant but he's too much his own man for this sort of job.

[ Parent ]
Krug's out (0.00 / 0)
I don't have the link handy but he was asked about this not long after the Nobel announcement and he said he wasn't interested in the job.

Those who have had a chance for four years and could not produce peace should not be given another chance. --Richard Nixon, 9 October 1968

[ Parent ]
I guess I'm missing something (0.00 / 0)
This seems to be pretty innocent.

well (4.00 / 1)
Summers wrote as an incoming Treasury Secretary a note to Ken Lay of Enron promising to look into policy changes that would be favorable to a company whose primary business model was based on fraud and whose profitable lines of business included withholding energy to California to price gauge during an emergency (that's energy deregulation).

Does that clear this up?  It's not illegal, just evidence of bad judgment in who to associate with.

[ Parent ]
Big deal (4.00 / 1)
The incoming treasury secretary had personal contact with the CEO of America's 8th largest company.  Welcome to the political economy of U.S. late-capitalism.  That he promised to "keep his eye" on energy regulation issues means...well...nothing at all.  And even if he was in favor of deregulation at the time, so what?  That was the Clinton administration.  For the last two years, Summers has written two dozen columns advocating everything from aggressive deficit spending to greater SEC oversight.  He's not my first choice for Treasury, but he's a perfectly good liberal candidate and simply undeserving of this frantic effort to torpedo him.   Honestly, if this is how the netroots plans to spend its political capital, it's going to be a long 4 years.  This isn't a Harvard faculty meeting.  

[ Parent ]
"Liberal?" (4.00 / 2)
Maybe you missed the whole "girls are too dumb to do science" episode? Or the one about  "let's poison the third world because we can?"

Those are not the thought patterns of a Liberal.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
it's business as usual (0.00 / 0)
if you don't care and business as usual is no big deal for you, then perhaps you could at least refrain from mocking people on the same side who do care? OpenLeft is not here to entertain you, so if you're bored you can try a different post or a different blog.

In the meantime, the rest of us will be over here, sort of... caring? About changing things?

[ Parent ]
Yeah (4.00 / 1)
I totally agree with that assessment. I wonder if we are just being given a name because the media elite have a thing for this guy?

[ Parent ]
I think you're overreacting (4.00 / 1)
In 1999, nobody outside of Enron had any ideas of the shenanigans that they were up to -- Enron was widely praised and held up as a role model. I'm certainly not an expert, but many of their ideas -- specifically around energy as a commodity -- were really very innovative (according to wikipedia, they won fortune magazine's "America's most innovative company" 6 times in a row).  

And after the recent election, I hoped I had heard the last "bad judgment in who to associate with" comment. At the time, Ken Lay was seen as a very smart guy, and having the treasury secretary "keep an eye on energy deregulation issues" seems completely reasonable. It is easy to look at this in a sinister way, but from another angle it may just be an acknowledgment that the issue is on his radar. With hindsight, the comment looks sketchy, but if Enron hadn't imploded I don't think that we would view it in the same way.

Given the stakes, I really think we should be judging the potential appointees on their qualifications, rather than associations and political correctness of their comments.

[ Parent ]
Nobody, eh? (4.00 / 2)
From April 29, 1998:

Willamette Week has learned that the national power giant, which has been marketing electricity to 48,000 Oregonians in a free-market pilot project since December, will no longer seek new residential customers after April 30.

The decision, outlined to WW by PGE President Peggy Fowler, raises serious questions about the deregulation experiment in Oregon and the nation. It comes on the heels of Enron's startling announcement last week that it was opting out of the newly deregulated California energy market. (California's utility industry was deregulated on April 1.) Enron's move to bail out of California's lucrative, 8 million-customer market after sinking $10 million into advertising has industry observers questioning the legitimacy of deregulation. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the California story, labeled the move a "setback."

So that's an alternative weekly in Oregon and the Journal raising questions about Enron and energy market deregulation right there. I don't expect Summers reads Portland weeklies, but I assume Summers looks at the Journal from time to time.

Those who have had a chance for four years and could not produce peace should not be given another chance. --Richard Nixon, 9 October 1968

[ Parent ]
The note (0.00 / 0)
says he'll keep an eye on issues. Thats not quite the same as looking into favorable policy changes. It definitely doesn't mean he was looking to sacrifice the welfare of society just to prop up a fraudulent company. This was before anything about the fraud came out, anyway.

[ Parent ]
A petition? Have people learned nothing? (4.00 / 1)
It's 2008, and there are these things called "social network sites".  You know, like and Facebook.  Get FISA Right and the Evan Bayh anti-draft put them to good use.  It's very easy for people to join -- just a single click, they don't even have to fill out a form -- and they attract a lot more media attention than yet another petition.

What am I missing here?

From each according to his . . . (0.00 / 0)
We're waiting for you Jon.

[ Parent ]
well (0.00 / 0)
Building GetFISA right was the work of a small number of activists, including Mike Stark and a few others, and the group was in and of itself a tiny part of a campaign done by Glenn Greenwald, the ACLU, the EFF, FDL, multiple candidates and this site.  Pincus had basically nothing to do with anything that mattered, though he helped run a few ads after the fight ended.  I'm really not sure why he keeps coming back here and pestering us, we've made it clear we want nothing at all to do with him.  I've banned him, and hopefully he'll stay away and find success pushing progressive policies through some other venue.  I think looking to other people and wondering why they aren't doing work that you yourself is not doing could do is a crutch, and hopefully it's a crutch I've removed for him.

[ Parent ]
interesting (0.00 / 0)
you are being dismissive of a lot of good hard work. did you work on GFR? how do you know how many were involved? we all pull the same rope, why be so mean spirited about others on the line?

~* the * Will * to go on *~

[ Parent ]
What about Nouriel Roubini? (0.00 / 0)
He has the best track record of any economist not named Krugman.

A litmus test for Obama's soul (0.00 / 0)
let's see whether he passes or fails.


Open Left Campaigns



Advanced Search

Powered by: SoapBlox