EDITORIAL: White-collar crime gets judicial boost

They are smiling in Hell these days. White-collar criminals just got another free ride from the Reagan/Bush U.S. judicial system. “Kenny Boy” Lay, the recently deceased close friend and supporter of President George W. Bush, has been exonerated by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake. The millions of Californians and Texans who realized during the Enron scandal that they had been robbed are going to find it even harder to collect any damages.

White-collar crime, no matter how large or how blatant the robbery, is barely punished in America. Even before his heart attack, almost no one ever expected the Enron CEO to actually serve time in jail. Lower-level Enron executives still have sentencing pending, but they have already enjoyed America’s “swift” justice in comfort for years. They can imagine Kenny Boy (and Bush) smiling up at them.

While those who rob us at the highest levels of government and in the plush offices of its corporate partners receive little or no punishment, everyday Americans have to worry about their amazing loss of civil liberties during these Bush years. Habeas corpus, the cornerstone of civil liberties for centuries, is just about as dead in America as Kenneth Lay. Torture has found legal justification, though not for white-collar crimes.

Government spying against ordinary Americans has just received a big green light, but corporate secrets and Dick Cheney’s backroom energy deals are still sacrosanct.

Enron stockholders and former employees can take no comfort from the judge who overturned Lay’s conviction. Texans who were harmed by Lay’s support of former Congressman Tom DeLay’s redistricting scheme will take no comfort. The millions of Americans who were bilked through electricity overcharges will take no comfort. George W. Bush and his corporate cronies will take comfort, and their pals are smiling in Hell these days.