It's got all the elements of a good scandal: lies, corruption, power, and lots and lots of money. Fallout from the Enron/Arthur Andersen debacle spread like Anthrax from Texas to Washington, D.C., eventually working its way into Congress and the White House.
Now, with thousands of Enron employees and investors furious at what they perceive as intentional deception by both companies, those who accepted money from either corporation are finding themselves under the microscope of public scrutiny. But if misery truly loves company, they haven't got much to complain about.
Between 1989 and 2001 Enron contributed $6 million to national parties and candidates. More than $2 million of that took place during the 1999-2001 campaign cycle. Arthur Andersen contributed $5.2 million in soft money to PACs (Politcal Action Committee) and individuals over the past 12 years.
Both companies favored the GOP, with Enron giving two-thirds of its contributions to Republicans and Andersen giving more than half. Andersen made contributions to more than half of the members of the House of Representatives and to 94 of the Senate's 100 members. Enron gave money to 71 senators and 186 house members.
Perhaps Tennesseans -- at least those who aren't mourning the loss of thousands of dollars in Enron stock -- can take some comfort in the knowledge that, comparatively speaking, Tennessee's elected officials stayed above the fray.
During the dozen years that Texas senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and Phil Gramm (R) each accepted more than $100,000 in Enron money, Tennessee's senators, Fred Thompson (R) and Bill Frist (R), received none. Thompson did accept $8,800 from Andersen in his capacity as a ranking member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
While Texas representative Ken Bentsen (D) took in $44,000 and Texas representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D) accepted $39,000 from Enron, Tennessee's representatives took in far less.
Over the last 12 years Tennessee representative Ed Bryant (R), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, accepted $1,500 from Enron and $5,500 from Andersen. His fellow committee member, Representative Bart Gordon (D), accepted $1,500 from Enron and $8,000 from Andersen.
As a member of the House Government Reform Committee, Representative John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr. (R) accepted no money from Enron and $5,000 from Andersen. Likewise, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Representative Harold Ford Jr. (D) accepted no money from Enron and $2,000 from Andersen.
The Enron debacle hit home on another level for Memphis attorney Joseph Barton, who says he lost money when he relied on the information supplied by Andersen in his purchase and holding of Enron stock. Last week Barton became the first person in West Tennessee to file a lawsuit against Arthur Andersen for its role in the Enron case.
"I'm hoping for a settlement that mitigates my losses -- before they are completely bankrupt," says Barton, who is seeking $17,762 in General Sessions Court.
"When I found out they were destroying the documents, that was the trigger I needed to file. They wouldn't destroy beneficial documents. This was an active misrepresentation as to the value of the company," says Barton.
Barton says that had Andersen accurately represented Enron's financial situation, he would not have continued to be an Enron investor.