House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX) relishes in describing the Marianas as his personal Galapagos Islands. The 14-island chain of Pacific Islands has long been DeLay's image of a perfect business environment -- virtually devoid of business or environmental regulations. Only one other entity, Enron, curried more favor with DeLay.
Now it is learned that DeLay helped Enron muscle its way into a contract to build a $120 million power plant for the Marianas in a campaign that included smearing the head the island's utility agency who opposed the deal.
"There was all kinds of political interference," said Vicente Mesa, manager of the island's Commonwealth Utilities Corporation. "There were all kinds of political pushes from the top and side and every way....They wanted that contract signed so they could make a quick profit and walk away."
And walk away they did. The Marianas are still without a power plant.
At a critical juncture in negotiations DeLay wrote to Mariana officials, pushing them into Enron's waiting arms. DeLay's former chief of staff, Ed Buckham, and his consulting company, Alexander Strategy Group, were hired by Enron to lobby in favor of their bid. (DeLay's wife receives a salary from Alexander Strategy and Enron contributed $28,900 to DeLay's campaigns.)
A former Marianas power official says now that Island officials were no match for Enron's politically-charged assault. "It was a real learning experience for me," he said.
You can read the full story of this in the Maryland Sun
- 106 Money & Politics
- 185 Corruption