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Editorials June 9

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A fox for the hen house There’s a movie out about the Enron crooks that is shocking to most people. President Bush, on the other hand, seems to be shock-proof. He has nominated as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission a man who helped bring about the Enron heist. Enron was possible because of a loosening of the laws regulating corporate behavior. U.S. Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., spearheaded the move to unleash sleazy executives — like the president’s friend Kenny Lay — on an unsuspecting public. The rest is unhappy history. Cox pushed his “securities reform bill” through Congress at a time when he himself was a defendant in two lawsuits for securities fraud. His legislation weakened protection for investors by shielding corporate executives, their accountants and lawyers from investor lawsuits for making misleading statements. Lying at will was authorized. The 1995 law was passed by a Republican Congress over President Bill Clinton’s veto. A Duke University law professor, James Cox, called the law “the ultimate in special-interest legislation.” Barbara Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation of America, says the law “made it not only possible but likely that something like Enron would occur.” SEC Chairman William Donaldson has fought the corporate malfeasance that Cox’s law encourages. Under Donaldson, the SEC has brought a record 1,700 enforcement actions against securities violators, collecting about $7 billion. The bad actors in the securities business, many of them large contributors to Bush, quickly had enough of strict enforcement. They demanded the replacement of Donaldson by someone who would let highbinders be highbinders. Bush placated them by putting forward Christopher Cox. Cox still must be confirmed by the Senate. The public should make its outrage known to the senators. It may appear unlikely that the Cox nomination could be blocked in a Republican-controlled Senate, but Donaldson was an honest Republican. Maybe there are a few left in the Senate too. Obedient Boozman Three of Arkansas’s four representatives voted to extend federal financing of embryonic stem-cell research beyond the limits set by President Bush, who apparently likes embryos better than people. The research could spare millions of people from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The embryos used in the research would otherwise be destroyed. The bill passed the House, 238 to 194, and is before the Senate as of this writing. Bush has said he’ll veto it if it reaches his desk. Marion Berry, Vic Snyder and Mike Ross are the congressmen who voted for research. Voting against was Bush’s poodle, John Boozman. Why don’t the voters of the Third Congressional District just send a real poodle to Washington? At least he’d be cute, and he’d fit in Bush’s lap.

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