DeLay and Enron’s Marianas Vacation

When it comes to the Marianas Islands, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay didn’t just embrace questionable business practices, he looked after questionable corporations as well. According to a January 16, 2002, article in the New York Times, when Enron “lost out to a Japanese company in bidding to build a power plant in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands … Mr. DeLay asked for the bidding to be reopened.”

Enron was able to hold such sway with DeLay not only because it had contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his personal campaign but also because “Enron used as lobbyists two influential members of Mr. DeLay’s informal kitchen cabinet, [former Chief of Staff] Ed Buckham and [former Director of a DeLay political action committee] Karl Gallant.” (Not surprisingly, super lobbyist Jack Abramoff covered some of Buckham’s expenses in the Marianas as well).

DeLay and Buckham flexed their muscles by calling in favors with “friends in the Mariana administration — in particular Ben Fital, a conservative politician whom DeLay’s former aides, Ed Buckham and Mike Scanlon, helped get elected as the island’s representative in Congress.”

The second time around, Enron won the contract. But when Enron went belly-up, so did the power project, leaving the plant “to rust in the Pacific sun and the islands … stuck with spotty electric power and lots of debt.”