Mayor John Fernandez and fellow Secretary of State candidate Todd Rokita held "dueling news conferences" in Indianapolis last Tuesday, in which each pledged to be tougher than the other on securities fraud in Indiana, according to the Associated Press.
The mayor appeared with a group of Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) retirees who have sued IPL's Arlington, Va.-based parent company, AES Corp. Their story is all too familiar in today's world of legalized corporate corruption. "The employees claim that company officials made millions of dollars by selling stock that employees were encouraged to keep," the AP story said. Their pension funds took precipitous nosedives after the company was sold to AES in March 2001.
In the post-Enron era, populist breast-beating of the sort displayed by Fernandez and Rokita on Tuesday is the political posture of the month. But it should be noted that the sort of legalized thievery practiced by former IPL CEO John Hadawal and other top executives was aided and abetted by Democrats and Republicans alike, from coast to coast.
The 1996 electricity deregulation law that allowed Enron to extort billions from California consumers while plunging them into rolling blackouts, for example, passed the California Assembly unanimously. Not a single dissenting vote was cast. The only reason Indiana's electricity market wasn't deregulated is that the state's giant utilities and giant manufacturers couldn't quite agree on how to divvy up the economic spoils of deregulation. Had the big boys agreed, Democrats and Republicans would have trampled each other in a rush to take credit for getting government out of the electricity regulation business.
Bloomington citizens may remember that Fernandez stood shoulder-to-shoulder with citizens when he ran for mayor in 1999. His tough stands on cowboy cops, affordable housing and the PCB Consent Decree earned him the support of Bloomington populists. And even though their backing played a key role in the mayor's razor-thin primary victory over Charlotte Zietlow that year, Fernandez soon turned his back on the people and cast his lot with the likes of the BEDC and Voices for I-69.
Someone should tell the IPL retirees to be aware of politicians currying favor.