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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Thursday, July 11, 2002




Last Gasp for the Harken Energy "Scandal"

I predict a quick end to the Harken Energy buzz, for the same reason the Washington press corps ignored it for so long - no steak, and no sizzle, according to Byron York of NRO.

Where's the steak? Bush sold shares for $4 that later traded between $2.50 and $8. So he fleeced investors of roughly $300,000, or perhaps left about $800,000 on the table. Look, I understand Enron and Worldcom, where insiders bailed out as the stock went from roughly 100 to roughly zero. And I understood Whitewater, where Republicans could chant "$60 million taxpayer bailout of a failed S&L". But with Harken, it's not even clear that anyone was cheated, if the SEC is to be believed.

So, speaking of the SEC, where is the sizzle? This is Wahington, people, say it with me: it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. Arthur Anderson went down for shredding documents; with Whitewater, Republicans could point to Treasury officials impeding an investigation during Clinton's Presidency. Harken probers need to unearth a "Dear Dad, please help me, Love, W" note. Or maybe a note to Jim Baker saying "Can't you help my boy, regards, George". Without evidence of a crime or a cover-up, this "scandal" dies.

Both the Times, with the relentless Jeff Gerth (The Gerthinator?) and the Post cover Harken Energy today. The flickering flames of scandal seem to be these:

Harken Energy was an illiquid, thinly traded stock. Who was the investor that stepped up and bought Bush's shares in a block trade? Twelve years later, we still don't know. But I bet we will. Democrat deus ex machina?

Show me the minutes: Harken Energy has refused to release minutes of Director's meetings despite being asked since Bush's gubernatorial campaign in 1994. Hmmm. What are they hiding?

The SEC file: Daschle wants it. More painful dental extraction, and eventually we get it. A day spent fishing is a day in heaven.

Bush was required to file two forms disclosing his stock sale. The first went in on time, which will be news to Krugman; the second was filed late. Why? The White House story changes. Hard to see this exploding, but partisan Democrats keep hope alive.

And, in the "Stupid Spin Tricks", the White House tells us that Bush did not profit from a 5% loan made when the Prime Rate was 7.5%. Even I see through this.

The Times tries to fan the flames with this provacative headline:

"Bush Calls for End to Loans of a Type He Once Received"

Oh changing times and morals. Just last summer, I used to carry my pocketknife onto airplanes. Now, standards have changed. We have seen evidence of the abuse if insider loans. This hardly means that they were always and everywhere abusive. The Times also seems to have all sorts of info on the share price prior to Bush's sale, but goes silent on the share price afterwards. Work it, Jeff.

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