HOUSTON—According to an independent report released Monday, Americans would be outraged if they had a basic grasp of the details of the Enron collapse, in which company executives concealed massive debt while claiming profitability and then declared bankruptcy, bilking investors and employees out of millions as they made off with a fortune.
"I've followed it a little, but I'm still not quite sure what exactly the deal is," said Portland, OR, graphic designer Gina Kader, one of 3,500 Americans polled about the Enron scandal by the D.C.-based Center For Public Integrity. "I know they laid a bunch of people off, which made a lot of people mad. Then again, lots of companies are laying off workers these days. So who knows?"
Though many Bush Administration appointees are former Enron executives or business associates, Congress is not being flooded with letters from outraged Americans demanding an investigation into what the White House knew about the energy giant's illegal and illicit activities.
"Is Enron out of business?" asked Amanda Garces, a Cicero, IL, real-estate agent. "I saw footage of people clearing out their offices, even taking home plants from the lobby. I know they went bankrupt, and I think some of their top executives may have been guilty of some sort of extortion. But I could be totally off."
The mass public silence grew even quieter following reports that Enron has contributed $572,350 to various George W. Bush election campaigns over the course of his political career.
"Didn't the collapse have something to do with the California energy crunch?" asked Rochester, MN, nurse practitioner Roberta Miller. "I'm pretty sure I saw something on the news about it being related to that. But then, I also read somewhere that there was some kind of trouble with their accounting. So maybe it was both. Or neither."
In addition to the groundswell of disinterest in the president's ties to Enron, a mass public outcry has not gone up over Vice President Dick Cheney's refusal to release details of his many meetings with former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay.
"From what I gather, some of the top Enron executives predicted the earnings wrong, and as a result they overbudgeted," said Pete Moseley, a Philadelphia-area construction worker. "So then they had to fire some people to make up for the loss. And everybody's mad because the people they fired were all the low-level employees, not the top guys like themselves."
Americans are also not demanding answers regarding Enron's relationship with Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), who, as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, approved legislation exempting Enron from federal regulation at a time when his wife was on the energy giant's board.
"A lot of people are saying a lot of things about this company," said Sacramento, CA, orthodontist Alan Hood, one of the 275 million Americans not angrily calling for an independent investigator to find out how much influence Enron bought on Capitol Hill. "Right now, it's all just a lot of noise. I'm going to wait until the dust settles before I even consider trying to get a handle on it."
Teresa Conreid, an Athens, GA, legal secretary who thinks she may have seen something about document shredding in Time a few months back, said the scandal is not high on her priority list.
"What are you asking me for?" Conreid said. "Between terrorism, the economy, and my own personal life, I've got enough problems. I think we all have more important things to worry about than politicians rolling over for giant corporate interests at the expense of the voters who elected them."