Most Corrupt Bush Appointees: Mary Hain


April 8, 2006, LOS ANGELES TIMES, by Jonathan Peterson -- At the peak of the California energy crisis, Mary C. Hain was a lawyer at Enron Corp.'s Portland, Ore., trading hub, where she had a front-row view of practices that injected chaos into electricity markets and sent rates soaring.

She once scribbled: "Answer questions, say nothing. Answer questions, finger others." Those notes from October 2000 were reviewed later by investigators looking into market gaming among the energy traders whom she advised on legal matters.

Now, Hain is scheduled to take a new job--at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the government's energy watchdog. She will serve as a trial lawyer specializing in technical matters of energy rates.

Some observers of the energy industry are stunned by the hiring and question why federal regulators would employ an Enron insider who had worked closely with traders who have pleaded guilty to crimes. The decision has stirred long-held sentiments among some consumer activists that the energy commission wasn't sufficiently bothered by misconduct in the Western marketplace.

"As a lawyer, her knowledge of the schemes and apparent indifference to corruption seems like a very poor qualification as a regulator," said Robert McCullough, an Oregon energy consultant who scrutinized the actions of Enron employees during the company's troubling chapter in 2000 and 2001.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee reported in November 2002 that Hain had tried to discourage FERC investigators "from taking any action that would hurt the vibrant wholesale market" for energy in the West.

California officials contend that state electricity users were overcharged by $9 billion during the energy crisis. "During the California energy crisis, FERC did a lot more to help companies like Enron and others manipulate the California energy market" than it did to protect the public, said Peter Navarro, a UC Irvine economics professor. Such "regulatory neglect...makes this hiring at least consistent, if both patently absurd and hugely imprudent."

© 2006 Los Angeles Times

"Most Corrupt Appointees" describes appointees shown on Most, not a ranking


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