THE BLOG
12/10/2005 11:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Do You Know What It Means To Diss New Orleans - or Tick Off Dick Cheney?

Why won't the Bush Administration help the Entergy Corporation in Louisiana? After all, they helped bail out the airlines after 9/11, and Entergy is led by a former Trent Lott crony, Curt Hebert, an advocate at the far right end of the free-market spectrum. Don't they usually come to the aid of a company - and a crony - in need? What's different this time?

The government's rebuff of this corporation, which is led by a longtime Republican insider (albeit one appointed originally by a Democrat), appears inconsistent with their typical way of doing business.

There's more than one possible explanation for it, but it could be payback for crossing Dick Cheney and Ken Lay. Whatever you think of Entergy and whether or not you support helping them with federal money, it would be a shame if hurricane victims are hit yet again - with higher utility costs - as part of a political vendetta.

As the worst of the Enron-driven fiasco was laying waste to California (remember those traders gloating over screwing grandmothers out of their life savings?) Hebert was head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). He was quoted as saying at the time that "the good people of ... California are much smarter than anybody in Washington ever gives them credit for, and they know when to turn their lights off."

His statements reflected badly on the role of government as protector of the people's interests, but in that respect Hebert was certainly echoing the views of his Administration. So why has that same Administration, which has bailed out other corporations, turned on his company? Not only won't they step in, but they've made it clear that they'll refuse to let Congress help.

"I think it‘s very safe to anticipate strong opposition should someone (in Congress) suggest it," an unnamed official (remember them?) said of aid for Hebert's company. And what was their stated reason for this adamant opposition? "We believe that transferring federal tax dollars to the bondholders and shareholders of a private firm is inappropriate," said Alan Hubbard, top Bush economic advisor and chair of a council on rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina.

So many questions:

Why is "transferring federal tax dollars to the bondholders and shareholders of a private firm ... inappopriate" for Entergy, and not for major U. S. airlines after 9/11?

Did the airlines receive assistance because aid to the airlines helped intensify emotions already heightened by the trauma of September 11, as part of the propaganda run-up to a war that was unconnected to that attack? Or were there other reasons?

Is assistance being refused now because the victims of Katrina are black, poor, and primarily Democratic?

Or is Entergy being rebuffed because Curt Hebert went public in May 2005, saying that Ken Lay offered him a deal? Per the New York Times, "Mr. Lay prodded him to back a national push for retail competition in the energy business and a faster pace in opening up access to the electricity transmission grid to companies like Enron."

Hebert, who had originally been appointed to the job by Bill Clinton, says that in return Lay offered to go to Dick Cheney and support keeping him on in the Bush Administration. Hebert says he refused, and shortly thereafter Cheney announced that he was being replaced.

Is it all of the above?

And what about New Orleans? 30% of its homes are still without power, 50% are still without gas, only 10% of its buses are operating, and only one out of 116 public schools is open. Entergy's stockholders have got Carl Hubert. Who's fighting for the people of New Orleans?

Just to be clear: I'm not saying the government should bail out Entergy. I'm pointing out an inconsistency in the Administration's position, making the point that energy consumers in New Orleans are caught in the middle, and looking for an explanation.

Oh, and one last question: If Alan Hubbard is the head of the Katrina rebuilding council ... where's Karl? Wasn't he supposed to be the Katrina czar? Heard about that lately?

A Night Light