n Tuesday, Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, was asked whether he intended to call former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to testify about the Enron-Citigroup scandal. Lieberman's response: "I don't." He then passed the buck to Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Of course, the subcommittee falls under the jurisdiction of Lieberman's committee. If Lieberman wanted Rubin to testify, it would happen on his say-so.
So, what does Levin think about calling Rubin as a witness? When asked last Tuesday he said: "I'd rather go to the top." In other words, Levin intends to call the chief executive officer of Enron, but not Rubin, who is chairman of Citigroup's executive committee.
If Levin is only interested in the testimony of CEOs, why did he hold a hearing last Tuesday in which four Citigroup witnesses testified, but not Citigroup's CEO? Moreover, Levin's not limited on the number of witnesses he can call. Citigroup's CEO and Rubin would make excellent witnesses.
And the reason Rubin is a critical witness is that on at least two occasions, he attempted to influence the credit rating of Enron just days before its demise. Rubin telephoned a top Treasury Department official to enlist his help in persuading the credit-rating agencies to keep Enron's credit rating artificially high. He also directly contacted a top officer at Moody's for the same reason. Rubin's motive: Citigroup was holding about $1 billion in bad Enron loans, which it undoubtedly hoped to dump on unwitting investors. What else explains Rubin's devious efforts and the Lieberman-Levin cover-up? Thus far the Democrats have succeeded in turning the criminal conduct of some corporate executives into a potent political weapon. Rubin's testimony would endanger their strategy.
But there was a time when Levin was willing to cast a much wider net in his pursuit of evidence. Back in January, he used his chairmanship to subpoena documents from Wendy Gramm, Sen. Phil Gramm's wife. Mrs. Gramm sat on Enron's board of directors and audit committee. Moreover, Levin's investigators interviewed her. But Mrs. Gramm wasn't Enron's CEO. She wasn't even involved in the day-to-day management of the corporation. More to the point, Mrs. Gramm didn't contact Treasury officials or credit-rating agencies in an attempt to conceal Enron's true financial condition from shareholders, employees, and the public a potential crime.
Apparently attempting to rip off innocent investors is less important to Senators Lieberman and Levin than scoring political points against Republicans. The cover-up widens.