Do we believe what Neil Goldschmidt said about the Texas Pacific Group?The biggest piece of apathy in Oregon resides in downtown Portland. Top business leadership is not alarmed at the extent to which Enron/PGE has picked its pocket. The business community's willingness to dismiss the concept of a publicly-owned Portland General Electric is myopia of the most expensive sort.

Corporate leaders and a good share of the electorate fall into line when respected voices have warned against turning PGE into a public utility. One of the most prominent voices was that of Neil Goldschmidt, who had a piece of the action with the Texas Pacific Group that aims to acquire PGE.

Steve Duin of The Oregonian last Thursday reviewed the evidence of chicanery in Goldschmidt's pivotal role in the prospective sale of PGE. Wrote Duin: "Neil Goldschmidt has dismissed all these coincidences as 'convergences in a small world.' Does anyone still believe we should shrug and leave it at that?"

Emphatically, "No."

If the smart guys who pull down big salaries in Portland's office towers don't have the intellectual gumption to get the picture, they deserve the financial fleecing they will continue to get from a privately reconstituted PGE.

Religion can be a strong deterrent to pragmatism. That is no less true in business than in politics. Business leaders who dismiss public ownership of a utility out of hand do so because part of being in the club means you don't like public ownership. Thus they willfully disregard the numbers, which is a cardinal sin in business. The numbers indicate that Northwest public utilities have the lowest rates.

Business leaders are more likely to listen to a member of the club than to a utility skeptic such as Dan Meek, who prevailed in Oregon circuit court last Wednesday. Meek argued that the state Public Utility Commission was wrong in dismissing his concern that Enron/PGE is not paying taxes, even though ratepayers have paid the taxes portion of their utility bills. The court ordered the PUC to conduct a regulatory hearing on the matter.

This newspaper published a set of seven editorials in 1996-1997 opposing Enron's purchase of Portland General Electric. We are similarly skeptical of the Texas Pacific Group. And now there is a credible option for public ownership.

As Texas Pacific's front man, Goldschmidt was paid to fool his business cronies. It is time for those well-paid executives to wake up and pay attention to Dan Meek's numbers. This isn't the first public interest lawsuit he has won.


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