What will happen to Enron’s top executives?

This month, former Enron treasurer Ben Glisan pleaded guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud. His conviction made him the first Enron executive to end up in jail, where he will spend the next five years. Given the Bush administration’s close ties to the Texas-based corporation, we do not expect to see more top executives convicted until President George W. Bush is out of office.

The conviction comes almost two years after Enron first filed for bankruptcy. Although some mid-level employees at Enron have been convicted, trials have not yet begun for the true conspirators, former Chairman Ken Lay and CEO Jeff Skilling. Experts in the case say top executives are much more difficult to convict in cases like these because they insulate themselves from a lot of financial decisions. In this case, there is evidence to suggest the Bush administration itself will attempt to insulate Lay and Skilling.

Enron, and specifically Ken Lay, wrote our nation’s energy policy. This summer, Vice President Dick Cheney attempted to make some documents from the energy task force secret in an attempt to hide the connection. He feared people would see the relationship between huge campaign donations and the huge ability to affect policy. Not surprisingly, we saw the connection anyway. A letter has appeared in which Bush actually calls Ken Lay “Kenny Boy.”

If Lay and Skilling get off scot-free in this case, it will indicate there are serious problems in our criminal justice system. It will confirm our worst suspicions: Bush and Cheney run a good-old-boys system where only money talks. The justice system is moving so slowly on these cases that Bush will almost certainly be jogging back at the ranch before anyone notices what happened.