Democrats Call For Action Not Just Words From Bush

By Agence France-Presse Top congressional Democrats on July 9 called for action not just words from President George W. Bush on the wave of corporate and accounting scandals that have shaken the U.S. economy. "What is important is what is done, not what is said," stated House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) just minutes before Bush addressed Wall Street on the need for increased corporate integrity. "To us, it is not enough to talk about accountability, you have to act to ensure it," agreed Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). "The test for the president today is not whether he shares the outrage that the workers and shareholders in these companies feel; I'm sure he does. "The question is whether he is willing to take action on that outrage and support the legislation which will actually solve the problem," Daschle said. Democrats are calling on Bush to sign into law two pieces of legislation they have introduced in the Senate aimed at reforming the U.S. accounting industry and creating criminal penalties for corporate fraud. The legislation results from an avalanche of corporate scandals that began last year with the fall of Texas-based energy giant Enron Corp. The group's auditor Arthur Andersen was found guilty of obstruction of justice for destroying documents. Outrage against corporate misdeeds reached a peak last month when telecommunications giant WorldCom Inc. revealed a $3.8 billion black hole in its accounts. Bush on July 9 vowed to "expose and punish acts of corruption" by executives with stiffer prison terms, according to a White House summary of his speech, and pledged to sign an executive order creating a Corporate Fraud Task Force to direct investigations and prosecutions of criminal activity by executives. Indeed, "We will use the full weight of the law to expose and root out corruption," Bush said. "My administration will do everything in our power to end the days of cooking the books, shading the truth and breaking our laws." But Gephardt was skeptical. "So far, the administration's approach has been a familiar strategy: use harsh rhetoric to condemn wrongdoers while delaying and watering down whatever reforms might come out of Congress." Daschle insisted that to truly take on corporate fraud, the country needed a strong, independent oversight board to audit the auditors, and real restrictions on auditor conflicts of interest. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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