Sin and juice

Sins of the fathers: We journey now to the City of Brotherly Love, where last week McClatchy Co. announced it had found a buyer for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., holdings that include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, acquired through McClatchy’s still-to-be-approved purchase of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain (see “The media, the market & McClatchy,” SN&R Feature Story, May 18).

“I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind,” said McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt, echoing the words of the great urban poet Snoop Doggy Dogg. OK, he didn’t really say that. Bites made that up. He really said, “This agreement represents a classic win-win deal—good for McClatchy, good for the buyers and good for Philadelphia.” Indeed, the entire world seemed to agree that the $562 million offer from Philadelphia Media Holdings was good for everyone, particularly Brian Tierney, the Philadelphia public-relations tycoon who fronted the buyers.

“The next great era of Philadelphia journalism begins today with this announcement,” said Tierney, signaling the end of the last great era of Philadelphia journalism, in which Tierney also played a pivotal role.

We now travel back in time to the early 1990s, when, according to a 2001 story in Editor & Publisher, a certain Philadelphia Inquirer religion reporter, Ralph Cipriano, began snooping around the local Catholic archdiocese. Eventually, Cipriano discovered that despite the fact that churches were closing in poorer neighborhoods, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was spending almost $1 million to renovate his mansion and a New Jersey summer home.

Enter Tierney, who just happened to count Bevilacqua and the archdiocese among his many public-relations clients. Tierney bullied Cipriano’s editors, threatening a boycott of the paper by Philadelphia’s 1.45 million Catholics, unless the story was pulled. According to Bevilacqua, he succeeded. “He stopped the story,” the cardinal told Editor & Publisher. Cipriano recently won a settlement against the Inquirer and Knight Ridder after his integrity was impinged in the aftermath of the affair.

Yes, the purchase of Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. by Tierney and Co. will no doubt be good for everyone, particularly the Republican politicians who’ve long been on the receiving end of Tierney’s largesse, according to the Open Secrets Web site. You know their names: Senator Arlen “Flip-Flop” Specter, Senator Rick “Animal Lover” Santorum, and, last but not least, President George “The Messiah” Bush.

Lay’d back: Forgive Bites for feeling confused, but is the Enron saga truly over, as some local prognosticators suggested upon the conviction of Enron Chairman Ken Lay for securities fraud last week? Because, according to BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast (via Truthout, at, we’ll be stuck with Lay’s legacy for years to come.

By playing fast and loose with our juice, Lay has left us with “an electricity system that is little more than a playground for power-industry predators,” writes Palast, an internationally recognized expert on Enron and electricity-market manipulation. “Like Al Capone convicted of failing to file his taxes, Ken Lay, though found guilty of stock fraud, is totally off the hook for his BIG crime: taking down the California and Texas consumers for billions through fraud on the power markets.”

That fraud cost California ratepayers $9 billion in overcharges in 2000, money that will never be repaid in full, despite the efforts of former Governor Gray Davis. In fact, Palast suggests that Davis’ attempt to recoup all of the money from Lay and his cronies—Reliant, Williams Co., Dynergy, Entergy and other power companies involved in the market manipulation—may have inadvertently led to his downfall.

Citing a secret meeting between Lay and Arnold Schwarzenegger at a Beverly Hills motel in 2001, Palast hypothesizes that Lay recruited the former bodybuilding champion to terminate Davis, which, as we all know by now, came to pass in 2003, much to Lay’s delight.

“The Governator performed as desired,” Palast writes. “Soon after Schwarzenegger took over from Davis, he signed off on a series of deals with Reliant, Williams Company, Dynergy, Entergy and other power pirates for 10 to 20 cents on the dollar, less than you’d tip the waitress. Enron paid just about nothing.”

Bites has a little tip for Phil Angelides or Steve Westly, whoever prevails in the primary: Don’t let sleeping dogs Lay this November.