When the Bush administration was formulating its energy policy in 2001, Vice President Cheney solicited the advice of senior Enron executives. They were big contributors to the Republican cause. Enron had a major league connection, and it no doubt assisted Enron in getting some pro-oil industry points in the final draft of the policy. Few could dispute that a key connection got Enron chairman Kenneth Lay in the most powerful door in the world—the White House door.
But even a connection that powerful could not buy Mr. Lay a cup of coffee when the energy giant began to implode. Enron's calls for help from the White House fell on deaf ears. "They dropped him like a hot potato," a columnist noted. The reason: connections will never get you a second chance. They will never rescue you from a screwup. They provide access but no staying power whatsoever. Once you have attained the position for which you used the connection, you have to succeed on your own merits. Just like the kid who got the job at the accounting firm. Even a father who was a powerful client could not rescue him from his misdeeds.