The massive conflict of interest problems that plague public accounting are of course big news now that Arthur Andersen’s accounting gymnastics on Enron’s behalf have been exposed, but there were plenty of people who were concerned about them back when everybody thought Enron was real. One of them is Arthur Levitte, the former head of the SEC. How was he rewarded? Let’s see:

Executives from the auditing firms said the proposals were unduly burdensome and unnecessary. But speaking of the episode this week, Mr. Levitt said the calls reflected the political influence of the industry, which ultimately succeeded in weakening his proposals to reduce the potential conflicts of interests at accounting firms.

“I have never been subjected to a more intensive and venal lobbying campaign,” said Mr. Levitt, who led the S.E.C. for almost eight years, the longest-serving chairman in the commission’s 67-year history. “I spent nearly all of my time during those months responding to senatorial and congressional queries and visits. It was totally time consuming.”

The accounting guys are undeterred by the Enron debacle, they’re making sure that their industry doesn’t have to suffer any consequences for it whatsoever by spending big bucks on keeping legislators in their pockets. President Bush is on their side, too, he said last month that he is naming two partners from public accounting firms to the board of the SEC.