Katrina body counting duties given to firm tied to Bush family
And to think, the Administration’s biggest worry was the photography of the bodies of victims. However, it’s A-OK for a firm with a history of dumping and desecrating bodies to take on this job. Good call, Blanco; how hard did Chimpy twist your arm?
[Welcome Buzzflash readers. I’ve added more information below.]
And to top that off, it’s a company with a history of illegally dumping and desecrating corpses. How about them apples? Good god, and what’s worse, LA Gov. Blanco signed a contract with these creeps. (Raw Story):
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has hired Kenyon International to set up a mobile morgue for handling bodies in Baton Rouge, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, RAW STORY has learned.
Kenyon is a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), a scandal-ridden Texas-based company operated by a friend of the Bush family. Recently, SCI subsidiaries have been implicated in illegally discarding and desecrating corpses.
…The Menorah Gardens cemetery chain, owned by SCI, desecrated vaults, removed hundreds of bodies from two cemeteries in Florida and dumped the gruesome remains in woods frequented by wild hogs, investigators discovered in 2001. In one case, a backhoe was used to crack open a vault, remove corpses and make room for more dead bodies.
SCI paid $100 million to settle a lawsuit filed by outraged family members of the deceased.
The Austin Chronicle has a story on the SCI ties to Bush during his days as governor of Texas, when the company was under fire for what was known as “Funeralgate.” It’s ugly, and sadly, familiar territory of the Chimp going to bat for the corporate thugs.
On April 15, 1998, funeral magnate Robert Waltrip talked with Gov. George W. Bush in the Texas Capitol. That much is not in dispute. However, the content of their discussion is the subject of considerable dispute. And the actions taken by the governor’s staff members, a half-dozen legislators, and Texas Attorney General John Cornyn after that April 15 meeting are part of what may be the biggest influence-buying scandal in recent memory.
The politicos and the funeral company are at the heart of a whistleblower lawsuit filed March 23 against the state, funeral home giant Service Corporation International (SCI), and Waltrip, the company’s chairman and CEO. The suit alleges that Bush and other politicos worked to thwart an investigation by the Texas Funeral Service Commission (TFSC) into improperly licensed embalmers working out of SCI funeral homes in Dallas.
Caption from the Austin Chronicle cartoon at the time: “Led by Governor Bush, the Funeralgate cast includes Sen. John Whitmire, SCI CEO Robert Waltrip (in hat), Bush aide Joe Allbaugh, Rep. Kyle Janek, Sen. Kenneth Armbrister, and Attorney General John Cornyn.” (illustration by Doug Potter)
What began as a citizen’s complaint against SCI in January 1998 has since grown into a scandal revolving around campaign contributions, and the influence they may buy. All of the politicos who intervened on SCI’s behalf received major contributions from SCI’s political action committee, or PAC. Did that money convince them to help SCI — the world’s largest death care company — and to punish the agency that investigated SCI? Whether that was the reason or not, the state officials took positions that may hurt consumers. SCI’s prices are routinely among the highest in the funeral business. One consumer advocate, Lamar Hankins, the president of the Funeral & Memorial Societies of America, says the company routinely engages in “price gouging.” But campaign cash, not consumers, is at the heart of this scandal. And the scandal promises to grow as the lawsuit — filed by former TFSC director Eliza May — works through the discovery process. The suit alleges that May was fired because she “repeatedly and in good faith reported violations of the law and conduct that she reasonably believed to constitute violations of the law.”
As May’s suit goes forward, Bush and the other politicos who helped SCI are scrambling for cover. May’s lawyers want to depose Bush. But the governor missed a requested July 1 deposition date because he was busy campaigning for the presidency in California. Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who appears to have gone out of his way to help SCI in its battle with the TFSC, is ducking May’s deposition request by claiming legislative privilege, a law that protects legislators from revealing communications they have had with citizens.
Salon has a great timeline that tracks the sleazy dealings. Bush is man practically incapable of telling the truth and it shows in this snippet.
Austin Chronicle: SCI CEO Robert Waltrip is the world’s highest paid undertaker. (photograph by F. Carter Smith).
June 16, 1999: Waltrip’s attorneys issue a “supplemental” interrogatory saying that Waltrip didn’t talk to Bush, that they “exchanged pleasantries” and that their discussion was “not substantive; they did not discuss the content” of Waltrip’s letter about the TFSC.
July 9, 1999: May’s attorneys send a subpoena to Bush regarding the TFSC matter. Bush’s office says the governor will fight the subpoena.
Aug. 5, 1999: Cornyn issues a motion to quash the subpoena. The motion is accompanied by an affidavit from Bush saying he “had no conversations with SCI officials, agents or representatives” about the state’s investigation.
Aug. 9, 1999: A Newsweek article appears in which Rogers says that while he and Waltrip were in Allbaugh’s office on April 15, 1998, Bush stuck his head into the office and asked Waltrip, “Hey Bobby, are those people still messing with you?” Rogers’ quote appears to contradict Bush’s statement that he has “had no conversations with SCI officials” about the investigation.