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Bush and Funeralgate?

My World

Who Started The Allegation?

eliza_may.jpg

Eliza May, a 45-year-old Austin Democrat. May has been active in Democratic politics on the city and state level for more than a decade.

-From 1994 to 1996 she served on the state Democratic Executive Committee.


-From 1996 to 1998 she was the treasurer for the Texas Democratic Party.


-She has also served on the finance committee for the Travis County Democratic Party.


-She was active in the South Austin Mexican-American Democrats.


-She was active in the Hispanic Women's Network.


-She was active the Austin Women's Political Caucus.


-She served as a volunteer on several city and county boards and commissions.


-In 1996, she even considered running for Austin's City Council as a democrat of course.


-Eliza May's lawyer is Charles Herring Jr., a former chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party.


-Another key factor is the web site Democrats.com (Operated by big wigs in the DNC) is peddling this story and squeezing it for as much juice as they can get out of it.

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An attempt by left wing assassins like the ever fallacious Bob Fertik at democrats.com-mies to make Bush look like Clinton and intimidate him?

Her feverish political allegiance to the Democratic Party makes her allegations about Bush in the mist of his campaign for the presidency is quite damning to her credibility. It seems given that she is a Democratic Party operative, her lawyer is chairman of Travis County branch of the Democratic Party, a web site run by Democratic Party big wigs from the Clinton administration was all over the allegations, and this was all during Bush's quest for the presidency...One must start to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It was a diabolical plot hatched by democrats to hurt Bush's reputation.

These facts easily warrant and justify dismissing as democrats assassinating the character of Bush. Not only that, other web sites have been picking up on the claim. It seems these are run by Clinton's apologists that concoct these malicious lies because people exposed Bill Clinton. It openly reflects the devious behavior and shoddy tactics used by democrats. Moreover it looks like an attempt to diminish the character not only to bring down the image of republicans, but to some how make every other president look like Bill Clinton.

Why is she making the claims?

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn said "sought purely for purposes of harassment." May began the investigation into SCI because she was trying to run for governor a la Ann Richards. May had used her position at the TFSC for political purposes and that she thought she'd take on the biggest funeral giant in the world and put it on her wampum belt and become the Jessica Mitford of the funeral business.

Why was she fired?

On Feb. 8, 1999: May was fired as executive director of the TFSC. May files a lawsuit against SCI. She alleges she was fired because she was getting too "close" and SCI pressured state officials to fire her.


Not so. Newsweeks Michael Isikoff said that May was fired in February, "after another [funeral] commission employee complained that she ordered him to research SCI campaign contributions to state officials." Texas Funeral Service Commission doesn't have that authority and it adds to the fact she was just exploiting this for political reasons.

Have democrats received contributions from SCI?

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Absolutely. State Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who has received $5,000 in campaign contributions from SCI -- more than any other member of the Texas Senate. Also, SCI has given money to several other Texas State legislatures.

Joe M. Allbaugh Answers

Allbaugh: I was present at one meeting attended by representatives of both the Texas Funeral Service Commission (TFSC) and Service Corporation International (SCI). I attended two other meetings, each with just a single TFSC representative. I never pressured anyone, including TFSC staff members, to terminate an investigation of SCI or any other company.

On May 19, 1998, Texas state senator John Whitmire (a Democrat) invited me to a meeting he had arranged between senior representatives of Service Corporation International, on the one hand, and Chairman Charles "Dick" McNeil and Executive Director Eliza May of the Texas Funeral Services Commission, on the other, and four or five others. I recall that Senator Whitmire was incensed that the TFSC had engaged in what his constituent Robert Waltrip (chairman of SCI) considered to be TFSC's overly aggressive tactics in investigating alleged improprieties by SCI affiliates. In particular, Senator Whitmire was outraged at an unannounced "raid" on Good Friday morning, the previous month, during which investigators demanded immediate production of what Mr. Waltrip considered to be an extraordinary amount of documents from a number of SCI affiliates (and perhaps other companies) in the Dallas area. I recall that the dispute between SCI (on behalf of whom Senator Whitmire spoke) and the TFSC in that meeting was over the extent and manner of the production of documents demanded by the TFSC, and the identity and description of the desired documents, but not about the existence of the investigation itself. Most of the dialogue in that meeting was among Senator Whitmire, Mr. Waltrip, and Chairman McNeil. The meeting concluded when I asked TFSC's general counsel to provide a list that afternoon of the documents TFSC required, and indicated I would provide that list to Senator Whitmire's staff immediately thereafter. I did so, and the parties soon resolved their dispute over this issue.

I viewed my participation in this meeting as that of a facilitator to resolve this dispute over production of documents, and nothing more. It is my belief that Senator Whitmire, SCI, and the TFSC representatives also viewed my participation in this meeting as merely that of a facilitator. Indeed, both principal camps to the dispute were seeking the assistance of the governor's office perform that role. Moreover, the only reason he meeting was held in my office is that I did not have time to attend it at the location established by Senator Whitmire, so I offered them the benefit of my office that morning as the only option allowing me to attend.

I recall having only two other meetings with any TFSC representatives on this topic; each meeting involved just one TFSC representative. It is my recollection that I met Executive Director May in August of 1998 - after the TFSC had reviewed the documents provided by SCI and had announced its $450,000 fine against SCI - to inquire about the facts behind the press reports associated with these developments. Possibly a month later, Chairman McNeil came by my office at his request to report on the status of the matter. Each of these meetings was brief and inconsequential from my perspective. Neither at these meetings nor at any other meeting, nor in any conversation, did I pressure any TFSC representatives to stop any investigation. In fact, by the time of my August meeting with Ms. May, the TFSC had announced its fine against SCI.

TFSC was the principal regulator of Texas funeral services, and was an agency independent of control from the governor's office. The only relationship between the governor's office and the TFSC was in the appointment of commissioners to multi-year terms of office. By state law, the governor could remove commissioners only for three statutory reasons: neglect of duty, incompetence, and fraud or dishonest conduct. Moreover, I am not aware of any mechanism by which the governor's office could affect the employment of TFSC staff. Thus, there is no means under Texas law that would have permitted me to pressure the commission (in that or any meeting) to take any action. In any case, I had no desire to affect the investigation adversely, and I did not exert any such pressure.

The reported allegations referenced in your question are not grounded in fact, nor are they credible.

I both recognize and support the role of regulatory agencies to ensure that rules governing the conduct of regulated industry are followed. I viewed my role in this matter as consistent with that objective. So, even though the governor's office had no power or authority to compel action by either the TFSC or SCI, I accepted the invitation to help facilitate resolution of their dispute over the TFSC's demand for SCI records.

Senate Democrats Apparently were Satisfied with Testimony of Joe Allbaugh before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, February 13, 2001

Note: This is a transcript of questions asked by Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) of Mr. Joe Allbaugh, nominee for director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, about his involvement in an investigation of the SCI Corporation by the Texas Funeral Services Commission. Certain exclamations and pauses such as "uh" were omitted for clarity.

Sen. Lieberman: Mr. Allbaugh, I think you know there's a lawsuit in Texas which has raised some controversy and questions which some have directed toward your nomination. And I wanted to ask you some questions about it here. I know that the committee has asked you some before the hearing and I appreciate your cooperation in answering those but I think it's important to get some questions and answers on the record. For the record, as I'm sure you know a lawsuit is pending in Texas regarding an investigation by the Texas Funeral Services Commission into the activities of a major funeral home corporation called Service Corporation International -SCI. The lawsuit alleges that the executive director of the funeral commission Ms. Eliza May was wrongfully terminated because of her role in the investigation of SCI -the funeral corporation. Some of the allegations in this lawsuit involve incidents that occurred during meetings and conversations in which you were involved as Governor Bush's chief of staff. I want to ask you a few questions about that now and I'm going to be as, as direct as possible.

Did you ever try as is alleged to stop the Funeral Service Commission investigation of SCI and its related entities from going forward?

Mr. Allbaugh: No sir. I did not.

Sen. Lieberman: And if you want to add any more as we go on, I invite them. I'll go through the questions. Did you ever limit or try to limit the scope of the records or other materials that the Texas Funeral Services Commission was seeking from SCI or its related entities as part of this investigation?

Mr. Allbaugh: No sir I did not.

Sen. Lieberman: Did you ever speak to Ms. May about this investigation or related events in a threatening manner?

Mr. Allbaugh: No sir I did not. I invited her to my office as I did with a lot of executive directors as part of my role as chief of staff and we had a conversation-albeit a brief conversation-but I would not do any such thing.

Sen. Lieberman: Have your actions in this matter ever been the subject of any ethics, criminal or similar type of investigation?

Mr. Allbaugh: No sir they have not.

Sen. Lieberman: And I understand that though you are mentioned in the lawsuit you are not a named defendant in the lawsuit. Is that correct?

Mr. Allbaugh: That's my understanding as well

Sen. Lieberman: Let me ask you finally, having asked those specific questions, if you would now just for the record, to the best of your recollection, state the nature of your involvement in the situation in the case that, that is the basis for the lawsuit that I have mentioned.

Mr. Allbaugh: I was asked by a state senator from Houston to facilitate a meeting-actually attend a meeting he was having-and on a Friday I believe about three years ago. He had invited representatives from the Texas Funeral Commission and SCI to be in attendance. I told him I couldn't be in attendance. In another of the building I was due to do some things with Governor Bush and I couldn't leave. But I offered up my office as a place to host the meeting. Everyone congregated. I turned to Senator Whitmire who was the senator who asked for the meeting and I basically said, "Show's yours."

Sen. Lieberman: Let me interrupt just for a moment. Do I understand correctly Senator Whitmire asked for the meeting because he was concerned about the way in which the Funeral services commission was going after SCI.?

Mr. Allbaugh: The way he explained it to me was that there were numerous documents that the Texas Funeral Service Commission were after. And his constituents, SCI, were curious in trying to figure out exactly what documents the Texas funeral commission were after. That was the purpose of the meeting to try to bring some conclusion and finality as to what they were after. I saw my role quite frankly no more than a facilitator which is something I did with great regularity as the chief of staff when there were two parties that had differing opinions about things.

Sen. Lieberman: And what, what happened at the meeting?

Mr. Allbaugh: Probably ten, twelve, fifteen people showed up. It went on it seemed like forever. And I brought the meeting to closure by asking the chairman of the funeral services commission, who was present, Dick McNeil and his staff to ultimately provide a list of materials they were interested in obtaining from SCI. They agreed to do that. They provided that later in the afternoon after the meeting adjourned and that was the end of it.

Sen. Lieberman: Did you have any further contact with the matter after that?

Mr. Allbaugh: I called the executive director which was normal course of business for me to set up a meeting. I noticed in the larger meeting with everyone present she wasn't participating and that was a clear signal to me that there might be something that this office needed to know about-- the governor's office. So I set up a private meeting. She came over and there wasn't really anything she shared with me-that was the end of the meeting. And that was the last time I spoke with her.

Sen. Lieberman: And the tenor of the mood of that meeting was businesslike and

Mr. Allbaugh: It was businesslike, short sweet to the point. Actually she was non-participatory in any questions that I asked except for she alluding to the fact that there were several death threats against members of the commission. And I suggested to her that we needed that information as quickly as possible to turn it over to the proper authorities -the Texas Public safety department and uh...

Sen. Lieberman:(inaudible)

Mr. Allbaugh: And the Texas Rangers I beg your pardon?

Sen. Lieberman: And in her opinion the death threats were related to the investigation of SCI?

Mr. Allbaugh: That was her opinion. And I needed that information to turn over to the proper authorities-the Texas Rangers-for investigation.

Sen. Lieberman: Did she ever provide you with that information?

Mr. Allbaugh: No sir she did not.

Sen. Lieberman: After that meet. And that was Ms. May I gather?

Mr. Allbaugh: Yes sir.

Sen. Lieberman: After that meeting did you have further involvement in that matter?

Mr. Allbaugh: Only one additional meeting. Chairman Dick McNeil dropped by at his request to bring me kind of an update as to the status of things. And that was my last involvement with this entire issue.

Sen. Lieberman: To the best of your recollection what was the nature of the investigation and how did it conclude?

Mr. Allbaugh: I believe there was a fine involved. And uh which has been appealed. And I really don't know that it's been brought to closure quite frankly.

Sen. Lieberman: But, but the basic nature of the investigation presumably was that there had been complaints against the, the funeral home or the

Mr. Allbaugh: As I understand it there were complaints against SCI for some type of educational practices. I really don't know any more than that. And the basis for the investigation as I understand it by the Texas Funeral commission was to get at the core of those complaints.

Sen. Lieberman: Do you know I gatherIs it a fact to the best of your knowledge that Ms. May was terminated as the executive director of the funeral services commission?

Mr. Allbaugh: That's my understanding. I read about it in the "Austin American Statesman."

Sen. Lieberman: Right. Was it.. I'm tempted to ask you if you believe everything you read in the "Austin American Statesman?"

Mr. Allbaugh: Parts Parts Parts

Sen. Lieberman: Do you remember how soon after, generally speaking, after this series of events regarding SCI that Miss May was terminated?

Mr. Allbaugh: (sigh) I wanna say 5 or 6 months, I don't exactly know, No my meeting with Ms. May was in August of '98 and I think she was terminated in early '99.

Sen. Lieberman: Did you have any involvement in the commission's decisions that led to her termination?

Mr. Allbaugh: None whatsoever.

Sen. Lieberman: So that what you are testifying today is the first time you heard about it to the best of your recollection was that when you read about it in the newspaper

Mr. Allbaugh: That's exactly what I would say. The first time I ever heard about her dismissal was reading about it in the newspaper

Sen. Lieberman: Fine. Thank. Thanks, Mr. Allbaugh. I don't have any further questions about that. I believe some of my colleagues in some of the post hearing questions may.

Mr. Allbaugh: Sure

Conclusion

It is a publicity stunt and an example of the frivolous misuse of the civil justice system. All it does is attack Bush's reputation and try to intimidate him. What else do you expect from democrats that defended Clinton for 8 years? They kind of remind you of the mafia.

Hypocrisy

It is amazing to see these people, which pooh-poohed the Clinton's manipulation of Arkansas savings-and-loan regulators in 1992, devote time to this story.

The Clinton's, who gave us the biggest tax increase in history, did not properly report or pay their taxes. They received $135,000 from the McDougals in Whitewater. They received $50,000 from a Small Business Association loan for minorities through David Hale into Whitewater.

The American Spectator Magazine (April 1996) has listed a few laws that Bill Clinton may have broken and have done legal analysis that he would have been facing a possible 178 years in prison.

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