Sunday, September 11, 2005

Another question I'm hoping someone can provide more information on.

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

Another question I'm hoping someone can provide more information on.

To assist with the recovery and disposition of the victims of Katrina, FEMA has hired Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management, a Houston-based company which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), another Houston-based corporation, which bills itself as the "dominant leader in the North American death care industry."

SCI is not only closely associated with the president (which is not surprising since the company is based in Houston), they were also at the center of what is probably the best-known scandal during Bush's six years as governor of Texas: the so-called 'funeralgate' case.

What's more, Joe Allbaugh -- President Bush's Chief of Staff in Texas and later his first FEMA Director -- was the central figure in that scandal, or at least the guy whose job it was to take care of the mess SCI had gotten into.

The last we heard, you'll remember, now-lobbyist Allbaugh was in Lousiana "helping coordinate the private-sector response to the storm."

One Tennessee mortician, Dan Buckner, who was on stand-by as a volunteer as part of the Department of Homeland Security's DMORT program told a local paper that morticians from around the country were available to do this work as volunteers. (DMORT works in conjunction with the National Funeral Directors Association).

"There's no telling how many dollars they'll spend on that contract," he told the paper.

Once SCI got the contract, the NFDA sent out a notification to their members which read in part ...

The company that FEMA has chosen to outsource the recovery work in Louisiana is Kenyon, a worldwide disaster management company, wholly owned subsidiary of Service Corporation International. Kenyon asked us to share the names and phone numbers of NFDA members and funeral directors who are interested in a paid three-week employment situation. If you have already volunteered with NFDA, we'd like to let you know about this paid option to help.

When questioned about the matter, a Nenyon spokesman said his company had had a contract with FEMA since 1997. And this list of catastrophes they've done work on does include several US passenger jet crashes from the late 1990s, i.e., before the beginning of the second Bush administration.

Still, companies based in Houston and/or companies with close ties to Joe Allbaugh do seem to be snapping up a whole lotta contracts. So perhaps someone out there can look into this a bit further.
-- Josh Marshall