The Hightower Report
A rich guy shows no respect for the dead; a Bush appointee-turned-lobbyist shows no respect for ethics
A Housing Deal to Die For
Looking for a real estate bargain? John Schiffeler, who lives in the pricey San Francisco area, has a terrific deal for you! He's got a place for sale that's located along historic Millionaire's Row, is built of gorgeous granite, is in pristine condition, is on a tree-lined boulevard in a quiet neighborhood with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and -- get this -- the price is only $250,000. The only catch is that you have to move in with Schiffeler's family. His dead family.
He has hung a "For Sale" sign on his family's tomb, a sturdy mausoleum in one of the most prestigious cemeteries in the Bay Area. Mountain View Cemetery, first laid out in 1863 by one of America's most eminent landscapers, Frederick Law Olmsted, is the final resting place of railroad barons, steel magnates, chocolate tycoons, and other people of wealth -- including Mr. Schiffeler's family. The mausoleum presently contains the remains of his grandfather, mother, father, and two aunts.
But, alas old wealth doesn't always last. Schiffeler, 63, has recently divorced and remarried, so he now finds himself in need of income. One could get a job, of course, but that's not real money -- besides, working for a living is really a bit tacky. So, he's put the old home place up for sale.
What's to come of the deceased who're presently in residence? Not to worry, for Schiffeler promises to clean them out, saying he'd gladly reinter them down the road. "It's not as if I'd be casting their bones and ashes to the fall winds." He says he can do what he wants with the mausoleum, including, he threatens, dividing it up into "condocrypts" and selling them on a "layaway plan."
John claims to love his dearly departed family, but he asks, "Do we create stability for the dead at the expense of the living?" What the hell -- you can't let ancestry get in the way of cash ... can you?
Scully Cashes In
Ah, Tommy, we hardly knew ye!
Tom Scully we're talking about, George W.'s handpicked honcho of America's Medicare program. Tommy came into this position of public trust only a couple of years ago, and already he's on the move. He spent his short, two-year stint pushing for a massive overhaul of Medicare in a way that will add profits to private hospitals, HMOs, and the drug giants.
Why are we not surprised? After all, prior to becoming a "public servant," Scully had been head honcho for the Federation of American Hospitals, the lobbying front for the very same for-profit hospitals that his Medicare overhaul will benefit.
Now, Tom is cashing out. Having been deeply involved in rewriting the Medicare law, he's been openly peddling his insider knowledge to assorted lobbying firms, dangling his government expertise to draw a seven-figure salary as a lobbyist working for the private health care giants. As one of these lobbying firms said: "Tom's recent experience at the highest levels of the government makes him very attractive to our firm."
Great. George W. gave us Scully, a former corporate lobbyist, to rewrite Medicare, thus giving Scully an advanced degree in corporate servitude, so he can now command an even fatter salary as a corporate lobbyist. There's a Horatio Alger story for you.
Worse, Scully had been out trolling for lobbying jobs while he was inside the back rooms negotiating the Medicare rewrite! Yet, he says this represents no conflict of interest, for he went to the agency's ethics officer and got "a waiver" to the ethics rules that other employees have to follow. Besides, he assures us, "Nobody has ever accused me of being other than honest."
Oh, Tommy, then let me be the first: Scully, you are a scuz, a poster boy of the corrupt, revolving-door scam between government and corporate power that makes most of us Americans sick to our stomachs.