Funeral directors will attempt to leverage the Funeral Service Insider’s report about the NPS contributions to state politicians, but they should do so with caution.
The story does not paint the entire picture of NPS’ efforts to influence the politics that controlled Missouri’s preneed industry. The amount attributed to the Missouri efforts ($168,000) seems low. Granted it does not reflect contributions made during the past two years, or those made prior to 1999, but the seven years in question cover the period when NPS’ sales seemed to have leaped (within Missouri and to other states).
If NPS providers are going to point an accusing finger at Jay Nixon, they need to consider two issues: their need for Nixon’s help and cooperation, and the complicity of some funeral directors in the NPS impropriety.
NPS made political contributions for a number of reasons, including the opportunity to have NPS providers appointed to the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors. The funeral homes demanding action from the regulators may, for the most part, be innocent. But when a group is found to have one or more pots calling the kettle black, the credibility of the group as a whole is undermined.
If it is not apparent, there is some finger pointing being done within the regulators’ closed circle. A potential issue in the rift among the regulators maybe the political dispute between Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon that prompted the AG’s Office to pull its staff attorneys from their day to day representation of the various state boards and agencies. This forced the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors to look to the legal staff of the Division of Professional Registration, a staff that was already stretched. In reality, the NPS situation existed long before the AG pulled its attorneys, and the posturing has already begun for that issue.
The NPS meltdown has regulators scrambling for their respective excuses. Some of those excuses will appropriately lay the blame back on the death care industry. However, NPS was an equal opportunist when it came to exploiting politicians and funeral directors. Eventually many individuals may be called upon to provide an explanation, but funeral directors and regulators would be better served channeling their current energies towards the recovery of consumers’ funds and the formulation of a program to administer those funds.
In five months, consumers will be voting. Will they be more receptive to excuses or explanations about the efforts already implemented to provide their funerals?
Everyone has an excuse. Write them down and put them away for another day.