01/18/99 -- STATE OF THE UNION, ROBERT E. LEE'S BIRTHDAY COLLIDE AT CAPITOL
WASHINGTON, D.C., January 18 -- When President Clinton delivers his State of the Union address at the Capitol on Tuesday, it will be on the 192nd birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The general's birthday, however, will be commemorated on the following Saturday in the U.S. Capitol's historic Statuary Hall.
As the members of Congress parade through the Capitol to hear President Clinton's address, they will pass through Statuary Hall where a major scandal is erupting over the Lee commemoration, which will feature an address by Senator Strom Thurmmond.
According to records in the D.C. Superior Court, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which sponsors the annual Lee's birthday commemoration at the Capitol, has filed a lawsuit against the Confederate Memorial Association and members of the CMA's board, which include senior White House correspondent Sarah McClendon. The lawsuit claims that the CMA illegally sold the only Civil War museum in the nation's capital.
John Edward Hurley, president of the Confederate Memorial Association, claims that the lawsuit was financed with taxpayers' money using government personnel and facilities. He cited the sworn deposition of Vicki Heilig, president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who works for the U.S. Coast Guard Operations Systems Center, a computer facility in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
According to Hurley, Heilig's sworn statement indicates that Captain W.R. Asforth, commander of the Operations Systems Center, notarized an affidavit in the case as a West Virginia notary. The state of West Virginia has no record of Captain Asforth's notarial authorization. Moreover, Hurley said, Heilig's deposition shows the document was executed in Ashforth's Coast Guard office.
The purpose of the affidavit was to liquidate the assets of the CMA which are estimated to be worth at least $250,000. Hurley has protested the involvement of the federal government in this litigation which was designed to obtain the CMA's assets for use in extremist political activities.
Hurley said that the case was being managed by political zealots. He added that Heilig's deposition showed that the $400,000 litigation was undertaken without her organization voting to file the lawsuit. Hurley said that some of the funding for Heilig's court action came from a major contributor to the Council of Conservative Citizens, an organization that was identified as white supremacist. Senator Trent Lott and Representative Bob Barr have recently disassociated themselves from the group.