Hall of Fame - J. Michael Keeling


J. Michael Keeling

This bio has been edited and condensed from a verbal interview with Mr. Keeling.

Jack Veale: J. Michael Keeling is the President of the ESOP Association. Michael has inspired others with his vision and passion for employee ownership. Michael congratulations on your induction to our ESOP Hall of Fame.

Michael Keeling: Thank you Jack I’m honored.

Jack Veale: Michael can you share with us your journey early in your career on how you got here?

Michael Keeling: Yes, and I will start when I was working on the Hill for Congressman J.J. “Jake” Pickle. He was a Democrat representing the 10th District which was mainly all of Austin, Texas, with about eight or so counties stretching all the way to the county which included Houston, Texas. Just a side note, he was a close friend and protégé of one Lyndon Johnson who represented the district, first being elected to Congress in the late 1930’s. Mr. Pickle in that era, as was his close friend John Connally, Student Body Presidents at the University of Texas, Austin.

As you know, ESOPs were first recognized in Federal law in ERISA, passed effective 1975. Mr. Pickle was not on the House tax committee that helped draft the House version of ERISA, but he joined the committee in 1975. (I started working for Mr. Pickle on August 1, 1972.

One Monday morning, in 1980, I was in his office getting a briefing of his campaign activities for the weekend as he had a very competent Republican opponent in that election cycle. And even though Austin tilted liberal, it was subject to white students being bused to innercity schools, and it was the Carter-Reagan year when Governor Reagan was doing well even in Austin.

I’m sitting in his office that day, and he’s kind of rambling, as so many southern Democrats did. And all of a sudden, he says, “you know I visited Hart Graphics this past Friday.” He said, “They got one of those things; they got that thing that Russell Long talks about.” And me being a smart aleck young guy, I said, “Oh Mr. Pickle, you mean they have an employee stock ownership plan, an ESOP.” He says, “Yeah they got one of those.” Then in a much softer tone, signaling sincerity, he said, “they are special.” And from that day forward, he was a consistent supporter of ESOPs, and I had a different opinion about ESOPs because I trusted his reaction.

He was visiting companies in the campaign left and right. But to point out an ESOP company out of the blue, not on our agenda and to say it was special stayed with me.

To fast forward, my actual work for the Association began when I left the Hill and became part of the swamp as they say today. I became a lawyer lobbyist.

As a happenstance, as so many things in life, The ESOP Association was one of my first clients. One of my clients, an offshore drilling company based in Houston, Texas, took advantage of a tax credit enacted by Congress in 1976 or so, took advantage of the tax credit for contributions to an ESOP, called a “TRASOP” company. Big, publicly traded companies were utilizing the TRASOP because that was an easy thing for a traded company to do. The House put in the famous “Reagan” tax bill of 1981, repeal of the tax credit for contributions to ESOPs.

I after hanging up with my contact at the drilling firm client, I said to myself, “Self, there is a trade association for everything” I picked up a phone book, looked in the yellow pages, and sure enough, there was a listing for The ESOP Association. I called, and talked to Luis Granados, the Executive Director, made an appointment, and walked one block from my office to meeting with him to discuss work to “kill” the House TRASOP repeal. In those days, the Association was not independent. Like a lot of young associations, it had just been established for a few years in California and then moved to DC in late 1979, I think. Like many new, not much revenue non-profits, it had a contract with a firm to manage its operations—it was the Sheldon London Law Firm, whose office was next door to the Association. When I went over to see Luis, I did not know it was being managed under contract with Shelly’s firm.

I’m sitting there talking to Louis, and he’s saying, “Well, we’re not really interested in that. The Association doesn’t have a lot of public company members, never did.” And in walks Shelly London!

Shelly, in the 70’s, had worked for the association of owners of hardware stores.. He had gotten to know me when I worked for Mr. Pickle, as a hardware store in Austin was being condemned by the Federal government under the Urban Renewal law in order to build low-income housing on the site where he had his hardware store. Mr. Pickle was responding to his constituent and trying to alter the Federal plan to condemn his property. So I knew Shelly from when I worked on the Hill.

Shelly said, “We’re not interested in that tax credit, but there’s a move to have full voting rights passed through to all participants in an ESOP, even in non-traded companies. Would you like to take that task on? I’ve got a guy from the senate to do the senate, and you could do the house.”

I needed the business, and I said, “yes, certainly.”

From that day forward, interacting with the then executive committee of the Association board, I got involved more and more with lobbying for the Association, especially in 1984, when Congress’s tax committees, drafting tax legislation referred to DEFRA.

My lobbying on the extremely effective pro-ESOP tax incentives in the Senate DEFRA bill, added of course by the Mr. ESOP of Congress, Senator Russell Long, a wonderfully effective legislator, and Chair of the Senate tax committee was my number one source of billable income in 1984.

And I really want to tell those reading how it came about that the effective 1984 pro-ESOP DEFRA provisions became law when no one expected the House tax committee conferees to agree to pro-ESOP tax incentives that were impactful. Hope readers will get a kick out, the story. I got a kick out of it when it played out around 3 AM one morning as the tax committee conferees finished the version of DEFRA that became law.

Before the conference began, Senator Long -- one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life was Russell Long. He was brilliant.

He approaches Dan Rostenkowski, Chicago, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. And, I somewhat paraphrase the words his staff shared with me, said, “Dan, how do you feel about my ESOP? Can you be for the ESOP provisions, Dan?” And Rostenkowski says, “Senator, I don’t have any problems with your ESOP provisions, but you’ve got a problem with Treasury, and the Administration which Treasury will speak for. I don’t see how we’re going to be able to get any pro-ESOP provisions into the bill because of Treasury and Administration opposition.”

Well, Chair Rostenkowski didn’t know that a man named Reagan, as in Ronald Reagan, the President, was a big fan of ESOPs from back in the days of knowing a man, last name Jorgenson, I do not recall his first name, who owned several different types of privately held companies, and who had exited them by selling to a leveraged ESOP, handled by Lou Kelso’s firm. Yes, the Lou Kelso who was the father of the modern day employee stock ownership plan. I do not know, but believe in turn, President Reagan met, and knew Lou Kelso because of Mr. Jorgensen’s establishment of ESOPs.

In any event, that led to Luis Granados, I think Senator Long’s staff person who handled ESOP issues, Jeff Gates, intervened to have Luis and I meet at the Treasury Department with the person who would be a key person conveying the Administration’s position to the Congressional conference committee working on the final version DEFRA. This person was the Deputy Secretary for Tax Policy Ron Perlman.

And so, Lou Granados, tip of the hat to Lou, had reprinted all of these comments by Ronald Reagan when he was doing that General Electric radio and then TV show where Ronald Reagan believed in spreading the wealth through the capitalistic society through more ownership.

And so, Perlman sees these writings by the President. All of a sudden, he like stops the meeting saying that he has another appointment, and we leave.

The next thing we know, the Secretary of Treasury, I remember it was Don Regan, I think, calls Russell into a meeting. Russell talks ESOPs and how the ESOP tax incentives should be supported by the Administration; and Treasury. Regan says, I am told, “Oh I have no problems with ESOPs. We’re for ESOPs, no problem.”

Fast forward, a few weeks to when the conference committee on DEFRA to iron out the differences from the House version and Senate version of DEFRA. Back in those days much of the Conferences Committee did discuss and debate major legislation in public sessions.

In general the process, the chair of the Conference Committee, on DEFRA it was Chair Rostenkowski determined the agenda. He was saving the ESOPs to one of the last things to resolve between the two houses, as I suspect, I do not know for sure, he was doing so to keep Senator Long on his side for most of the decisions, as he, Chair Rostenkowski was FOR the Senator’s ESOP provisions, and an earlier decision would result in the Senator being disappointed, and begin to “oppose” provisions other than ESOP provisions

Chair Rostenkowski asked the head spokesman for the Administration, John Chapatin, Assistant Secretary of Treasury. I think that was John Chapatin. T Chair Rosentenkowski asks, “What is the Administration’s position on the positions from the Senate bill affecting ESOPs?” And the Assistant Secretary of Treasury said, “The Administration endorses them enthusiastically.” You should have seen the look of surprise, even shock, on Chair Rostenkowski’s face. It signaled “What?” He turned to his top staff person seemingly asking, “Why didn’t you know this?” But he could not walk away from what he told Senator Long several seeks earlier that he would be for the Senator’s ESOP provisions..

At that time, the members recess—it was probably around 2 AM. I am told Chair Rosenkowski asks his members what their positions are on the ESOP provisions.

There were three members voting out of eight members of the House conferees voting for the senate ESOP. They were Chair Rostenkowski, Jake Pickle, who I just told you the story why he supported ESOPs, and Charlie Rangel, whom Senator Long assumed Rangel would be the tax committee chair someday and got him on board.

Two Democrats voted “no” in the first vote. One, Sam Gibbons of Florida, number two ranking Democrat on the conference committee joined Congressman Pete Stark. Congressman Stark, formerly the owner of an independent local bank in Oakland, California, had been urged, I am told, that Lou Kelso tried to get his bank to loan to support an ESOP transaction. Congressman Stark thought Dr. Kelso was a flim flamer, rigging the sell of a private company’s stock at an inflated price under the guise of real ownership when he thought it was fake ownership. The other was Democrat Congressman Sam Gibbons of Florida. To this day, I am not sure why he voted no.

The three Republicans all voted “no”. One democrat, Pete Stark, who was always anti ESOP. (As a bank owner in Oakland before being elected to Congress, Congressman Stark frankly thought Lou Kelso, and ESOPs, were all flim flam operators who created bad retirement plans to private business owner could sell at an inflated price.

On the Republican side, it most senior member, Barber Conable was anti-ESOP big time. His two Republican colleagues, Bill Archer of Texas, and John Duncan of Tennessee would instinctively support their senior member.

So the first vote the Senate ESOP provisions was five to three against.

The conferees recess for about an hour. Most go to their offices to rest on a couch, or in a side office next to the big room where the conference was being held.

Not Senator Long. He begins specifically lobbying the two Democrats. He does not know of Congressman Stark’s strong, super negative views of ESOPs. He learns and begins to lobby Congressman Gibbons.

He finally finds him “asleep” I am told, by Congressman Gibbons one day several months later. Congressman Gibbons says, and he was one to make colorful remarks, “I finally got so tired, and had no real view of ESOPs, that I told Senator Long I would vote for the Senate provisions, really so he would leave me alone.

But when the conferees continue to meet in private after a short public session, the vote becomes four Democrats in favor, as Congressman Gibbons changes his vote. The provision of the Senate bill fails as under parliamentary proceeds, tie votes are like a “no” vote. Frustration grows I can tell as Jeff Gates reports to Luis and me that it seems hopeless.

I finally go up to Jeff Gates, and I said, “You know, I read in the ESOP Association newsletter last year that Congressman Duncan from Tennessee had visited SeaRay, the boat company in his district. (No longer in existence as acquired ten to twenty years ago by a bigger boat company). It was a great visit, I said. You should tell Senator Long to talk to John Duncan.” Senator Long will never get Congressman Stark to change his position, maybe Congressman Duncan will break from his leader Congressman Conable to be “for” his constituent.

And so when the conferees came back from a break, I saw Russell talking to John Duncan, and Rostenkowski asked for a roll call again..

Duncan flipped his vote, voted with Rangel, Pickle, Rostenkowski, and Gibbons. Senate ESOP provisions were now adopted by the House tax committee members on a vote of 5 to 3!

Senator Long won! All because Rostenkowski told Russell before the deal started that he was for the ESOPs. He never dreamed that there would be a majority of votes for it.

What I liked, of course, was the look of shock on Dan Rostenkowski’s face when he heard the administration say they endorsed it. By the way, Congressman Conable also had a shocked look on his face when Congressman Duncan changed his vote, but Mr. Duncan often went on his way and actually felt Mr. Conable was not shocked as much as Chair Rostenkowski was when he learned the Administration supported ESOPs.

Moving into the 21st Century versus an old story from the 20th Century, the story that I think that really impacts our ESOP community now, of course, is the S Law (S-Corporation). The S Law.

The history there is (and I have a great deal of respect for the people that run ESCA and so forth, the group that started for S ESOP corporations after passage of the law permitting S corporations to have ESOPs. But keep in mind, the top two women who worked hard to get the S ESOP law created ESCA, which does a good job for the S ESOP members of ESCA.).

But as professionals working for ESOP creation and operation, you know the Association now--72% of its members are S Corporations, whereas pre-S ESOP law, the number of course was zero. The number of 100% ESOP companies have just gone through the roof the last 22 years.

But the story of the S ESOP law is that there was a company in Minneapolis that was an S Corp. And the owner of that company (whose name I forget) was on the S Corporation Association Board. He wanted to make a minor contribution to an ESOP for his the employees every year. And of course, his lawyers told him, “You can’t do that. The S Law prevents that trust from owning that stock in an ESOP.”.

And so, the man from Minnesota came running to his law firm, which had an operation in DC and asked the firm’s top lawyer for the S Corporation Association to take up the cause.

Because we had been promoting permitting S corps to have ESOPs in a bill proposed by of the bills that we had gotten Congressman Beryl Anthony of Arkansas, and Senator John Breaux of Louisana—Senator Long’s successor in the Senate, it was not without Congressional support.

And the lawyer representing the S Corporation Association—may have name wrong by the way, told his Minnesota member, “No, our members except for you do not care about ESOPs. You will have to use other lobbyists in DC to push your desire.”.

He did, and he had two people agree to work for permitting S corporations to have ESOPs. Both reached out to me as CEO of the ESOP Association.

One was Stephanie Silverman, working for the firm that represented the S Corporation Associatoin and Linda Carlisle, former Treasury Department lawyer, and then attorney for DC office of a prominent national law firm. was working on it because that company used that firm separately.

We all went to work to get the law changed, and many of our members joined in expressing support to their members of Congress if on the House and Senate tax committee.

Most important was Senator Breaux. (I was a big fan of John Breaux as he the first member of Congress, when he was in the House, I lobbied, as he was such a mover and shaker on all maritime laws, offshore energy laws and regulations. Excellent legislator, elected to Congress when he was 25 years old) He tells the story that he felt that at the last minute, SenatorRussell Long’s endorsement of him to be the senator in his place versus over a good Republican man named Henson Moore, the Republican (who was leading in the polls by the way) paved the road for John’s victory.

The day after the election (I heard this story by the way from John Breaux directly), Senator-elect Breaux called Russell Long and said, “Senator, I certainly am indebted to you. Without your support, your help, your messaging to the citizens of Louisiana in the last days of the campaign I probably would not have won. So I want to know what is it that you really want me to be advocating in the Senate promoting what is so important.”

I’m sure Senator Breaux, who was not on the tax committee in the House by the way, was thinking Senator Long would mention of Port of New Orleans -- so important to the economy of Louisiana. Sugar cane, so important to the agriculture community of Louisiana. Oil and gas, northern Louisiana and offshore Louisiana tons of oil and gas property. He was surprised when Senator Long said. He said, “John whatever you do, make sure nothing harms the ESOP laws. Be promoting the ESOPS.”

And so, when the push to permit S corporations to have ESOPs, and the then Senator Breaux was on the Senate tax committee, you better believe he took it upon himself to make sure the pro-ESOP proposal was added to a Senate tax bill. Senator Breaux, now retired, was an excellent legislator. It was added to a the Senate tax bill. We had good friends on the House tax committee, Ways and Means, paticurlary BerylAnthony, who in the late 80’s said to me “Michael if you guys don’t start promoting new ESOP incentives, you’re not going to build a solid support wall for ESOPs and ESOP tax incentives. You just can’t rely on one man to get the stuff in for ESOPs. You have to mobilize your supporters, and you have more than you ESOPers think. Get them behind new, positive ESOP tax incentives.”

That’s when we started promoting bills and getting nearly 100 co-sponsors year after year. Beryl introduced a bill with that S provision in it. Enacting that S ESOP law became a big number one goal for Senator Breaux and he succeeded in getting it adopted by the Senate, the House, and look what the ESOP world has now—a tax-free structure if an S corporation owned 100% by its ESOP.

That’s why you got the S corp, and that’s the big deal today. And of course, you had Pickle for it. You had Rangel still for it. In other words, it had grown in support over on the House side. And so much support in the Senate among so many members.

Michael Keeling: One more little story.

This is about just me, but I get a kick out of this. After about four or five years of being the president of the ESOPs, the board of directors would evaluate me. That’s what you do these days, you do appraisals of the people that work for you. And a pretty consistent, it was a minority, consistent statement was, “All Michael does is tell old stories that no one’s interested in.”

Jack Veale: Your stories are worth listening to. So as you go through the years, I’m kind of curious as to your view of how things have changed in the marketplace.

Michael Keeling: In the marketplace, the S thing is your big change. Now, having said that, I am still disappointed that we haven’t seen a bigger growth in the number of ESOPS.

But I’ll tell you what bothers me the most.

In the years I had the job and even a few before, I visited personally 596 ESOP company members of the Association in all 50 states. I made it a purpose. I made the Association pay my way to travel. I would say, however, out the 596, half of them are no longer ESOPs. ESOP termination is a real problem. You know, I have a lot of respect for Marjory Kelley and her group called 50 by 50. They’re trying to have 50 million employee owners by 2050. But you’re not going to get 50 million employee owners in the United States with the current rate of termination of ESOPs that we see.

Now, I wrote about New Belgium in the little newsletter that Majorie’s group does. And I said that the termination of New Belgium (which was worshipped by so many people) was a red flag. Because here you had an ESOP company that was on a pedestal that everybody admired, and they were open management et cetera et cetera. And they sold the company to a bigger brewer.

Share value, of course, had gone up significantly when they were ESOP.

I implied in that article that the termination was a problem in the ESOP world, and our community has to deal with repurchase obligation. Problem funding repurchase obligation in so many companies I visited was something that I would smell. I would talk to the leadership of the company about the future. They wouldn’t say it point-blank, but I’d read between the lines.

There is a movement underfoot with some Europeans called the European Federation of Employee Share Ownership. It promotes employee ownership in the European Union. I know the guy Mark Mathies, and I’ve spoken at two of their conferences in Europe. In fact, Corey Rosen, founder of the NCEO, and I both spoke at their groups one time.

A lot of the people, professionals, and I respect them greatly, disagree with me -- that it’s repurchase obligation—triggering so many teminations of ESOPs. They set forth different views of why so many very successful ESOP companies terminate the ESOP.

I’m more than willing to accept any solution to help ESOP companies maintain being an ESOP, because it’s not going to ever reach a point where 50 million Americans are owners where they work.

I have one little critique, and I tip my hat for Lauren Rogers, now Executive Director of the NCEO, for making this clear.

You know that every year the NCEO publishes the list of ESOP companies reported on IRS form 5500s. By the time published the data is about a year and a half, two years old. Up until a few years ago, that list published in the NCEO newsletter and on their website would report that there10,000 or so ESOP companies, and 10 million people are employee-owners in America. Well, Lauren split the publicly traded companies from the private companies, and there’s something like 300 or 350 publicly-traded companies with KSOPS or just a little ESOP. If you look at those public companies and you read their statements, that ESOP holds one to five percent of the outstanding shares in the company.

Of the 7,000 private companies, or even less in last DOL document release, you’ve got so many 100%, companies that you and I know about and read about. Out of that group, of private company ESOP companies, only about 3 million or so work in these companies, where the ownership through the ESOP is meaningful.

In the late 80s many CEOs of public companies crossed the Rubicon, in my opinion, based on discussions that having some employee tied to the wellbeing of the company was positive. But employees’ share value still depends on the public stock market, the speculation, the daily trading that goes on. Many of the executives are more into stock options, bonuses, et cetera et cetera

So, to think about the men and women that dominate the employee-owners of the ESOP Association (which I’m very familiar with) there’s only two to three million of those. I think that we need to face that as a fact and be honest about it. I love the fact that the big companies flipped to have ESOPs; but, it is not that meaningful to average pay employees to be owners in total of less than 5% of the company.

I’m going to give you one more observation. Some people think I’m controversial sometimes. I just try to put the proof on the table.

When I started with ESOPs, I don’t mind saying that the men and women on the Hill, the Pickles, the Longs, et cetera, were behind the ESOPS, and they tended to be Republicans and moderate Democrats. I don’t mind saying there were very few pure liberal Democrats that were getting behind ESOPS.

Some exceptions, but as you know, the labor unions’ view of ESOPs was based on the Teamster’s experience in the early 80s. Experience of United Airlines in the 90’s confirmed for many union leaders, I could go on ESOPs were not that good of an arrangement for average pay men and women. (By the way, labor law was my field of expertise in law school.).

Labor unions have declined and declined and declined in the last 30 years. I think a lot of it has to do with more open management, by management in America period. They realize seeing average pay employees as “them” and management as “us” is not a good scenario. And of course, in 2020 Labor unions do represent a lot of the workers. Us versus them is diminishing in the workplace in America, and labor unions are declining. Co-operation between management and average pay employees is growing in larger companies.

What I have seen in the last four or five years -- maybe even earlier-- I’m seeing more and more liberal Democrats, particularly in the private sector, get involved in a pro-employee ownership focus.

They, by the way, certainly think of it more in a worker co-op view. They think of it in terms of employees voting for the board, voting for who should be CEO, et cetera et cetera. Board slots. I’m not against any of that because I think diversity is important, and let each culture govern versus the government micromanaging work place practices.

But what I’m now seeing now is more partisanship than we’ve ever seen before. (And I’ve been around politics since the early 70s working in campaigns. Worked for the Texas AFL CIO, worked for candidates in Texas, worked for the middle of the road democrat, et cetera et cetera for ten years.)

At the Association I took a nonpartisan stance because to me, broad based ownership a nonpartisan issue. It is something that will benefit average pay employees, and will keep the government from running the country in terms of micromanaging. I don’t have anything against people working for the government, but when you have large large large large employers, guess what? The policy handbook is thousands of pages long because they write some kind of policy about every little thing that comes up. It’s not effective to have the government own the private sector or do away with the private sector.

And so, I would hope that us true believers in what Lou Kelso was talking about stay dedicated to the idea that this isn’t about right wingism and it’s not about left wingism. But I’m a little bit worried that the super libs getting involved heavily is going to turn off knee jerk conservative Republicans and middle of the road Democrats. And that’s something that is going on that kind of bothers me. I hope I’m wrong, by the way, because I’m not always right.

Jack Veale: Now, one more question. You have a few people that have helped you along the way. This is my chance to give you an opportunity to send a thank you to them for helping you along the way. Because, I myself wouldn’t be here today without a handful of people that helped me.

Michael Keeling: We don’t do it alone, do we? We all actually work with others, and they help you along the way. I don’t mind saying that. I can name four or five or six just off the top of my head.

One, for example, was Liz Carpenter who technically was head of Ladybird’s office at the White House. The people didn’t realize that when Lyndon Johnson was in the Senate, she was a top advisor. And sadly, sexism being what it was in the mid 60s, President Johnson didn’t put her on the President’s staff. He only had men as advisors.

But he put her over in Ladybird’s office, and she unofficially remained a top advisor to the President. Insiders in DC knew that. Liz Carpenter was very responsible for me getting a job that led to x, y, and z. Do you know what the job was? One summer, I went to eight Indian reservations all over the United States on behalf of the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. Liz had the White House personnel office call around to different agencies asking if they would find a slot for me for the summer. And DC being DC, thought that the President was asking. If someone from the White House calls a mid-level bureaucrat in DC from the White House, you better believe they act like, oh my gosh. So Liz is someone that I would cite in that regard.

Other than Liz, certainly Jake Pickle was very instrumental in developing my management style. When I look back on how he managed the office where I was the Chief of Staff…

I’ll tell you one story.

He managed his staff the way I’ve seen so many CEOs of ESOP companies manage their company.

And the story I have is, there was one employee on the staff that, nameless of course, that was not really doing a great job -- was not an effective employee. And so, after about three or four months, I went from being chief of the legislative slot for four months and then Chief of Staff. I was like, I’m 24 or 25 years old. I go into Mr. Pickle, and I said Mr. Pickle, blah blah. He just isn’t capable of doing the job we’ve given him, and I think maybe you should think in terms of termination. He looks at me, and he says, “Michael, that’s your problem, fix it.”

What did I learn? I learned that Jake Pickle’s view of the world was that every individual has some talent, has some positives. As the manager, my job was to arrange this person’s working schedule to do the things that he was capable of doing. The things he was doing now that he wasn’t doing well, put him someplace else with another person in the operation.

Here’s the next thing that taught me that I criticize a lot of our people for today. What Jake Pickle was saying is, “When there’s a problem Michael, look in the mirror first and see what you can do about fixing the problem.” He didn’t say you would never terminate anyone. He didn’t say that. But he said, “Michael, don’t point the finger at someone or other people when you’re upset. You look in the mirror first.”

And what do we see today in the world over and over again top to bottom? When something’s not going right, blame someone else, point the finger. Think, what is it that I’m going to do that could perhaps solve the problem. I never forget Mr. Pickle’s statement to me. He was also a big delegator ,by the way, which was important. But again, looking in the mirror is something I’ve never forgotten.

I will say this. A woman I worked for who ran for governor, Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, was the most liberal person I ever worked for. I was just out of law school and I became her policy person on speeches and stuff. She took a lot of positions that I thought helped her get defeated. But I found her to be one of the nicest, easiest, most decent person I ever was around. I’ve always said to myself you know Michael you loved Jake Pickle, and you have an obligation that Liz helped you get a job that then was a big mover and shaker down the road. I even worked for John Connelly’s brother one time when he was a state senator. But I said to myself, and I still say it. I’ve always said that Sissy Farenthold is someone that I really admired because she was so good to people that worked with her and to people in general. So I’ve stayed with that.

Jack Veale: Thank you so much. This has been a great interview. And it’s one of the best.

Michael Keeling: Let’s continue to work for the good. Let’s work for the good.