Nearly 1,800 Interests Vying To Influence New Transportation Bill, Center Report Finds

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Nearly 1,800 Interests Vying To Influence New Transportation Bill, Center Report Finds

A Troubling Process, a Shortage of Cash, and more “Bridges to Nowhere”

WASHINGTON - Almost
1,800 special interest groups of all kinds are trying to influence
Congress, as it races against time to enact a giant new transportation
bill, according to The Transportation Lobby,
a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. Notorious for
earmarks like Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere,” Congress’s funding of
transportation has become a broken process influenced by special
interests, according to the investigation. Interest groups employed
2,100 lobbyists and spent an estimated $45 million to lobby lawmakers
on transportation in the first half of 2009 — a spending pace on par
with the amount spent lobbying on climate change, the Center found.

The Transportation Lobby
will feature an interactive map tracking exactly who's hired the
lobbyists nationwide — ranging from cities, counties, and planning
agencies to universities, real estate firms, and construction
companies. The Center's project — including the map and two stories —
will be released over two days, beginning with an overview piece on Wednesday, followed by a detailed lobbying story and the map on Thursday.

The Center's investigation is
especially timely, given that the existing law governing the nation's
surface transportation system expires on Sept. 30, and the House and
the Senate are at loggerheads over what to do next. A House
subcommittee has passed a six-year, $500 billion replacement bill, but
the Senate and the White House are, for the moment, backing just an
18-month extension of current law.

The debate has attracted a cacophony of voices. Among those lobbying:

  • More
    than 475 U.S. cities and 160 counties in 44 states, the vast majority
    of them seeking funds for specific projects that will be chosen by
    Congress;
  • More than 55 local development authorities nationwide;
  • At least 65 private real estate development companies;
  • At
    least 95 transit agencies, 25 metro and regional planning
    organizations, a dozen individual states, and the national lobbying
    associations for all three groups;
  • More
    than 75 road and auto organizations, from highway builders and car
    manufacturers to interstate coalitions and trucking interests;
  • At least 65 construction and engineering groups, from cement and steel makers to domestic and foreign-owned builders;
  • More
    than 45 rail organizations, 50 shipping companies and ports, and 45
    additional transportation-centric outfits, from bicycle coalitions to
    research groups;
  • More than 140 universities seeking funds for local projects or campus research centers.

The
battle over a new transportation bill has also attracted dozens of
well-connected lobbyists who have been through these fights before —
often on the other side of the table. They include:

  • At
    least two dozen individuals with experience as either House
    Transportation Committee staff or as personal staff to Transportation
    Committee members;
  • More
    than a dozen individuals with experience on one of the three Senate
    committees working on transportation policy or as personal staff to
    committee members;
  • At
    least three dozen former House and Senate staffers with experience
    working on appropriations committees or as aides for members who served
    on those committees;
  • Former
    presidential appointees to various positions in the Department of
    Transportation, including former Secretary James Burnley;
  • At
    least 20 former members of Congress, including one-time House
    Transportation Committee members Robert Borski, William Lipinski, and
    Bill Brewster.

The
Transportation Lobby also will include a “crowd sourcing” feature in
which citizens nationwide can help identify transportation projects —
and their lobbyists — in local communities.

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The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern. The Center is non-partisan and non-advocacy. We are committed to transparent and comprehensive reporting both in the United States and around the world.

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