I have a couple of things to add about the Washington Post article pointed to by Ryan Avent in his smart recent post about mass transit.
The article, by Lyndsey Layton and Spencer S. Hsu, is a superb and important piece of work, but it’s maddeningly written; it buries key and even shocking information.
The theme is the takeover of the Department of Transportation by neocon ideologues with ties to the highway industry. Evidently, they’re using the department as a tool to gut mass transit projects and hand the proceeds over to their friends in the highway-building industry.
This is crony capitalism at its most fragrant, complete with a Cheney connection.
One of the piece’s main subjects is one D.J. Gribbin, the DOT’s general counsel and liaison to the White House."
Here’s some background on Gribbin:
Gribbin, 44, grew up well connected to the Republican Party. His father was a longtime aide to Vice President Cheney and a former head of Halliburton’s Washington office. The younger Gribbin worked as a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business and as a national field director for the Christian Coalition under Ralph Reed. For six months in 2005, he moved his wife and seven children to Guatemala, where they performed missionary work.
It gets better. The guy bounces between the highway industry and the DOT, from which perch he tosses goodies to his old friends. Get this:
[Gibbin] came to the department in 2003 from Koch Industries, which has a road-building subsidiary and is owned by a prominent donor to Republican and libertarian causes. As general counsel at the Federal Highway Administration, he wrote a report to Congress praising private-public partnerships, citing a study he commissioned on the benefits of tolling while he was at Koch.
That report also included ideas attributed to Macquarie Holdings, a major toll-road builder based in Australia. Gribbin left the federal government in 2005 to work at Macquarie, where he earned $265,000. He returned to the DOT last year as general counsel.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, Gribbins’ boss, has similar cozy ties to industry:
She served as federal highway administrator from 2001 to 2005, then worked as a senior vice president at HDR, a construction firm with several tolling projects, where she was paid a salary and bonus of $225,833 to craft its public policy. She returned to federal government as transportation secretary in 2006.
What effect does all of this have on mass transit? Not a good one. These industry-fattened ideologues are using their power to privatize the road system while icing mass transit. Get this:
The number of major new rail and bus projects on track for federal funding dropped from 48 in 2001 to 17 in 2007, even as transit ridership hit a 50-year high last year and demand for new service is soaring.
People, oil is settling in above $100/barrel and ice caps are melting. Can someone explain why this isn’t a massive scandal, with frog marches and Congressional hearings?