Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bill Moyers Journal - Cleaning House

Today is Bill Moyer's birthday. Bill Higgins posted a tribute to him on epluribusmedia

He included this UTUBE video of Moyers coverage of lobbyist!
Higgins wrote:
Born on this day in 1934

"America's corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own, they're privatizing democracy. All the benefits, the tax cuts, policies and rewards flow in one direction: up."
Bill Moyers

I happened to be reading Moyer's Blog early this morning looking for his interview with Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook which I missed when it aired on PBS last Friday on "Bill Moyers Journal."

The subject of the segment was lobbying and lobbyists and their pervasive influence on our political system.

I have a large measure of respect for both Moyers and Claybrook and an enormous loathing for lobbyists and their destructive influence on MY country and I was disappointed to have missed the program.

I responded:

Bill Moyers continues to serve
He's from my hometown, Marshall, Texas, and although he was in Washington before I was aware enough to care deeply about the issues he champions and the dark corners he brings to the foreground through intellectual examination and discussion, I like having ties to him, however remote.
Lobbying is not evil in itself. We have laws that can monitor it. However, the way that much of it operates today is out of acceptable boundaries.

We have seen Transportation Codes of states and the Federal Government changed through sophificated change management re-engineering strategies funded by international business and US firms who smell dollars they can transfer from public coffers and private citizens pocketbooks into their corporate bottom lines.

Kansas City Southern (de Mexico) RR, Carter Burgess, Zachry Construction, BSNF Railway, Ross Perot, Jr and the Alliance group, Ed Bass and others involved in the Texas Pacific Group (who are negotiating to buy TXU electric), and other international player (all members of NASCO) helped underwrite legal, educational, lobbyist and other logistical initiatives resulting in more changes to the Texas Transportation Code in two legislative sessions than had been enacted in 50 years plus major changes in US Transportation Code.

Identical language migrated into many bills in both houses of the Texas Legislature during the 78th and 79th sessions. They were accepted by the Legislative Counsel office and the parties presenting the language are legally allowed to remain hidden, protected behind the attorney client priviledge of the attorney who carried the language to the Legislative Counsel. Despite lobby disclosure laws and rules which require lobbyists to disclose their clients, amounts of money spent on contacts with legislators, most of the heavy hitting special influence peddleing is done without ANY DISCLSOURE REQUIRED because of such practices.

Now it is apparent where much of the funding came from for these far sweeping iniatives which have literally changed how America funds public infrastructure. This past weekend in Fort Worth NASCO held its annual conference. Confident that they have succeeded in enacting enough changes that there is little chance that America will revert to practices which have sustained our system for generations, they are now listing resumes of their board members on their websites and taking credit for their efforts.

It was apparent that change agents, opinion leaders, stakeholders were identified about a decade ago. Along the corriders they anticipated developing, they identified local elected officials, courted them, and incorporated them into their organizations. Contacts with folks with very deep pockets are very enticing to ambitious city commissioners and county commissioners. They established a number of non-profit educational 501s. (Educational 501s can act similar to PACS but do not have to comply with the same financial disclosure laws).

They invited Universities, local governments, transportation planning groups, and corporations to join their non-profit educational organizations and attend their seminars. Local and county governments began to help finance the "change management" initiatives by paying membership fees and fees to attend the seminars.
Local elected officials in key counties were invited to join the board of directors. No one yelled about City Council people and County Commissioners holding offices in these educational 501 non-profit transportation organizations (even though their mission statement was lobbying) because the county or city was also a member. No one stopped to consider the responsiblity that an elected official accepts when accepting an elected office: To give fair and impartial consideration to issues coming before the body.

There is no way a person can give fair and impartial consideration to an issue before the local city council or county commission if they are an officer or board member in an organization with a stated mission to adopt one of the alternatives placed before that body for consideration!

In the past decade we have seen formulation of transportation policy move out of the elected bodies and into the private non-profit forums funded by for profit corporations.

Now we are seeing our gas tax money and city tax money used to fund transportation projects where private partners will charge citizens tolls for 50 years to ride on what was previously state or Federal highways. Citizens no longer can control what gets funded by refusing to approve a bond initiative at a bond election. (American rarely vote down transportation bond initiatives --- even though the toll proponents try to create that illusion).

Bill Moyers understands how the process works, how it used to work and how it should work. I'm thankful that he continues to stimulate discussion, inform the people, and question the holes in the system which is designed to protect citizens and preserve Constitutional government in Texas and the USA.

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