The Center for Public Integrity began working on this project late in the spring after the second of two bipartisan commissions released its report on the future of America’s federal transportation policy. That transportation system, according to the first commission’s report, has been stuck “pursuing no discernible national interests” other than “political imperatives.”
“The American people can no longer tolerate more ‘business as usual’ in the surface transportation arena,’” the commission strongly stated.
Experts from across the political spectrum agree that the nation needs to take bold action in passing a robust transportation bill. But the prospects for that continue to stand at risk of being weighed down by congressional earmarking, a lack of well-defined goals, and the individual needs of hundreds of interests nationwide.
In June, Center reporters Matthew Lewis and Aaron Mehta began analyzing thousands of lobbying disclosure forms through the Senate Office of Public Records to discover as many public and private interests as possible that are lobbying on the reauthorization of America’s transportation policy, the current iteration of which is set to expire on October 1.
In addition, our reporters conducted dozens of interviews, attended transportation conferences in three states, and completed an exhaustive literature search of congressional hearings, scholarly reports, and government records.
Through our reporting, the Center discovered that nearly 1,800 different interests were identifiable as lobbying on issues related to either this behemoth multi-year transportation bill or the transportation appropriations authorized each year once it becomes law. At least dozens of other groups, public and private, might be lobbying Washington on these issues, as well. But lobbying disclosure forms can occasionally be vague or poorly worded. The total amount of money listed in a lobbying contract includes lobbying on issues beyond transportation. Lobbyists are not required to determine what amount of a contract is devoted to a specific issue.
Our results show a policy that is influenced by everyone from local governments to national construction firms, state transportation departments, public interest advocates, railroads, real estate groups, manufacturers, and more. From our analysis we also found that dozens of former congressmen, former congressional aides, and ex-Transportation Department officials — who played key roles in crafting previous transportation measures and directing billions in spending — are now approaching the issue from the other side of the table.
Using the lobbying disclosure forms, the Center compiled a database of transportation lobbyists and integrated that with an interactive map. You can search this database by location, by public or private sector, by lobbying firm, and by project. But the Center needs help identifying specific project requests, which most groups hope will eventually become earmarks or be otherwise funded when Congress eventually passes a bill.
Bill Buzenberg, executive director
David E. Kaplan, editorial director
Gordon Witkin, managing editor
Matthew Lewis, project manager/lead author
M.B. Pell, computer-assisted reporting specialist
David Donald, data editor
Matthew Lewis, Aaron Mehta, staff writers
Peter Newbatt Smith, research editor
Andrew Green, web editor
Cole Goins, deputy web editor: social networking
Erik Lincoln, deputy web editor: multimedia
Tuan Le, information technology manager / web developer
Top Dead Center Design, website design
Bridget Gallagher, director of development and communications
Jeanne Brooks, outreach coordinator
Steve Carpinelli, media relations manager
The Transportation Lobby is generously supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Support for this and other Center for Public Integrity projects is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, Greenlight Capital LLC Employees, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Park Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and many other generous institutional and individual donors.