John Mica, the brother of former Democratic Rep. Dan Mica, was elected to the U.S. House as a Republican in 1992 representing Florida’s 7th District. The district stretches from St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast down to Maitland, a northern suburb of Orlando. Mica voted with GOP leadership more than 95 percent of the time during the 111th Congress. As chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Mica would oversee airline, highway, rail, and inland waterways issues as well as bridges, dams, flood control, and the Coast Guard.
Now the senior Republican on the Transportation Committee, Mica worked with Democratic Chairman James Oberstar of Minnesota on a mammoth 2009 bill that would spend $500 billion to repair and expand the nation’s aging infrastructure over six years. However, the bill has been stalled because the current 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax does not generate enough revenue to pay for all the needed projects. A spokesman for Mica, Justin Harclerode, said a top priority for Mica as chairman of the House panel would be re-authorizing the multi-billion-dollar surface transportation bill to end a series of stopgap spending authorizations.
Transportation companies and industry groups have provided much of Mica’s political funding over the years. In a speech to transportation lobbyists last year, Mica told the crowd “we can’t succeed [in developing a new transportation plan] without you getting involved.” The Florida lawmaker has been a proponent of high speed rail, especially along the U.S. Northeast corridor. At the same time, he is critical of Amtrak’s subsidies and performance, saying that its Acela train is much slower than high-speed rail in other countries, which transport passengers at up to 150 miles per hour.
A frequent friend to the airline industry, Mica played a key role in developing the Transportation Security Administration after the Sept.11, 2001 attacks and authored a bill to allow private cargo pilots to carry weapons in the cockpits. Mica is also known for his hard-line stance on drug use — he once introduced a bill calling for the death penalty for anyone caught smuggling oxycodone, cocaine, methamphetamines, PCP, marijuana, and other controlled substances into the country.
Mica has been criticized for voting against the 2009 economic stimulus bill, and then later touting projects it created. “I did not support the stimulus legislation because less than seven percent of the $787 billion measure was devoted to infrastructure,” Mica said last month at the opening of an Amtrak auto train terminal in Florida funded by the stimulus law. “My attempts since have been to fast track projects. Unfortunately, 61 percent of the stimulus funding sits idle today.”
Top PAC contributors
- BNSF Railway Co., one of the largest U.S. railroads — at least $40,000
- Union Pacific Corp, which operates railways in 23 states — at least $33,000
- Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which represents 400,000 aviation employees — at least $27,500
- United Parcel Service, the shipping giant — at least $26,500
- CSX Corp., a railroad company — at least $25,000
- Honeywell International, a manufacturer of civil and military avionics and other aerospace products” — at least $25,000
- PACs gave at least $1.3 million to Mica’s campaign account and his Majority in Congress leadership PAC. Mica received almost $445,000 more in contributions from PACs than from individuals
- Jane Alonso was Mica’s legislative aide and is now vice president of government relations with Monument Policy Group, where she lobbies for Alcoa, General Dynamics, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and Netflix
- Joshua “Josh” J Gaboton worked as a legislative assistant between 2000 and 2007 and is now a principal with Marlowe and Co.
- Lou Hayden was special projects director (1996-1999) and is now the director of government affairs for Williams Co.
- Sharon L. Pinkerton was a former legislative director for Mica before working for the Transportation Committee. She is now the vice president of government affairs at the Air Transport Association
- Kristen Pugh was a staff assistant for Mica and is now associate vice president with City of Hope National Medical Center
- Michael Willis was Mica’s legislative assistant between 2005 and 2009 and now works as public policy advisor with Marlowe and Co.
- Between 2008 and 2010, Mica secured more than $58 million in earmarks, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense
- Highlights include $3.2 million for military simulators from Raydon Corp. and $1.6 million for a “Gateway System” from Ocean Design, Inc. Both companies are based in Florida
- In both 2009 and 2010, Mica worked with a bipartisan group of Florida representatives to set aside $6.5 million for an intracoastal waterway between Jacksonville and Miami
- Mica voted against the 2009 stimulus bill, but requested $36.12 million from the Transportation Department for the Manatee County Port Authority’s Marine Highway Intermodal Container Terminal project, which he claimed would create more than 1,000 new jobs
- Urged Commerce Department support for a Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network project to expand broadband access to a rural area in Mica’s district
- Mica has come under fire from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington for the lobbying work of his daughter, D’Anne Mica, who founded Mica Strategic Communications, based in Winter Park, Fla. The watchdog group says companies hired Mica’s daughter’s company, and in return Rep. Mica supplies federal funds for their projects. Mica spokesman Brian Waldrip says that D’Anne now lives in Nashville and runs a PR company, but has never been involved in lobbying. He says that there is no truth to the charges of improper influence
- Mica promised to be “fair to everyone” in an interview with the Florida Times-Union. “If you try to be parochial you get in trouble”
- The Florida lawmaker also told the Times-Union the he would focus on cutting government red tape to speed up construction projects and would oppose raising the federal gasoline tax, instead looking for public-private partnerships to help pay for transportation projects