Documents Reveal Anti-Purple Line Lobbying Strategy
Memo from lobbying firm to Town of Chevy Chase pitches ways to proceed after Gov. Larry Hogan decides on project
A rendering of a Purple Line train heading toward Bethesda
Via Maryland Transit Administration
If Gov. Larry Hogan decides to cancel the Purple Line, lobbyists hired by the town of Chevy Chase to fight the project say their job wouldn’t be finished.
“Should Governor Hogan cancel the project, we would work quickly to educate the [U.S.] Senate committee’s Republican majority staff of developments and explain that any Purple Line funding would be a waste of already scarce resources,” reads a memo to the Town Council from K Street lobbying outfit Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney.
The cost for that work: $10,000 a month, though there could be a “short-term increase” of $12,500 to $15,000 a month if the firm must employ contracted lobbyists in Annapolis during the 2016 General Assembly.
“While the Governor’s decision would put a halt to the project at [the Maryland Transit Administration], there is a need to be vigilant on the funding issues in the next legislative session,” the memo reads. “To this end, we would work with relevant decision-makers to build support for the use of these State dollars on projects other than the Purple Line. This effort would also be aimed to help diffuse political backlash to the decision."
The memo, included in a packet of documents for the council’s Wednesday meeting, is the first time the town has made public specific strategies proposed by the lobbyists it has paid almost $500,000 since early 2014.
Advocates for the estimated $2.45 billion light-rail line, part of which would run next to the town, have sued the town’s government, claiming it violated the state's Public Information Act by not providing details of its lobbying contract.
Meanwhile, the council will wait until after Hogan makes a decision on the Purple Line to decide how it should proceed on the lobbying front. The council approved Wednesday a fiscal year 2016 budget with no money allocated for Purple Line lobbying purposes.
The five-page memo from Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney discusses what strategies it would take if Hogan cancels the project, if he approves it or if he approves it with significant cuts to save money.
The memo also makes it clear the firm understands concerns from some town leaders that the previous $29,000-per-month rate for its services was too much.
“Collectively, we have invested time, money and reputations on the success of this campaign and want to work with the Council to ensure that we complete our mission,” reads the memo. “While we include fees in this proposal, we will do our best to remain flexible as to compensation for the services as outlined below.”
The town hired the firm to provide lobbying at both the federal and state levels. The firm then hired Annapolis lobbying outfit Alexander & Cleaver to handle the contract with state lawmakers and government officials.
Rob Garagiola, the former Democratic state senator who supported the Purple Line when in office, was among the cadre of Alexander & Cleaver employees who lobbied on the town’s behalf, according to state lobbying records.
If Hogan cancels the Purple Line (his decision is expected this month after multiple delays), the Buchanan memo says the firm will work to show “the citizens of Maryland that Federal funds were not ‘left on the table,’ but in fact, never available for this project.”
That refers to the $900 million in federal money that’s expected to help fund the project’s construction. The Federal Transit Administration has recommended the Purple Line for a “full funding grant agreement,” though just $100 million has been provided so far.
If Hogan approves the project, the Buchanan memo says its lobbyists would work aggressively to put “obstacles” in the surface transportation bill.
“We would work to include obstacles to make securing the necessary Transportation Infrastructure and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans very difficult for MTA and/or their chosen concessionaire(s),” the memo reads.
The lobbyists would also “seek to exploit the endangered species lawsuit or the fact that key constituencies (Walter Reed/Bethesda Medical Center for example) remain unserved by the current alignment and convince FTA that a new Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and new engineering assessments are necessary.”
On the state level, lobbyists would look to hire more well-connected Republicans who could provide Hogan with “a real push from his long established friends.”