Skip to comments.Railway Gave $50K to Gov.-Led Group
Posted on 06/28/2006 9:09:33 AM PDT by Rogle
The railroad company that sold the state a $75 million rail line for Gov. Bill Richardson's Rail Runner Express commuter train gave $50,000 this year to a national political group Richardson leads.
The BNSF Railway Co. also has contributed $7,500 to Richardson's re-election campaign since late last year, records show.
Richardson campaign manager Amanda Cooper said political donations play no role in Richardson's state-policy decisions.
This is the same defense that former State True sure Robert Vigil (D) is using in his pay to play scandal. For those who are not aware Robert Vigil is facing numerous charges including Racketeering where he forced financial brokers to kickback some of their earnings to him in the form of campaign contributions.
To be fair the article also says: The Democratic governors' group is not the only group BNSF gives money to: About two weeks before this year's DGA contribution, the railroad gave $75,000 to the Republican Governors Association, records show.
Problem is that no Republican Governor has bought a full size train set from BNSF to go under his/hers Christmas tree.
(Excerpt) Read more at abqjournal.com ...
Can anyone tell us more about Richardson's railroad? I live in the NM boondocks and we don't get a lot of news from Albq., and SF here. Is this the proposed railway from Albq. to Santa Fe? I have been hearing it is a boondoggle, but not any details.
Does it go through Rock Ridge?
Yes Tammy it is a boondoggle. Gov. Richardson wants a computer train from Belen to Santa Fe. But to buy the line between those two points the state had to by the railroad line all the way to the Colo. State line. The cost was $75M and will cost the state about $9M a year to maintain the tracks and that cost does not include actually running the train. Current estimates are that rider ship will pay about 1-3% of the operational cost of the train. Your Tax dollars at work.
Bear in mind that Sen. Thune, S.D., is attempting to do the exact same thing for the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern RR, for which he formerly lobbied. Politicians of all stripes will feather their own nest. Our tax dollars are being misused to support all kinds of mischief. Party labels are identifiers only at this point with regard to nonsense such as this. Republicans are getting just as bad as Democrats. Our tax dollars should not support private interests. If the RR projects such as this one in N.M., or Thune's boondoggle through South Dakota and Minnesota, were going to make money, private lenders and investors would be stepping up to fund the projects. That they are not doing so is proof that our tax money is being misspent.
From the website of Dem. challenger Tim Walz in Minnesota's First District, on the foolishness Sen. Thune (claimed Republican) intends withour tax dollars for his railroad buddy, Kevin Shieffer (sure, a lot of it is partisan stuff about what Walz says he would do, but the background is true and reveals Thune's corruption and the reasons behind it):
The DM&E Railroad expansion is a project eight years in the making. CEO Kevin Schieffer seeks to expand and improve on existing DM&E rail lines in order to create a direct route between the coal-rich Powder River Basin in Wyoming and the Mississippi River. Schieffer believes his project will lower energy costs by supplying cheaper coal at lower transportation costs. He also claims the project will provide jobs for southern Minnesota and South Dakota. The project received approval from the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in December and is currently awaiting approval of a low interest federal loan. DM&E has two major hurdles remaining before it can begin construction: (1) securing the $2.5 billion loan it needs and (2) settling disagreements with Rochester, Minnesota, the largest city along the line. In May DM&E asked the STB to reverse itself and to allow officials to begin conducting an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the IC&E line that runs south of Rochester. This line is considered the ultimate bypass by many.
DM&E believes its project will create jobs in both Minnesota and South Dakota. Senator Thune recently told U.S. News and World Report the rail line would create tens of thousands of jobs. In addition to the jobs, many in the agriculture sector believe that the railroad will also provide cheap transportation for locally grown crops, thus further benefiting the economies of Southern Minnesota and South Dakota.
(1) Lack of leadership
Rochesters congressional Representative Gil Gutknecht has expressed his support for the DM&E project in the past and currently has little to no involvement in the dispute, despite the massive impact it will have on the district he represents. Gutknecht has met privately with Senator Coleman and DM&E CEO Kevin Schieffer, but refuses to discuss the content of those meetings.
(2) Fiscal Responsibility
DM&E was not initially eligible for the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program through which it hopes to receive its loan. However, DM&E became eligible when John Thune, its long-time lobbyist was elected to the U.S. Senate. Sen. Thune added a provision to the 2005 transportation bill that drastically expanded the scope of the federal loan program to include DM&E. Many, including the Bush Administration, disagree with the expansion of this program. The $2.5 billion loan DM&E applied for is more than 10 times larger than any other loan approved by the Federal Railroad Administration and is estimated to be worth 25 times the current value of DM&E. Additionally, the loan is structured in such a way that if the railroad defaults the federal government and implicitly the United States taxpayers will not be able to recover their loss by selling off the assets of the railroad.
(3) Local Impact
DM&E seeks to run 30-40 trains per day through Rochester. These trains are expected to decrease property values, increase noise, disrupt traffic flow and jeopardize local businesses such as the Mayo Clinic and the PEMSTAR chemical plant. Rochester is seeking to reroute DM&E trains to the IC&E line that runs south of the city. The STB initially banned DM&E from using the IC&E by preventing an environmental impact statement from being conducted. DM&E has asked the STB to reverse its decision and to allow for the EIS to begin. However, in the meantime, DM&E is offering only minimal cooperation in improving safety at railroad crossings in Rochester.
The Walz Alternative:
The DM&E negotiations with Rochester remain unresolved primarily because of the failure of key legislators to take leadership on this issue. As a congressman, Tim Walz will conduct business in a transparent and ethical manner.
When elected, Tim Walz will act as a catalyst for positive change, working to resolve issues between the citizens of southern Minnesota and other entities. Walz believes that both the Mayo Clinic and Rochester residents have valid concerns about the implications of DM&E running trains through the heart of the city. DM&E may well result in additional jobs for the First District, but if it jeopardizes the states largest private employer, a company that has for years been a good neighbor to the Rochester community, those concerns must be taken with the utmost seriousness. Tim Walz will be transparent to citizens in his actions, and will encourage an open dialogue. When elected, Walz plans to work with Congressman Oberstar, the ranking member of the Transportation Committee, to resolve any lingering DM&E issues.
Representative Gutknecht has been derelict in his duty to pursue the best interests of his constituents. Gutknecht lent his tacit support to the project, but remains largely uninvolved in the dispute between the largest city in his district and the possible recipient of a $2.5 billion dollar federal loan. If the dispute is allowed to escalate it could result in the Mayo Clinic relocating to its existing facilities in other states, costing Minnesota its largest private employer. For a congressman to be so uninvolved with a project that promises both significant upset to and economic impact on his district is unacceptable.
(2) Fiscal Responsibility
Tim Walz does not oppose the total DM&E project. DM&E might be economically beneficial to many Minnesotans as well as the residents of South Dakota. However, giving DM&E the largest loan in the history of the Federal Railroad Administration is a highly questionable decision based on the financial exposure it places on taxpayers. The new provisions created by Thune allow the FRA to use the going concern value of the railroad rather than the net liquidation value. This is an extremely risky loan for the federal government and at such a low interest rate it is tantamount to a federal subsidy. DM&Es inability to obtain private funding is proof that the DM&E project has failed the most basic test of a free market.
When government is not transparent we often see a domino effect resulting in a sense of mistrust that ultimately makes it hard to negotiate. The provision in the transportation bill allowing for DM&E to receive a loan far above its value is the result of Senator Thune inserting the language into the 2005 transportation bill while it was in conference committee. Because of when the language was inserted, concerned legislators were never able to amend or remove the provision. Both the House and Senate were forced to vote for or against the transportation bill as a whole, leaving no room for negotiation on the expansion of the FRA loan program. Indeed, many legislators were not aware of the last minute changes made by Senator Thune. The public is rightfully outraged at the way in which DM&E has obtained its edge through Senator Thunes shrouded efforts to change the rules of RRFI loans and it is no surprise that actions like this corrode citizens trust in government. Concerned citizens and legislators deserve to be involved in major shifts in public policies such as the FRA loan programs.