Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Top Transportation and Appropriations Democrats Request Investigation Into Improper DOT Lobbying

Aug 2, 2017
Press Release

Top Transportation and Appropriations Democrats Request Investigation Into Improper DOT Lobbying

DOT lobbied stakeholders to support air traffic control privatization plan

Washington, D.C. –Today, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development David Price (D-NC), sent a letter to Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Calvin L. Scovel III, requesting an investigation of DOT officials to determine whether they violated Federal law, including the Anti-Lobbying Act.

“It has come to our attention that at least four DOT political appointees have contacted Members of Congress, nonfederal stakeholders such as aviation association representatives and airport sponsors, or both to gain support for H.R. 2997, the ‘21st Century AIRR Act’, which includes a controversial plan to privatize our Nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system. We understand that these DOT political appointees have sent e-mails and written materials or conducted phone calls with these nonfederal stakeholders to encourage ATC privatization,” the Members wrote.

Click here and see below to read today’s letter.

 

August 2, 2017

 

The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel III

Inspector General

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue SE

Washington, DC 20590

 

Dear Inspector General Scovel:

            We write to request an investigation of officials of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to determine whether they have engaged in conduct that violates the Anti-Lobbying Act or other Federal law.

As you know, the Anti-Lobbying Act states:

No part of the money appropriated by any enactment of Congress shall, in the absence of express authorization by Congress, be used directly or indirectly to pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter, printed or written matter, or other device, intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or any official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation . . . .[1]

The Department of Justice has interpreted this prohibition on lobbying Members of Congress to bar “substantial ‘grass roots’ lobbying campaigns . . . designed to encourage members of the public to pressure Members of Congress to support Administration or Department legislative or appropriations proposals.”[2]

It has come to our attention that at least four DOT political appointees have contacted Members of Congress, nonfederal stakeholders such as aviation association representatives and airport sponsors, or both to gain support for H.R. 2997, the “21st Century AIRR Act”, which includes a controversial plan to privatize our Nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system. We understand that these DOT political appointees have sent e-mails and written materials or conducted phone calls with these nonfederal stakeholders to encourage ATC privatization.

For instance, political appointees have sent e-mails to nonfederal stakeholders that state,

. . . with each of its major concerns addressed in the AIRR Act, the general aviation community has no substantive basis to oppose freeing America’s air traffic control system from an unwieldy agency and unpredictable funding.[3]

In addition, DOT has distributed written materials and developed a website (www.smarterskies.gov) and official social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter with the unambiguous intent of encouraging members of the public to support ATC privatization legislation. Even when viewed in the light most favorable, these e-mails, phone calls, and other activities are highly irregular, at best.

We therefore request that you conduct an investigation of these activities by Administration political appointees and that you report on whether the activities, either individually or in totality, violate applicable Federal law, including the Anti-Lobbying Act.

If you have any questions, please contact the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Democratic staff at (202) 225-9161.

 

                                                                        Sincerely,

 

 

                       

 

PETER DeFAZIO                                                     NITA M. LOWEY

Ranking Member                                                         Ranking Member

Committee on Transportation                                     Committee on Appropriations

and Infrastructure                                                       

      

DAVID E. PRICE

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Transportation,

Housing and Urban Development

Committee on Appropriations

 

 

Enclosure

 

cc:        The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Transportation

            The Honorable Michael P. Huerta, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration

--30--

 

[1] 18 U.S.C. § 1913 (emphasis added).

[2] Department of Justice, Constraints Imposed by 18 U.S.C. § 1913 on Lobbying Efforts (Sept. 28, 1989), available at https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/olc/opinions/1989/09/31/op-olc-v013-p0300_0.pdf.

[3] See Appendix 1 (emphasis added). In addition, the General Aviation Fact Sheet states, “The AAIR Act [sic] carefully considered and addressed the concerns of the General Aviation Community . . . .