This time the agency who won the $9 million, five year contract for outreach and public relations is in the news because it was disclosed that the California High Speed Rail Authority had hired two lobbyists to work both sides of the aisle. One is Drew Maloney, the CEO of the Ogilvy Government Relations, and he has received $30,000 for the first 3 months of 2011 to lobby D.C. Republicans for the state rail project. The other lobbyist was Mark Kadesh who works with Democratic elected officials and was the former chief of staff to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. He was paid $100,000 last year to provide similar services.
According to the Bellingham Herald, Jeff Barker, Deputy Director of California High Speed Rail, said “they interface with the FRA and with members of Congress and keeps them informed about the status of our project rather than being an advocate.”
Katherine Strehl, the high-speed project lead for Ogilvy, had something slightly different to say. Republican lobbyists were brought in “due to their strong relationships with incoming members and leadership.”
Is it right that the Rail Authority takes public money to lobby in Washington DC?
Senator Doug LaMalfa http://cssrc.us/web/4/news.aspx?id=10761doesn’t think so. He has opened an investigation into the use of state bonds or federal funds for lobbying by the High Speed Rail Authority. He says, “It is outrageous that the High Speed Rail Authority has been spending $10,000 a month to pay federal lobbyists.” “It is time that the legislature followed through with the LAO’s recommendation and cut the funding of this project. Jim Costa, Democrat from Fresno said he wouldn’t recognize the Republican lobbyist” if he walked down the hall” and thought to “save themselves [The Authority] some money they should consider ending the Ogilvy contract.”
THE OGILVY CONTRACT AND OUTREACH
The Ogilvy relationship has been under fire with board members for months. Here’s an example of what was discussed on May 4that the Executive/Administrative Meeting which is held the day before the Board Meeting.
Many speakers were upset with the board’s outreach efforts and there was confusion over who’s role it was to provide outreach. Ogilvy role is supposed to offer consistency in outreach for local efforts of all segments and it is supposed to be more than a check mark in the EIR box. Lynn Schenk suggests that staff develop a plan that does what it’s supposed to do and that is, outreach.
The subject quickly turned to the letter that former board member Quentin Kopp submitted, requesting the termination of the Ogilvy Contract as early as October 2010 and most recently March 23rdand according to Lynn Schenk there were some pretty serious allegations regarding their practices.
The High Speed Rail Authority released the March 23rd, 2011 memo in which Quentin Kopp, former board member wrote he had been requesting the termination of Ogilvy since October 2010. http://www.calhsr.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Kopp-Letter4-1-2011.pdf Kopp outlined items several issues:
- Poorly documented invoices
- Multiple bills for reading news accounts at between $1500 and $3000 and an Ogilvy invoice in May 2010 showing Press clipping services in the amount of $5400.
- Pumped up hours for meetings, some that occurred; some Kopp alleged didn’t happen
- Attendance for the Transbay Terminal Groundbreaking at $300 per hour, two people cost $1500 to be present at the event.
- The $1.8 million per year contract agreement had been exceeded with total billings approximately $2.4 million for approximately a one year time period.
There was apparently a response letter from Ogilvy but according to Lynn Schenk, all their response included were statements that they disagreed with what Kopp’s letter alleges. She expected a line by line answer to charges that were made. Jeff Barker says he will get that report to the board.
Pringle questioned the billing procedures. Ogilvy states they believe there’s a weekly audit of hours by their SF branch. Staff submits monthly then Jeff Barker is supposed to review. Barker says it takes him a day a month to do but admits that Ogilvy doesn’t provide a lot of detail. There is no official audit process other than Barker’s review.
Pringle wants no bills paid until they get a formal report. Schenk addressed Van Ark, “we only meet once a month and when there are requests from the board and various committees, I would appreciate having responses rather than an informal report. I want a report back.”
So next day at the board meeting on May 5th, as is their usual practice, there was nothing more than a cursory mention of any of these items, the board merely voted to endorse actions of the committee members.
Board Members present for the Executive/Administrative Committee Meeting were Pringle, Toledo and Schenk. If you want to listen to it in its entirety go to the audio tape: http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/2011_May.aspx Scroll down past all the PDF files to May Executive/Administrative Meeting held May 4th. The Ogilvy contract is the last item discussed.
Note: it’s very difficult to figure out who is speaking unless they clearly identify themselves or you know their voices since you can’t see them on camera. Live feed or at least video has been requested for a long time with no positive result.