Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Paid Lobbying for a "Military Wannabe"

Well, Derrick had a good article today in the Honolulu Advertiser. This connection has been reported on in Honolulu Weekly and in the blogosphere, but this is the first definitive article in the mass media since HSF reversed it's PR on this matter in 2007. I remember Dave Coennen of Akaku asking Terry O'Halleran about this general connection on video in the later half of last year. The answer was questionable regarding these documented developments happening at the same time. Rather than recreate a blog for this, here is Joan Conrow's entry on it today with a link to Derrick's front page lead article in the Honolulu Advertiser today:

From KauaiEclectic
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Musings: Military Wannabe

"...It seems, however, that we’re starting to get a clearer view of Hawaii Superferry’s intentions when it comes to the military, a subject that has been the topic of many a blog post and comment. The Honolulu Advertiser today is reporting that the company is spending large on lobbyists in an attempt to have the federal government pick up the tab to add ramps to the second ferry, now under construction, to make it more viable for military use.

According to the article:

Lobbyists hired by Superferry approached the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Defense to help pay for a vehicle ramp and other improvements. The ramp would allow the new catamaran to load and unload vehicles at most large piers instead of relying on shore-based ramps and barges.

Superferry paid Blank Rome LLC, a prominent law and lobbying firm, to try to obtain federal money through the National Defense Features program to cover the cost of improvements to its second catamaran under construction at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Ala. The defense program covers the installation of militarily useful features on commercial ships if the owners agree to make the ships available to the military during emergencies.

There are also reports that HSF wants to install a water desalinization and sewage treatment facility, as well as lengthen the second ferry to accommodate large vehicles, in addition to adding the folding ramp system. These features would cost about $5 million and make the fast ferry much suitable to military uses.

The article goes on to say:

Superferry executives had touted the military utility of the catamarans when they were initially describing the project to the state. A September 2004 document from Superferry, obtained by The Advertiser under the open-records law, discussed the growing training needs of the military in the Islands and said the catamarans would have strengthened vehicle decks to handle heavy military vehicles, helicopters, ammunition and other equipment.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but it appears that Superferry’s lobbying firm has experienced the same sort of difficulties as the company itself in filing accurate and timely lobbying reports.

The article notes:

Blank Rome's federal lobbying reports on Superferry for last year and the first quarter of this year have undergone substantial revision. The initial report for the last six months of last year, filed in February, showed less than $10,000 in lobbying income from Superferry. A second report in February raised the figure to $40,000. A third report, filed in May, put the figure at $120,000.

Blank Rome's lobbying report for the first quarter of 2008, filed in April, initially reported $30,000 in lobbying income from Superferry. An amended report, filed in May, raised the figure to $90,000.

The firm explained that the changes were made after the discovery of additional lobbying work on behalf of Superferry and because of the expenses from a subcontractor working with the firm on Superferry.

You may recall that journalist and blogger Ian Lind reported in April that HSF initially disclosed less than 6 percent of the costs incurred in lobbying for special state legislation.

So, you may say, who cares if the Superferry wants to serve the military? Well, as Maui’s Dick Mayer observes, if the company gets its upgrades and leaves Hawaii to use the ferries elsewhere, the State of Hawaii — read, the taxpayers — would be left holding the bag for the $40 million spent to construct the harbor barges.

And that's not counting all the money expended on legal fees, a special session, tugboats, an audit, an oversight task force and harbor security — not to mention undermining the integrity of our courts and all the associated community angst."

Nice work Derrick and Joan,
BTW, if HSF had not brought all of this lobbying reporting up to date in May, they would have been in default on their MARAD loan guarantees.

Aloha, Brad

No comments: