Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Revelations about MARAD and Superferry

Two new articles yesterday with previously unreported information by a Ryan Sibley of the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group:

From: http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/government-agency-history-taxpayer-losses-keeps-it/

"Government agency with a history of taxpayer losses keeps at it"
By Ryan Sibley Apr 12, 2010

Between 2004 and 2009, the U.S. Maritime Administration, or MARAD, a federal agency that supports the U.S. shipbuilding industry and merchant marine, made just one loan from its troubled Federal Ship Financing Program, also known as Title XI. The borrower was Hawaii Superferry Inc., a politically connected company that hired a former chief counsel and deputy administrator of MARAD, among others, to lobby the agency. In 2005, Hawaii Superferry got a taxpayer-guaranteed loan for $139 million to build and operate a pair of high-speed ferries in the fiftieth state. Just four years later, the company filed for bankruptcy, listing assets of a mere $1 million.

The failure was par for the course for a program that even the business-friendly administration of George W. Bush branded as an “unwarranted corporate subsidy.”...

Loan guarantees issued by Title XI slowed drastically in years following the default of American Classic Voyages. Hawaii Superferry received the only guarantee issued in 2005 and the last one until 2009. Disclosure records show the company lobbied Congress and MARAD in 2005 regarding ship financing and Title XI amid the program slow down.

The company hired Blank Rome LLP to push its interests in Washington; among the firm’s lobbyists that represented Hawaii Superferry was Joan Bondareff , who served as chief counsel and acting deputy administrator for MARAD during the Clinton administration . She’d also served as the majority counsel to the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries. Blank Rome reported receiving $20,000 in fees from Hawaii Superferry in 2005; the company got a taxpayer-guaranteed loan for $139 million to pay for construction and operation of a pair of high-tech catamarans... >>>Rest of Article>>>

Also from: http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/hawaii-superferry-ulterior-motive/

"Hawaii Superferry: An ulterior motive?"
By Ryan Sibley Apr 12, 2010

Was the Hawaii Superferry project conceived of as a means of securing a military contract? Speculation in Hawaii among activists that the ferries might have eventually been used for interisland transport of the Army’s Stryker brigade and other military equipment fueled conflict between protestors and Superferry supporters.

In March 2005, John F. Lehman, a former Navy Secretary during the Reagan administration and the company's principal investor, told Pacific Business News that there was a possibility the ferries would be used to move military cargo. In 2008, the former CEO and President of HSF, Inc., Thomas Fargo, said that was still a possibility, and the company’s lobbyists at Blank Rome LLP reported being paid $210,000, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, to lobby for inclusion in a Defense Department program that would pay to have improvements made to the Hawaii Superferry’s two high speed catamarans that would make them more militarily useful... >>>Rest of Article>>>

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