Friday, December 31, 2004

Dan Shelley, lobbyist, "Sat quietly in the corner."

Perry aide was in on toll road meetings

Shelley is said to have met with transportation department officials while helping Spain-based Cintra.


W. Gardner Selby, Austin Bureau
San Antonio Express-News
Copyright 2004

A consultant who was later hired as an aide to Gov. Rick Perry attended multiple meetings with the Texas Department of Transportation before the firm he assisted was tapped to launch the ambitious network of toll roads outlined by Perry in 2002, officials said.

Published reports have suggested Dan Shelley, who assisted Spain-based Cintra from December 2003 until he became Perry's legislative liaison in September, had little contact with the department while helping Cintra.

But agency officials said Thursday that Shelley accompanied Cintra delegates to several of a dozen meetings involving Cintra and state employees.

"He was there to introduce them to Texas ," said Ed Pensock, director of corridor development. "He never did any lobbying by any stretch of the imagination. He sat quietly in the corner."

A Cintra spokeswoman referred questions to Perry's office. Shelley, a former Houston state senator who later worked for Gov. George W. Bush, was unavailable for comment.

Shelley's role, initially reported this week by the Dallas Morning News, drew attention after the Texas Transportation Commission voted two weeks ago to choose a consortium led by Cintra over two competing groups to build and operate the first leg of the Trans Texas Corridor , the 50-year vision of toll roads and rail lines throughout Texas advanced by Perry.

Cintra will pay the state $1.2 billion by 2014 for the right to operate the segment paralleling Interstate 35 and will shoulder the risk of bonds to fund construction. A contract is expected to be signed within two months.

Over the next 10 years, Cintra will invest an additional $6 billion to construct a four-lane toll road from San Antonio to Dallas, with work starting in about a year, and relocate some Union Pacific tracks to the east.

Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office, called Shelley's work introducing Cintra the "heart and soul" of lobbying.

And Perry's hiring of Shelley demonstrates the need to restrict lobbyists from entering government for at least a year after they have stopped promoting other causes, Smith said.

A Perry spokesman and the commission chairman said neither Perry nor Shelley influenced the selection of the Cintra group over two competitors.

"I don't see monsters where they don't exist," commission chairman Ric Williamson said.

Shelley did not list Cintra as a client on his lobbyist reports, records show.

State law requires individuals who seek to influence government action to register as lobbyists and list their clients. Lobbyists don't have to report compensation or expenditures for communications regarding purchasing decisions.

Williamson said he was unaware of any meetings with Shelley outside of one he had with him more than a year ago in which he agreed to have TxDOT inform Cintra on corridor ideas.

Of the staff meetings including Shelley, Williamson said: "I don't see it as important," noting that Shelley never was paid by Cintra and sacrificed a "seven-figure" lobby practice to work for Perry.

Shelley never was paid because his fee was contingent on Cintra getting the contract and finalizing financing, Perry spokesman Robert Black said.

"Dan never took any money from the company, he never lobbied for the company, there was absolutely no reason to question his integrity or to think there may be a conflict of interest, which there is not," Black said.

Staff Writer Patrick Driscoll contributed to this report.

© 2004 The San Antonio Express-News: