Saturday, August 19, 2006

"There is no revolving door in Rick Perry's administration. There is no door at all. There is just a welcome mat. "

Trans-Texas Corridor firm hires ex-Perry aide

Dan Shelley going back to work for Cintra-Zachry.

August 19, 2006

Associated Press
Copyright 2006

DALLAS — Republican Gov. Rick Perry's former liaison to the Legislature is working once again for the Spanish company that won the rights to develop the state's $7 billion Trans-Texas Corridor toll road project.

Lobbyist Dan Shelley worked for the firm as a consultant just before he went to the governor's office, a connection first revealed in 2004.

State officials denied any connection between that circumstance and the decision, three months later, to award Cintra-Zachry the huge highway contract. Now Shelley has left the governor's office, and he and his daughter have large contracts to lobby for the road builder, The Dallas Morning News reported Friday.

This week, Shelley had planned to take four state lawmakers on a four-day, all-expense-paid trip to Canada. But the trip was postponed by the state transportation department after the newspaper asked questions about it.

A call to Shelley seeking comment was returned by Rossanna Salazar, an Austin spokeswoman for Madrid-based Cintra, who said Shelley's contract with the company prohibits him from discussing his work with news reporters. Salazar confirmed that Shelley was helping to arrange the fact-finding trip to visit a Cintra toll road near Toronto.

"Dan Shelley was going to cover those costs" for the lawmakers' expenses, Salazar said. "He would have had to publicly report those costs to the Texas Ethics Commission."

Texas law does not restrict former gubernatorial staffers from lobbying, but Perry has instituted his own rule for former high-level staffers. They can lobby the Legislature and state agencies but are banned from lobbying the governor's office for a year, or until the end of the first legislative session after they've left, whichever is longer.

"Governor Perry has the strongest ethics policy that any Texas governor has ever had," said Kathy Walt, Perry's spokeswoman.

But a spokesman for Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a Perry opponent in his re-election bid whom Perry's campaign has criticized for alleged unethical conduct, said Perry is the one with the ethics problem.

"There is no revolving door in Rick's administration," Strayhorn spokesman Mark Sanders said. "There is no door at all. There is just a welcome mat. Lobby one minute to get a client a huge contract, go to work for Rick the next minute, and return to the lobby the next minute."

Strayhorn proposes banning lobbying for four years for state officials and employees after they leave government service, Sanders said.

© 2006 Austin American-Statesman: