Thursday, September 20, 2007

"They not only crossed the line into illegal lobbying, they leaped over it."


Lawsuit filed to STOP TxDOT’s illegal lobbying

TURF Founder seeks temporary restraining order to halt public relations campaign

September 20, 2007

Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (T.U.R.F.)
Copyright 2007

TURF Founder Terri Hall has filed a petition for a temporary restraining order against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in Travis County District Court and the case is scheduled to come before visiting Judge Bill Bender at 3 PM.

The petition also seeks injunctive relief, including Temporary Restraining Order against Steven E. Simmons, P.E. Individually and as Interim Executive Director of the Texas Department of Transportation and Coby Chase, Individually and as Director of the Texas Department of Transportation Government and Public Affairs Division.

This lawsuit is brought pursuant to § 37, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. TxDOT’s expenditure of public funds for the Keep Texas Moving campaign is illegal, and an injunction prohibiting any further illegal expenditures in this regard.

TxDOT has violated § 556.004 of the Texas Government Code by directing the expenditure of public funds for political advocacy in support of toll roads and the Trans Texas Corridor, and have openly indicated TxDOT’s intention to directly lobby the United States Congress in favor of additional toll road programs.

On August 22, 2007, TURF filed a formal complaint with Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle to investigate TxDOT’s illegal lobbying and asked him to prosecute TxDOT for criminal wrongdoing. See the formal complaint here . Today’s petition seeks immediate injunctive relief in a civil proceeding.

“Between TxDOT’s PR campaign, report to Congress asking that all limitations on tolling be lifted including buying back existing interstates, and Chairman Ric Williamson's recent trip to D.C. lobbying for the same, it's clear they've not only crossed the line into illegal lobbying, but they leaped over it,” says Hall.

TxDOT’s report to Congress, Forward Momentum, ignited a category 5 blowback that prompted Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and U.S. Representatives Charlie Gonzalez,and Ciro Rodriguez to file legislation (S 2019 and HR 3510) to halt the tolling of existing interstates and to prohibit TxDOT from buying back interstates for the purpose of tolling them (read more here). TxDOT’s actions also prompted Rep. Rodriguez to call for a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on converting interstates to tollways and on TxDOT's ad campaign (read more here).

The report and ad campaign have been the topic of many editorials across Texas, including the Houston Chronicle (read more here) and Express-News, and even TV newsrooms are weighing in with the General Manager of KSAT 12 TV in San Antonio giving a scathing review of the ad campaign (read more here).

“The citizens of Texas are fed-up with TxDOT’s blatant disregard for the public's disdain of toll roads and their infinite attempts to cram toll roads down our throats using TAXPAYER MONEY to do it! It’s high time someone puts a stop to it!” Hall admonished.

View petition and affidavits:
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