In the first installment of my first foray into the Assignment Desk assignment, I visited the Crystal City location for which Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., my voice in Congress, secured a pittance–$3.3 million–to build,
a two-lane busway connecting Crystal City in Arlington and Potomac Yard in Arlington/Alexandria. Funding will go towards building additional bus station stops and pedestrian/bicycle accommodations. The busway will provide dedicated bus lanes and bus station stops for Metrobuses, ART buses, and DASH buses serving the corridor.
As I noted, the area’s not exactly the sort of place one expects to see people waiting under a bus shelter to ride from their million-dollar-plus condo to the Target at Potomac Yard. In today’s installment, I thought I’d take a look at what lies behind the landscape, as it were. So let’s start in the north, from the finished part of Crystal City, and see if we can’t identify some of the interests in the area.
One of the advantages of investigating close-to-home is that the learning curve isn’t terribly steep. I knew, for example, before I visited that Crystal City is home to a lot of government contractors,
and government offices as well. This handy site lets you look office space owned and leased by the government in each congressional district; here’s the results for the 8th district in Virginia. Note the Crystal City properties:
CRYSTAL GATEWAY 1 CRYSTAL GATEWAY 3 CRYSTAL GATEWAY 4 CRYSTAL GATEWAY B 2 CRYSTAL GATEWAY NORTH CRYSTAL MALL 2 CRYSTAL MALL 2-3-4 CRYSTAL MALL 3 CRYSTAL MALL 4 CRYSTAL MALL ONE CRYSTAL PARK 1 CRYSTAL PARK 2 CRYSTAL PARK 3 CRYSTAL PARK 5 CRYSTAL PLAZA 2,3,4 CRYSTAL PLAZA 5 CRYSTAL PLAZA 6 CRYSTAL PLAZA FOUR CRYSTAL PLAZA ONE CRYSTAL SQUARE 3 CRYSTAL SQUARE 4 CRYSTAL SQUARE 5 CRYSTAL SQUARE II
If you check Arlington County’s online real estate records, as I did, you find that something called Vornado Realty Trust owns 22 of those 23-listed properties. Vornado didn’t build them; they recently bought out another firm, Charles E. Smith, which had been a major player in Crystal City.
I checked the two things that are fairly easy to check. I looked “Vornado Realty” up on Open Secrets, and found that that company’s executives and their family members have contributed $151,225 to candidates and party committees over the last three election cycles, some $2,000 of which went to Jim Moran (four contributions of $500, all made on August 26, 2005). Out of curiosity, I also ran “Charles E. Smith” in the occupation field, and didn’t find much — some $24,950 in contributions over the same period.
Next, I looked up “Vornado” on the very cranky online lobbyist search page maintained by the Senate Office of Public Records, and found these filings and, more interestingly, these filings. The former cover the period 1998 to 2003; if you go through them, you’ll find that the sorts of issues that led Vornado to hire lobbyists to influence the federal government were the tax treatment of real estate investment trusts and the federal budget. The latter group are filings from 2005 made by Patton Boggs (their slogan is ‘Power Base: Moving your ideas forward in the world’s financial and political capitals’), who reported being paid $140,000 by Vornado to lobby Congress, the Defense Department and the Base Closure and Realignment Commission about the latter’s recommnedations to reorient government offices–and, potentially, the contractors that serve them–away from Arlington County, Virginia.
In its filings, Patton Boggs listed Ed Newberry (“seven years as a senior staff member in various congressional staff positions, including chief appropriations staff and press secretary, to U.S. Representative Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and as associate staff member on the House Appropriations Committee”), John Deschauer (“served as Director of Senate Affairs for the Secretary of Defense. In that capacity, he assisted in the planning and execution of a comprehensive strategy to present the Defense budget to the Congress throughout the authorization and appropriation processes. He dealt with Members and senior staff of the Armed Services, Defense Appropriations, and Budget Committees. Mr. Deschauer coordinated DOD legislative affairs with the White House, National Security Council, State Department, and other Executive Branch agencies”) and Michael Powell (“served as legislative director to Congressman John E. Sweeney (R-NY), overseeing a broad legislative agenda that included appropriations, transportation, national security, banking and agriculture issues. He previously served as a legislative aide and press spokesman for House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald B.H. Solomon”) as the lobbyists representing Vornado. It only they’d had a lobbyist who had previously worked for the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, they’d have had all their bases covered…
We’ll continue looking at interests along to proposed bus route through Crystal City tomorrow.