ACT Calls for End to Secrecy
Over Shuster Brother Lobbying
Press release issued February 4, 2014
The closed-door hiring of lobbyist Robert Shuster, brother of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair Bill Shuster, came under renewed fire today.
Shuster's law firm has already received $40,000 from the Town of Chevy Chase to fight against the Purple Line, a planned light rail line along the town's border that would carry 74,000 passengers a day. The town council plans to vote Feb. 12 on whether to pay the firm an additional $360,000.
This morning, the Action Committee for Transit moved under the Maryland Public Information Act to require the town to release documents about the hiring.
ACT vice-president Ronit Aviva Dancis pointed out that the town council waited until after oral testimony closed at a January 8 public hearing to reveal that money would be used for lobbying. Even then, the public was told only the name of the firm, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. The involvement of the brother of an influential congressman came out only later, in a Washington Post article.
In its letter to the town, ACT requested that Mayor Pat Burda and councilmember John Bickerman recuse themselves from consideration of the document request. Burda has a personal interest in what the documents may reveal, due to the contradiction between her denial to the Post that the town is lobbying congress and the lobbying report that the law firm filed with the House of Representatives. Bickerman disclosed at the hearing that his law practice does mediation work "with" the Buchanan Ingersoll firm.
Last week, ACT filed a complaint with the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board, asking it to determine whether the town violated the Open Meetings Law in the process of hiring Rep. Shuster's brother. ACT is a grass-roots organization of Montgomery County transit advocates with over 400 members.
Full text of ACT's Public Information Act request is here.