WASHINGTON – The city of Corpus Christi and related government organizations are on track to pay Washington lobbying firms about $600,000 this year.
The largest chunk of that money,about $500,000 per year,comes from the Port of Corpus Christi and the authority that governs it.
Lobbying records for the port list the designation of a cotton delivery point in the Gulf of Mexico and a pending water resources development act among those issues the firms lobbied for in Congress on the port's behalf.
John LaRue,the port's executive director,said he has seen a significant return on the investment.
The port recently was deeded more than 500 acres of the former Naval Station Ingleside at no cost,which wouldn't have happened without the help of lobbyists,LaRue said. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,R-Texas,was instrumental in including language that allowed for that reversion to happen,he added.
“If you don't have people in D.C. to protect yourself,you're going to be in trouble,” LaRue said. “We're not talking hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake,we're talking about hundreds of millions.”
Four different lobbying firms in Washington filed documents listing either the port or the port authority as a client for the first two quarters of 2010 and showed payments of more than $200,000. Representatives of the firms declined to comment.
The costs to the city of Corpus Christi are much lower than they are for many other organizations,especially those in the private sector,said Rudy Garza,the city's director of intergovernmental relations.
The city's $80,000 payment to a Washington lobbying is money well spent,Garza said.
“You get a bigger bang for your buck when you've got someone on the ground in Washington,” he said
While paying the firm doesn't make for an entirely hands-off approach on Garza's part,it allows his office to do more with less,he said. He still travels to Washington two or three times a year to visit with policymakers,but that is far less than he would need to without the lobbyists.
Meyers and Associates,the firm that represents the city,lobbies Congress primarily on the appropriation of stimulus,transportation,energy and other funds.
Larry Meyers,who represents the city,said Corpus Christi's need for a lobbyist in Washington could be compared with a citizen's need for a lawyer.
“It's very much like you going to the courthouse,” he said. “You'd want somebody that knows the court system.”
Meyers said he's represented the city in Washington since the early 1990s,and one of the most important issues he's lobbying for is funding for the Interstate 69 extension project. Hailed as a route that would ease trade resulting from the North American Free Trade Agreement,I-69's Texas portion includes a corridor from Texarkana to Houston. From there it would go to Victoria where it could branch out via U.S. Highways 77 and 288 to Laredo,McAllen or Brownsville.
With recent stimulus programs and other sources of money flowing out of the federal government,even the farthest cities from Washington need representation,said Paul Kanitra,the president of Keys to the Capitol,a lobbying firm that caters to small-budget clients.
“You'd assume a lobbyist would be a high-dollar expense for the elite,” Kanitra said. “But a town in Texas needs a lobbyist as much as anybody else.”
Corpus Christi Caller-Times reporter Allison Pollan contributed to this report.
Six Washington lobbying firms have contracts with government agencies in the Corpus Christi region.
All amounts are the annual contract payments the city and port authority are expected to make to the firms this year. If the amount is less than $5,000 per quarter,the lobbying firm does not have to report the exact amount.
City of Corpus Christi
- Meyers and Associates $80,000
Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority
- Van Scoyoc Associates $40,000
Port of Corpus Christi
- Borski Associates $120,000
- The Rhoads Group $200,000
- Alan Mauk Associates less than $5,000 per quarter
- Rick Maldonado and Associates $85,000
Source: Quarterly congressional lobbying reports.