Despite Behind the Scenes Pressure to Derail Legislative Efforts,
Texans Against High-Speed Rail Picking Up Steam in Austin
JEWETT, Texas, April 17, 2015 – With a $10B high-speed rail project proposed through rural Texas between Dallas and Houston, in February of this year volunteers created a united opposition group, Texans Against High-Speed Rail (TAHSR), to utilize all options available to oppose this project and level the playing field between Texas Central Railway (TCR), the promoter of the HSR project, and the thousands of rural Texans who would be negatively impacted. Recognizing that the heavy legislative efforts of TCR would go relatively unchecked without a substantial presence in Austin, Texans Against High-Speed Rail engaged the legislative representation services of Galt Graydon and the Graydon Group, a highly respected governmental affairs consulting team based in Austin. From the outset, TAHSR was aware that Graydon represented several clients including Southwest Airlines and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), among others. Because DART is solely involved in traditional mass transit for residents of the DFW Metroplex and not high-speed rail, no legal or ethical conflict exists for Graydon’s representation of both DART and TAHSR. Even still, Graydon received agreement from DART that although there was a shared transportation element with both groups, there was no conflict in representing TAHSR. Further, in a blog entry posted yesterday (April 16, 2015) by The Dallas Morning News stated, “DART spokesman Morgan Lyons said on Wednesday that the agency is OK with that arrangement. ‘We see high-speed rail as a good opportunity for the region. Galt’s client may have a different position,’ he said, calling Graydon an ‘amazing supporter and advocate’ for DART. ‘But we respect Galt’s right to work with different clients.’” Despite agreement by all parties before contracting with Mr. Graydon and yesterday’s public support by DART, Texans Against High-Speed Rail announces the withdrawal of representation by the Graydon Group.
Texans Against High-Speed Rail board member Frank Reilly, who serves as TAHSR general counsel and also regularly practices before the Texas Ethics Commission, stated, “There simply is no legal or ethical conflict between DART, a traditional regional commuter rail service with no connection to the proposed Dallas HSR station, and Texans Against High-Speed Rail, which opposes a high-speed system between Houston and Dallas; however, we respect Mr. Graydon’s decision to withdraw from representing TAHSR. The Graydon Group has provided outstanding services to our organization, and we appreciate their guidance and expertise.”
TAHSR president Kyle Workman stated, “Because not everyone can take off work or leave their farm or ranch during this time of year, we knew it was important to make sure Texans Against High-Speed Rail had a regular presence in the Capitol to provide our legislators with accurate information about the proposed Dallas Houston HSR to consider, and hiring a lobbyist to support those efforts was a significant step to that end.”
Workman emphasized, “We are disappointed but not surprised that proponents of this project would use political pressure to create conflict where one does not exist. Despite the mutual agreement from the outset that there was no conflict of interest in the Graydon Group representing both DART and Texans Against High-Speed Rail, DART contacted The Graydon Group this week to declare a conflict had arisen. As a result, the Graydon Group was forced to withdraw from lobbying on our behalf because of their long standing obligation to DART. It is clear that behind the scenes pressure can be placed on those who could influence the outcome of this high-speed rail project…without regard for the thousands of Texans who are just trying to protect their homes and properties. The effectiveness of Texans Against High-Speed Rail in promoting the protection of property owners and taxpayers through the legislative process is a real threat to those pushing for high-speed rail, and we feel this is an obvious attempt to slow our momentum. However, we are in the Capitol today visiting with legislators and interviewing multiple lobby firms. Our lobbyist may have changed, but our mission has not. We look forward to successfully supporting the legislation filed by Sen. Kolkhorst, Sen. Nichols, Rep. Metcalf and Rep. Wray, and opposing high-speed rail in Texas.”