10/04/2007

MORE KIRK WATSON CONFLICTS - Taxpayers Pay Sen. Watson $450 an Hour to Do Land Deals! ---UPDATED---

Roads and development go hand in hand, and Kirk Watson has placed himself at the helm of the most powerful organization in Central Texas, while he sits at all the other chairs at the same table.

--UPDATED--

Soon after Sen. Kirk Watson became Chair of CAMPO, an organization that directs billions of road dollars in Central Texas, records show Watson was put on the payroll of developers who profit from important transportation decisions.

Additional conflicts are now revealed for the first time.

Records from a FOIA request show Sen. Kirk Watson, as partner of law firm Hughes & Luce, bills the City of Austin at a rate of $450 per hour for representation on land deals with developers. Over $420,000 has been paid to Watson’s law firm, by the City of Austin in the last two years.

Watson is being paid an undisclosed amount of money as a lobbyist for developers, as well as billing taxpayers $450 an hour to oppose developers, while being chair of CAMPO - an organization that controls the purse strings for developer roads.

How can Watson fairly represent the people while having so many conflicts?

Watson is now pushing an unpopular plan to shift our freeways to toll ways using $910 million tax dollars. Developers see the double tax tolls as an eternal slush fund to pay for more roads to their cheap land.

The 2006 Austin Chamber of Commerce annual report, reveals that Sen. Kirk Watson individually, and his law firm both contributed money to the pro toll Chamber. (see page 23 - www.austinchamber.com/WhatsNew/2006OAAnnualReport.pdf)

UPDATE 10/4/07:
Watson sent emails to City of Austin Employees about his 9/13/07 concert fundraiser. Watson offered CAMPO board members free $50 tickets (gifts) using his work email (kirk.watson@hughesluce.com). Also, the city withheld many of the documents I asked for (see comments area below) by sending a letter to the AG's office - claiming those documents violated attorney client privilege. I just got some of the key docs from the city on Watson in a PDF format. Shoot me an email at sal at austintollparty.com if you'd like to get the 21 page pdf. No questions asked.

Watson, a multimillionaire with a $2 million dollar home who profits off his many positions, can afford to pay exorbitant toll rates set by an unelected, unaccountable toll authority. But can most families?

Watson not only controls the game of roads and development, but he is the game.

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18 comments:

Sal Costello said...

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts here.

Thanks
Sal

Anonymous said...

Why in the hell is nobody else looking into this?

Sal Costello said...

.
The Snakesman has been supporting the freeway tolls since 2004. They are on the board of the Chamber.

THIS FROM GWEN:

Great job, Sal! We have wondered about Watson and now you have disclosed his game.

Farther down the Muckraker news list, after the posting about our friend Linda Rife, I saw your disclosure about the progressive do-gooder Glenn Gadbois, whom I recently met at a "Keep Austin Blue" (i.e. Democratic) shindig giving a pitch for the Alliance for Public Transportation. They are promoting the (strangely indiscernable) linkage between increased revenue from tolls and meeting our needs for public transportation. A look at their website shows a very curious roster of supporters: http://allianceforpublictransportation.org/?page_id=2

Gwen

Sal Costello said...

.
FROM Skip Cameron - scameron@austin.rr.com wrote:

Sal:

I did as you suggested below. I looked at your blog. Your blog "records show" link only goes to a city clerk web page that shows Kirk Watson is a registered lobbyist with the City of Austin.

That Hughes & Luce with its 148 lawyers has billed the City $420,000 over 2 years doesn't prove anything...

Skip


Dear Skip,

I have signed letters of agreement between Watson and city representatives for Watson to bill the city at a rate of $450 an hour. The details of the letters expose how Watson is representing the city to do land deals with developers, while he is chair of CAMPO, and Senator, and lobbying for developers while on the payroll of developers.

Watson is elected to represent us, I am not. I'm just a citizen doing some homework that the Statesman isn't doing.

My research on those who seek to ignore the public and use our tax dollars and public highways to create an unaccountable double tax continues here:
http://salcostello.blogspot.com/

I've got a couple years worth of articles that expose our corrupt government at that blog address.

Feel free to copy and paste my request below, so you can get the same agreements and more. My request got me a stack of about 400 pages - not in electronic form - Thanks!

--------------------------------
Linda.Rivera@ci.austin.tx.us
Dear City of Austin,

With the rights granted to me under the Texas Government Code, Chapter 552, I request to come to City Hall and see these documents:

1) Any and all communications, including but not limited to emails, letters, and memos to and from Kirk Watson and any City of Austin representatives from January 1, 2006 to Sept 13, 2007.

2) Any and all communications, including but not limited to emails, letters, and memos to and from Hughes & Luce and any City of Austin representatives from January 1, 2005 to Sept 13, 2007.

3) A list of companies or individuals Hughes & Luce has represented in regards to any business dealings with the City of Austin from January 1, 2005 to Sept 13, 2007.

4) All records regarding City of Austin hiring Hughes & Luce for contract work, including but limited to, a description of the contract, the date on which contract was made, and the amount paid, from January 2004 to Sept 13, 2007.

Thank You,
Sal Costello
-----------------------------

Thanks
Sal

Sal Costello said...

I just got some of the key docs from the city on Watson in a PDF format.

Shoot me an email at sal @ austintollparty.com if you'd like to get the 21 page pdf.

No questions asked.

Thanks
Sal

Anonymous said...

Even forgetting about his CAMPO position or being Senator, he's lobbying the City, for chrissakes, isn't that cashing in on being former Mayor? it's the revolving door system, big time.

How do we know toll roads are truly necessary if every key player on our public payroll has an incentive to distort or hide the true financial situation for private gain?

It amounts to legalized bribery or a system of public decisionmaking that is hopelessly contaminated with special interest influence.

sometimes lay people are unfamiliar with the concept of conflict of interest. They might have to think about whether it is fair to control money for others that you can then line your own pocket with against their interest.

But any attorney is thoroughly drilled in that concept, whether they do govt lobbying on the side or not. You're not supposed to be taking money from both sides of a dispute, b/c you can't represent both clients honestly and effectively.

Jack

Anonymous said...

So, essentially Mr. Watson is telling us,

"Head, I win. Tails, you lose".

That seems fair.

Rex

Carl Jones said...

That Watson is a real prize.

The four-block CSC deal brokered by Watson as Mayor was so squirrelly that City taxpayers not only basically subsidized -- paid -- CSC to buy those blocks from us, but we bought back vacant Block 21 at a premium after Watson was gone, b/c CSC couldn't financially complete the construction or fill up the new buildings w/ it's workers.

Then Watson turns up as a city representaive on the re-sale of Block 21 to Stratus.

So Block 21 was sold, bought back at a premium, then sold once again. I'm positive that all the C&E reports from both his mayoral races, and probably the AG and Senate runs too, will reflect Stratus contributions.

Carl Jones

Les Vaughn said...

You citizens of Austin need to get these crooks out of there.

Firstly, your Taxes paid for the road so you, as citizens, own it. It's really that simple. Taxing your roads would be like having your own car paid for and paying someone rent to drive it each and every time you want to use it. You should just jail the crooks that are trying to pull this one off.

I'm from Oregon and visited there in the spring to play music for several weeks. I was planning a trip back until I heard about this proposal. If you guys let this happen you will discourage much of the tourism that your city thrives upon. Can you picture Austin as a ghost town?? Maybe that is extreme but do you want the property values to plummet downward even more??

Without the freedom to traverse your city at will I will not be coming back. I'll choose Branson or Nashville or at least somewhere with freedom of movement.

I am sure I speak for many other musicians that feel the same..

Les Vaughn

Anonymous said...

Toll roads in East Austin are the oppressor stomping on the oppressed.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe Kirk Watson is not in jail! Isn't any of this illegal enough to lock him up? Or is it just highly unethical?

Anyway...All of us need to attend the meeting on Monday and prove we are part of the 75-82% of Austin's population that opposes toll roads. Lets fill up Anderson High's auditorium!

Anonymous said...

Surely there is a hungry lawyer around somewhere who is willing to make a class action suit against these criminals on behalf of the Citizens of Texas?

Anonymous said...

The government is not a government it
is a corporation pretending to be a government. The government believes they have a right to enslave, when no others do.

Grumpy said...

I have been a resident of Austin for nearly twenty years and during this time have witnessed a near total disregard for public opinion by those we elect and those that *they* appoint.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to show up with pitchforks and torches and show 'em how we really feel. Public hearings are next to worthless as proposals will be rubber stamped anyway by the special interests.

Since we probably will lose this round, I'm looking forward to the next phase of this fight which I sincerely hope will be in criminal court because what these politicos and other special interests are conspiring to do is purely criminal.

Sal Costello said...

Why has Democrat Watson, picked up a Republican toll plan from Rep. Mike Krusee, while Krusee no longer even shows up for CAMPO meetings?

Anonymous said...

Sal,
Thanks for all your work. Do you have a simple list of all the chairs, employment, lobbying and positions held by Watson? It is a bit confusing and overwhelming to understand how they all link together by reading through all this.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Sal,
We need more like you. Are you aware that the City of Austin is now planning to use 2800 acres in east Travis County for a new landfill, in spite of the fact that it is surrounded by residences, has springs and shallow ground water, has a historical site on it and beautiful old trees just above the Colorado River. Travis County is 2nd in number of active landfills in Texas - 5, and it will continue to take trash from 33 surrounding counties rather than letting them find their own dump. Sounds like BFI, Waste Management, Allied, etc. have many $$ to share with politicians. Watson won't respond to emails asking his position on it. Biscoe seems to support it along with the commissioners in Western Travis County. Commissioners could stop it, but the majority doesn't seem to want to. The 2800 acres is owned by Austin Energy and was bought with bond money in the 1980's. Toby Futrell is pushing really hard for this project. Wish it was in her back yard.

Sal Costello said...

"With deep pockets involved and landfill policies at play, the case has attracted some formidable lawyers and lobbyists. The law firm Baker Botts, as well as some high-powered lobbyists, has represented Penske. Kirk Watson, the former Austin mayor and a current state senator, represents the landfill."

http://www.texasenvironment.org/news_story.cfm?IID=408