Former Congressman Nixes Federal Lobbying After BGA Investigation
Bill Lipinski was paid by Metra, Chicago Transit Authority and other transportation clients.
Former U.S. Rep. Bill Lipinski has dropped his federal lobbying practice after the Better Government Association reported the longtime Chicago congressman was paid $4 million since 2007 by clients with issues before the U.S. House transportation committee on which his son, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois, serves.
Among those clients were the Chicago Transit Authority, which paid the elder Lipinski $100,000 a year for lobbying Congress, and Metra, which paid him $60,000 a year to do the same.
Lipinski told his clients he would no longer lobby Congress in January, about two months after the BGA report, records show.
Lipinski didn’t respond to questions about why he dropped his federal lobbying practice. Metra and CTA officials said it was his decision.
Lipinski continues to lobby on behalf of the two agencies in Springfield, for which the CTA pays him $72,000 a year and Metra pays him $60,000, records show.
According to the monthly reports he submitted to the two public transit agencies, Lipinski, 78, who works out of his Western Springs home, typically spoke a few times a month with members of Congress by phone and also spoke often by phone with CTA and Metra officials and another Metra lobbyist.
Though Lipinski’s reports didn’t detail how much time he spent lobbying for the two agencies, CTA and Metra officials say his knowledge and contacts were key to their success in obtaining federal funds.
“I’m sure I speak for everyone at Metra in saying that we will very much miss having your assistance with the federal government in the future, ” Martin Oberman, Metra’s chairman, said in a letter to Lipinski.
The two men spoke several times a month, according to Metra records.
“We were sorry to see him go,” CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.
Neither agency has hired another federal lobbyist to replace Lipinski.
“I don’t know that he’s replaceable,” Oberman said. “Do you know any other former congressmen that knows all the people he knew and had all the relationships he had?”
Through a combination of federal funding, Metra expects to receive almost $191 million this year, up from almost $162 million in 2015, a spokeswoman said. CTA expects to get about $286 million in federal dollars this year, records show.
Bill Lipinski spent 22 years in Congress, where he was an influential member of the House transportation committee. His son succeeded him in Congress and also is on the transportation committee, whose decisions affect federal funding for road and transit projects nationwide.
From left: Bill and Dan Lipinski (Sun Times photo)
The Lipinskis have said they had a policy that the father wouldn’t lobby the son.
The former congressman’s monthly reports to the CTA and Metra during the first six months of 2015 documented that he called U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, the transportation committee’s ranking member, once or twice a month and made two other lobbying calls, one to a U.S. Department of Transportation official and another to a House staffer. During those months, much of his work — 65 calls — consisted of consulting with his clients or another Metra lobbyist.
Things picked up later in the year, as the federal transportation authorization bill — the first long-term road and transit bill in 10 years — finally moved through Congress. It became law in December.
Lipinski’s lobbying intensified in the fall, reporting to the CTA and Metra that he made seven contacts with members of Congress in September, seven in October and nine in November. On behalf of Metra, he also left a voicemail message for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. And, as before, he made many more calls to CTA and Metra officials.
|Photo by Mike Shadle|
In November, he reported to Metra that he spoke with three senior members of the transportation committee — DeFazio, James Duncan and Jerry Nadler — about “what Metra needed in the bill, what they didn’t want in the bill and how to add more funding in the bill.”
And he reported to the CTA that he spoke with those same congressmen “about what the CTA needed in the bill, what they didn’t want in the bill and how to add more funding in the bill.”
Asked about the overlap, Oberman said he had concerns when he learned Lipinski lobbied for both Metra and the CTA but came to feel that he represented both effectively. Also, Oberman said, the agencies weren’t competing for the same funding.
A CTA spokesman said Lipinski worked on one issue of particular concern to the agency — an attempt to put restrictions on transit funding that would have threatened plans to modernize the Red Line and Purple Line.
Dan Lipinski, who declined to comment for this story, authored an amendment to preserve the funding and spoke on the floor of Congress Nov. 4 about its importance. The amendment was passed.
The CTA spokesman said the elder Lipinski lobbied other members of Congress on the issue.