Taxpayers pay for Honolulu rail project lobbyistUPDATED 7:11 PM HST Oct 16, 2013Video Transcript
U-S these days... But right now Honolulu's rail project is banking on a very powerful lobbyist. And YOU'RE paying for it! Exclusive tonight ... KITV4s Andrew Pereira tells us about the D-C lobbyist on the HART payroll since 2007. Andrew? Yunji, Paula... In 1998 Denis Dwyer was ranked as one of the "Hottest Appropriations Lobbyists" in the country. His services don't come cheap! When lawmakers and trade unions go to bat for rail money, it doesn't cost you a dime.. But when an influential Washington, DC lobbyist steps in... it costs plenty. $1.43 million AND COUNTING. DAN GRABAUSKAS: "FROM MY EXPERIENCE IN TERMS OF WHAT WE'RE PAYING AND WHAT WE'RE GETTING, IT'S A GOOD DEAL FOR US." Most of the lobbying on behalf of the rail project is being done by Denis Dwyer of the beltway firm Williams and Jensen. Grabauskas says Dwyer is the person on point in D.C. when questions are raised about rail. DAN GRABAUSKAS: "IF THEY HAVE A REAL-TIME QUESTION IN WASHINGTON, D.C. WHEN IT'S 3 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING HERE, WE HAVE TO HAVE SOMEBODY THERE, OR WE MAY END UP ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR OF SOME COMMITTEE." Dwyer has a long history of working on behalf of transit projects and is no stranger to Hawaii. He lobbied on behalf of mass transit under former Mayor Frank Fasi, and has donated to the political campaigns of Neil Abercrombie, Mufi Hannemann and Dan Inouye. Dwyer's so good, HART awarded Williams and Jensen a new contract in July... another $900,000 for the next three years. CLIFF SLATER: "I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY NEED TO SPEND THAT MUCH MONEY, IT'S JUST RIDICULOUS." Rail critics question the spending, especially since the rail project has already been guaranteed more than $1.5 billion federal dollars. CLIFF SLATER: "I DON'T SEE THE POINT OF LOBBYING WHEN THEY'VE ALREADY BEEN GIVEN A COMMITMENT FOR THE MONEY IN THE FUTURE." Although the funding agreement obligates the feds to pay up, Grabauskas says the amount appropriated by Congress every fiscal year is NOT guaranteed. DAN GRABAUSKAS: "WE HAVE TO FIGHT EVERY YEAR FOR THE APPROPRIATION. SO, IT'S AN EFFORT THAT HE HELPS US TO COORDINATE." However rail opponents believe they have a more plausible explanation for the expensive lobbying effort... $2.3 million if the new 3-year contract is fulfilled. CLIFF SLATER: "YOU'RE ONLY GOING TO NEED LOBBYING EFFORTS IF YOU'RE ANTICIPATING COST OVERRUNS, CAUSE THE REST OF IT IS ALREADY SPOKEN FOR." Transit officials have stated repeatedly the $5-point-3 billion dollar project WILL finish on time and on budget. HART is allowed to cancel its contract with the lobbying firm at any time without penalty. Back to you.