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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Interest Group v. Interest Group

At the New York Times, Eric Lipton reports that the railroad industry paid for David Latimer, vice chairman of the National Troopers Coalition, to lobby against bigger trucks. Congress is about to consider enewal of the Highway Trust Fund.  The trucking industry wants to insert language allowing bigger trucks,while the railroad industry wants to block it. Both sides are having law enforcement officers front for them.
And those highly unusual tactics are already having consequences. After inquiries from The New York Times, Mr. Latimer was forced out from his post at the National Troopers Coalition.

But both sides are using tactics that could be seen as deceptive. The railroad industry, through an organization called Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, has paid the airfare and hotel bills for Mr. Latimer, a retired South Carolina state trooper, to come to Washington, and it has done the same for police chiefs, state troopers and sheriffs from states including Michigan, Ohio and Texas. It even put Mr. Latimer on its payroll, compensating him nearly $70,000 a year.
For its part, the trucking industry, which includes major carriers like FedEx and UPS, has paid a scholar at a university institute to produce a report, which found that trucks with twin, 33-foot trailers would be more stable than the twin, 28-foot trailers now allowed on federal roadways. But in a fact sheet the trucking industry group put out last month, it did not make it clear that this was an industry-funded report. And it has recruited its own law enforcement officers to counter the likes of Mr. Latimer. But one Montana state trooper said the trucking industry had falsely attributed quotations to him in a document it is circulating.
“It is the big boys fighting the big boys,” said Joan Claybrook, a former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who has watched the campaigning escalate in the past month. “And it is utterly amazing how much money they will burn, and the tricks they will use on both sides to get their message to a key member of Congress.”
“Quite frankly, 95 percent of the members of Congress don’t want to hear from a lobbyist,” said Mr. Latimer, who still serves as the executive director of the South Carolina Troopers Association. “A sheriff, a trooper, a chief of police; if the message is coming from them, it makes it much more likely they will listen.”
At The Los Angeles Times, Emily Alpert Reyes reports on Airbnb, which matches travelers with homeowners willing to rent their homes.
Venture capitalists threw money its way, pushing its value toward $20 billion and inspiring a slew of imitators to jump into the water. As such websites have grown in popularity, some users have taken the "sharing" model to another level, operating entire homes and buildings much like hotels.

Not everyone is thrilled.

Housing activists say the phenomenon of offering whole apartments and houses has pushed affordable rentals off the already tight market.

Hotel employee unions warn that this new way for travelers to bypass traditional lodging could undermine hard-fought victories for the people who eke out a living by vacuuming hotel rooms or making up beds.

Neighborhood activists say the main thing being disrupted is their quality of life.

And both fans and foes are taking their fight into the arena of politics and PR.

Critics have banded together in such groups as Keep Neighborhoods First, a coalition that wants L.A. city agencies to crack down on "commercialized" rentals in banned areas.

Housing and neighborhood activists have found allies in labor groups worried about Airbnb rentals becoming an unregulated alternative to hotels where they have won victories.

Meanwhile, Airbnb alone spent more than $100,000 last year lobbying city officials.