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Wendell Cox, Reason Institute Blow "Impartiality" Cover

Light Rail Progress • February 2001 (Rev. March 2001)

One of the most notorious "hired guns" for the roadway industry and anti-transit, anti-rail zealots is the nationally known, self-styled "consultant", Wendell Cox. Cox has established a reputation for himself both as a roadway industry publicist and, particularly, as a "professional expert" opposing light rail transit (LRT) projects.

Cox and a gaggle of cohorts portray themselves as "independent", "scholarly" analysts, supposedly enlightening the public and policymakers as to the fatal weaknesses of public transit, and of rail systems in particular. Many critics, on the other hand, contend that Cox, other "professional" rail opponents, and various self-styled "think tanks" with far-right extremist agendas like the Los Angeles-based Reason Public Policy institute (RPPi – a creature of the rightwing libertarian Reason Foundation) are far from "neutral", "scholarly" experts. Instead, say critics, Cox and his ilk are nothing more than highly biased crusaders for roadways and road-based transportation industrial interests (such as asphalt and rubber-tire vendors), who distort facts through misrepresentation and cleverly selective manipulation of data to mislead their audience. Like Cox, the RPPi has focused its resources on extolling the wonders of "rubber-tire transit" (rolling, naturally, on asphalt and concrete) – all behind the facade of disinterested, altruistic, intellectual endeavor, of course.

in the case of some of these anti-rail zealots, researchers have bird-dogged the money trail. Wendell Cox, for example, has been on the bankroll of the American Highway Users Alliance, a lobbying group founded in the 1930s by General Motors Corp. And, according to a June 1999 Texas Observer article, the Wendell Cox Consultancy has done a lot of work for private bus companies who bid on the very contracts which Cox promotes after rail projects are scuttled.

Sources: Taylor Bowlden, AHUA Director of Government Affairs, 2000; Texas Observer, June 1999

Recently, Wendell Cox and the Reason Public Policy institute have taken further actions which compromise their pretense at "impartiality". In early January, Cox and the libertarian institute were exposed as participants in an "advisory" committee for the Republican transition team of US Presidential designee George W. Bush. Here's an excerpt of a report from the publication Transfer Extra:

For the Bush transition, transportation is being covered by a four-person team that is receiving input from an advisory panel made up partly of major party donors. Members of the advisory panel include numerous lobbyists, three former U.S. secretaries of transportation, three states' transportation secretaries, and several associations and companies with transportation interests such as the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the Reason Public Policy Institute, and Wendell Cox Consultancy.

Source: Transfer Extra 2001/01/05 Vol. 7, issue1

Whether either Cox or the institute was one of the "major party donors" on the advisory panel is not indicated.

Curiously, while Cox appears to have kept his involvement with the Bush campaign somewhat more low-key, the RPPI (long criticized as basically a propaganda mill of far rightwing libertarianism) actually boasts about its involvement. "Reason Foundation Lands Three Key Bush Transition Slots" proclaims the headline of an RPPi news release (2001/01/09) which brags that two Reason "senior policy experts" were "tapped" to serve on Bush's environmental policy transition advisory team, while Robert Poole, described as "Director of Transportation Studies for RPPi and Founder of Reason Foundation", was "tapped" to serve on Bush's transportation transition advisory team.

For his part, Wendell Cox's own resume, published on his website, boasts of his own assistance to rightwing Republican political campaigns. For example, Cox brags that he "Designed 25 percent property tax reduction program for Nebraska gubernatorial candidate John Breslow. This program was the central plank in the candidate's unsuccessful bid for the 1998 Republican nomination." Likewise, Cox boasts that he was "Appointed to the George W. Bush presidential campaign transportation policy committee (1999)" – in other words, he served as an advisor on transportation policy for the George W. Bush presidential campaign in its earliest stages.

In participating in such clearly partisan policymaking activities – particularly the Bush "transition" group, and especially after such a controversial electoral process – Cox has clearly further damaged his purported role as an "independent", "impartial" researcher and consultant. This is particularly the case in the field of transportation, where political partisanship continuously intervenes in what should be a process of sober, rational decisionmaking. Likewise for the "independent think tank" status of the RPPI.

Transportation planning, and the evaluation of options and alternatives, demands a nonpartisan, truly unbiased environment, where researchers and analysts – and their consultants – bring open minds and impartiality to bear on these problems and potential solutions. Clearly, both in their ties to highway-oriented corporate interests and their obvious political alignments, Wendell Cox and the Reason group have demonstrated that their role in such an open-minded environment is highly questionable.

Rev. 2001/03/02

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