Thursday, March 04, 2004


Today's Inquirer reports that State GOP Chairman Alan Paul Novak was paid $10,000/month by United Transit Systems, LLC, according to documents released by the company.

Novak's firm was hired at the $10,000 monthly fee in 2002 to "actively" contact SEPTA board members to "introduce" the South Korean firm, the form states.

"This introduction has been educational in nature covering the company's history... . Initial contact with SEPTA board members began in December 2002 and will continue through 2003," the form states.

Along with Novak, the lobbyists actively working on United Transit's behalf for that fee were Craig L. Tucker, an employee of Novak's firm, and Albert Mezzaroba, a Philadelphia Democrat and president of the Convention Center, who is a fishing buddy of Pasquale "Pat" Deon, chairman of the SEPTA board of directors.

The report also notes that Kawasaki, who successfully obtained an injunction against SEPTA regarding the Silverliner V contract last month, also had hired former SEPTA executive Robert G. Bickhart, but failed to file the proper disclosure forms with the FTA.

Kawasaki said it interpreted the requirements differently. It concluded it only had to file a brief statement certifying that it was neither using federal funds for lobbying nor lobbying federal officials. Kawasaki did file that statement with SEPTA.

A Kawasaki official yesterday contended that Bickhart, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.), was a "representative" rather than a "lobbyist."

"Lobbying is if you're trying to influence," Kawasaki marketing manager Jitendra Tomar said.

"We never did that kind of thing... . You could say he [Bickhart] is our representative... to keep a watch on what these Koreans are doing... to see and give us information on that. I am very clear he is not a lobbyist."

Reached yesterday, Bickhart said he was not a lobbyist for Kawasaki.

"I was helping them discern their way around SEPTA and the region, and who might be important people to be in contact with," Bickhart said. He described his role as a "government affairs" consultant.

It certainly sounds like splitting hairs to me. Whether or not this has an impact on the March 15 court hearing remains to be seen.

In addition, Sumitomo Corporation, another unsuccessful bidder, had hired former SEPTA Board member Robert Wooten to lobby the board. Wooten was reportedly paid $20,000 for his services.

Bombardier reportedly did not hire an outside lobbyist as part of the Silverliner V procurement.

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