Reporter banned from secret meeting on selling U.S. assets, TX Senator John Carona to speak

Link to article here. Senator John Carona is a listed speaker for this conference on privatization. After encouraging Senator Robert Nichols to file a private toll moratorium, Carona then tried to kill the bill in his committee (privately telling a pro-toll industry magnate that the moratorium “was bad public policy”) and then later brokered a back room deal, SB 792, with pro-toll, pro-privatization Governor Rick Perry. Then in yet another flip-flop, Carona tried to act outraged that TxDOT was trying to circumvent the moratorium by attempting to continue to funnel money to private entities in his hearing August 7. So in public, it’s outrage over privatization, in private, it’s give privatization a green light. So who knows what Carona will say at this conference since they’re banning a reporter from telling the public what our elected officials are saying about the most controversial road financing scheme in Texas history.

Reporter banned from secret meeting on selling U.S. assets

‘We don’t feel WND is appropriate for a business conference’
September 19, 2007
© 2007

EuroMoney PLC, the UK-based company that arranges dozens of financial conferences around the world each year, has refused to allow WND staff reporter Jerome Corsi to attend next week’s “North American PPP (Public-Private Partnership) & Infrastructure Finance Conference” in New York, even though WND offered to pay the $1,999 conference fee required to attend.

“When government officials want to go behind closed doors with investment bankers and lawyers to discuss selling our public infrastructure to foreign investment leaders, investigative reporters need to be there to tell the public what is really going on,” Corsi said.

“Why is it that all these PPP and SPP (Security and Prosperity Partnership) meetings are behind closed doors,” Corsi asked, “and government officials and their supporters think that’s normal? But when investigative reporters want to attend and report on what is being said, we are the ones who get accused of being the conspiracy theorists?”

“By refusing to allow WND to attend as a paying customer,” Corsi argued, “EuroMoney is telling the American public that they intend to conduct a secret meeting designed to teach government officials how to sell out U.S. public infrastructure to foreign investment concerns.” “I’m sure we will all be told that EuroMoney seminars and PPP structures are really for our ‘security and prosperity,’ just as President Bush asserts for the SPP itself,” Corsi continued. “Evidently we are just supposed to close our eyes and trust government officials, investment bankers and international lawyers, putting aside national security concerns and other economic issues which we believe may be of concern to our readers.” According to the conference brochure, the purpose of the EuroMoney seminar is to teach state and local government officials in the U.S. how to lease a wide range of public assets to international and foreign private investment groups. “Your online news service is known for its political rather than business content,” EuroMoney’s Joanna Johnson explained yesterday to WND in an e-mail, while refusing to allow Corsi permission to attend the conference. “We don’t feel it’s appropriate for a business conference.”

In an Aug. 29 e-mail, Johnson told WND that the seminar was “only open to those who are internal to EuroMoney or those with whom we have a media partnership. In this instance I am unable to extend a press pass to your organization.”

WND then offered to pay the full registration fee.

In response, Johnson sent a second Aug. 29 e-mail asking WND for payment details and confirming that Corsi could attend, provided WND paid the full registration fee as offered.

Yesterday’s e-mail shutting the door to Corsi came after WND pressed EuroMoney to send an invoice.

“So, EuroMoney made a political decision to keep me out of their private meeting,” Corsi commented, “but WND is the one EuroMoney objects to as being too political. Seems to me like a case of guilty conscience where EuroMoney is accusing WND of a fault EuroMoney knows itself to be committing.”

Public-private partnerships, or PPPs, were authorized by Executive Order No. 12803 President George H.W. Bush signed on April 30, 1992, clearing federal barriers for cities and states to lease public works infrastructures to private investors.

Writing in WND, Corsi has repeatedly exposed the PPP structure the Texas Department of Transportation has used to allow Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, a foreign investment consortium in Spain, to finance the Trans-Texas Corridor, retaining for Cintra resulting rights to operate and receive tolls from TTC superhighways for 50 years after completion.

Corsi first exposed the EuroMoney seminar agenda in an article published in WND on Jan. 5, discussing an earlier EuroMoney seminar on PPP financing of public infrastructure projects scheduled for Miami in March, entitled “PPP: The North American Private Partnerships Intensive Seminar.”

“This is an outrageous affront to freedom of the press,” Corsi said, “but it affirms the government officials and investment bankers who are pushing PPP structures have something to hide.”

The EuroMoney brochure for next week’s seminar in New York indicates that attendees will include officials from the state departments of transportation in Virginia, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Texas, Delaware, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

Other attendees will be investment bankers including managing directors from the Carlyle Group, Nuveen Asset Management, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, AIG Highstar, Allstate Investments and Morgan Stanley.

The brochure names David Narefsky as the workshop leader.

Narefsky is listed as a partner in the Government Practice Group of the law firm Mayer, Brown, Row, and Maw, an international law firm that “has been counsel in the major privatizing transactions that have been completed or are now under way in the United States, including the Chicago Skyway, the Indiana Toll Road and Chicago-Midway Airport.”

The brochure further notes that Narefsky has played “a leading role in these transactions,” crediting Narefsky as being “actively involved in the drafting and analysis of PPP legislation for various state and local jurisdictions.”

In the Jan. 5 WND article, Corsi reported a spokesman for EuroMoney in the UK told WND the target office was government employees at the state and local level who want to learn the “how-to” of putting deals together such as the one by Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte to finance the Trans-Texas Corridor.

The EuroMoney seminar brochure notes a director of Cintra from Spain is scheduled to attend the conference and speak to the attendees.

Panels at the New York seminar are scheduled to discuss the Trans-Texas Corridor, taking up such topics as “Is the politics a knee-jerk or a ground swell?” “Reviewing current activity in the state legislature,” “What will the effect be on different states and the industry in general?” “Will Texas deals get through the instability?” and “What does this mean for equity partners?”

WND has reported Texas Gov. Rick Perry has vetoed a series of laws passed overwhelming by the Texas legislature with the intent of blocking TTC superhighway construction altogether, or at a minimum placing a two-year moratorium on the project.

The 300 senior decision-makers from state government, investment banking, and legal counsel that Money expects to attend the New York meeting will hear seminars instructing them how to create private finance deals on public infrastructure projects including toll roads, water treatment and waste management facilities, port infrastructure, state lotteries, airports, municipal parking, and military housing developments.

“The complex nature of politics in North America has led to challenges for financiers, investors and contractors in convincing all from local to national levels that PPP is an accountable and credible form of public finance,” the EuroMoney conference brochure notes. “Moreover, on an electoral level, those in the public sector that have pushed for such solutions have often had to fight hard to gain public acceptance. What is clear is that to push projects through, strong leadership is needed, along with effective communication and an increasingly credible history of procurement success.”

The conference chairman is scheduled to be Tom Nelthorpe, the editor of Project Finance Magazine, a EuroMoney publication promoting private investment structures in public infrastructure deals.