Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Who is Wendell Cox?

Some months ago, when congressional anti-Amtrak point man John Boozman (R-Wal Mart) started mouthing nonsense about Amtrak causing pollution, it was something of a mystery about where he might have picked up this kind of illogical dawdle. Now that the “Heartland Institute” is publishing an entire book authored by Mr. Cox on the subject, the veil has been lifted.

Some helpful background. First, an item from Light Rail Now.

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.

Cox is a self-employed privatization proponent living in the St. Louis area. He is a hired gun who has worked to kill light rail proposals in Milwaukee, Chicago, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Seattle, St. Louis, Denver, Dallas, San Antonio, and Auckland, New Zeland. He likes to travel, just not by rail.

There is an excellent PDF file which further demonstrates his ability to falsely manipulate numbers to the advantage of his corporate owners.

Wendell Cox’s sole purpose is to dismantle Amtrak’s long distance passenger train operation. Since he does not hesitate to make up facts, or the rules, as he goes along, this will be a tough fight.

There are some further theories about where Cox is getting his money on this, but that is nothing but supposition. Our side needs to go on the offensive early. Read the post just below on the attack which has been launched on long distance trains.


Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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September 2007