Congressman Darrell Issa Launches Probe Into the California High Speed Rail Authority

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Chariman Issa
San Diego County Congressman Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of a powerful congressional committee, yesterday told California High Speed Rail Authority officials to preserve records in anticipation of an investigation into potential corruption.

Among Issa's concerns about the Authority include possible conflicts of interest and financial shenanigans.

The agency has significant Orange County ties: Former Anaheim Mayor and present day Republican corporate lobbyist Curt Pringle served as chairman during the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger administration and ex-OC state Assemblyman Thomas J. Umberg, a Democrat, is presently a board member.

Issa--the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform--is particularly interested in the Authority's use of $4 billion in federal funds and a $2.7 billion bond as well as the agency's route selection.

The public project, which aims to eventually connect San Francisco to San Diego with high speed rail, has raised eyebrows because of wildly fluctuating cost projections. Initially, officials said the price was $45 billion. It then ballooned to $98 billion. The latest figure is $68 billion.

(I know from experience covering California government agencies that to get a more accurate picture of a project's costs you must multiple by three whatever number bureaucrats claim.)

Earlier this week, OC Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez blasted the Authority for eliminating the Los Angeles to Anaheim (Disneyland) leg in the first phase of the project. Sanchez believes the move doesn't make economic sense. But Authority officials claim the leg would cost $6 billion and the money is better used elsewhere.

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