Former timber industry lobbyist, current Undersecretary of Agriculture overseeing the U.S. Forest Service, Mark Rey, looks to be the point man on President Bush's new plan to sell off public lands. The primary beneficiaries of such a sale would no doubt be real estate developers.
So it is quite interesting to find out that Rey appears to be beholden to at least one major real estate developerone who happens to be based right here in San Antonio: B. J. "Red" McCombs. The Denver Post reported last week:
Texas billionaire B.J. "Red" McCombs, who wants the U.S. Forest Service to let him build a huge ski village atop a southwestern Colorado pass, lobbied to get the official who oversees the agency appointed, and McCombs and his allies have since met repeatedly with the official to discuss the controversial project, records and interviews show.A fascinating article that contains much, much moreexposing yet another link in the culture of corruption amongst Republicans who run our federal government.
McCombs and his partner pushed to have Mark Rey, a longtime timber-industry lobbyist, appointed undersecretary of agriculture, overseeing the Forest Service.
The project is opposed by many local residents, environmentalists and even by the owners of the ski area, who have sued McCombs.
U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., who represents the area in Congress, also is opposed.
Michele Ames, spokeswoman for the ski-hill owners, said their position "has been all along that they've been supportive of some kind of development. The issue has become the size of the development. ... It strikes at the lifeblood of the ski hill."
In order to build his project, known as Village at Wolf Creek, McCombs needs Forest Service permission to build a 250-foot road across federal land so visitors can reach his property from the nearby highway.
McCombs is a San Antonio car dealer who co-founded Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio company. He's bought and sold basketball's Denver Nuggets and football's Minnesota Vikings.
He is a longtime donor to Republicans and a friend of the family of President Bush. He's given more than $475,000 to congressional and presidential campaigns since 1989, 91 percent of it to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
McCombs and his associates have been pushing some version of the ski-village plan since the 1980s. When Bush took office in 2001, McCombs saw an opportunity to help get a friendly official placed over the Forest Service, which would decide his access- road request, records indicate.
According to a letter from [McCombs' main spokesman and development partner, Bob] Honts to McCombs provided by ski-area attorneys, McCombs lobbied for the appointment of Rey to the Bush administration post that controls the Forest Service.
McCombs tapped for help former U.S. Rep. Tom Loeffler, R-Texas, now a Texas lobbyist and a top fundraiser for Bush.
It's not clear whom McCombs and Loeffler approached on Rey's behalf. But after Rey was selected, Honts wrote a letter to McCombs regarding Rey's appointment.
"It is my understanding that your effort and former Congressman Leffler's efforts had an impact at exactly the right time in the process," said Honts' letter, which misspelled the representative's name, regarding the lobbying effort for Rey. "Obviously, the team effort worked."
In an interview, Honts acknowledged the lobbying campaign. He said he and McCombs backed Rey because "we were advised by people who'd been working for Village at Wolf Creek that he's a very good guy."
After Rey's appointment, Honts got access to him at key steps in the process of reviewing the Village at Wolf Creek proposal, according to Rey's calendars, obtained by The Post.
Right now, we can only imagine what underhanded machinations lie behind the surface of this new public lands sale, proposed by Bush, and run by friend-of-billionaire-real-estate-developers Mark Rey.