Special Report: Jim Moran and the Mark Center

The Mark Center issue has fallen off the public radar in recent years, and RetireJimMoran must admit that the transition has not caused as much as a problem as was predicted and expected by the media. But the issue has still caused headaches for a number of commuters.

Even though the opening of the Mark Center hasn’t caused as much of a problem as we thought, the story still needs to be told as a question of Jim Moran’s integrity, or lack thereof, on this issue.

The full story is available here on RetireJimMoran.com at our Special Report: Jim Moran and the Mark Center. It is posted below in full with updates and new details.

First, the basics. BRAC is a process carried out by the Defense Department and Congress when consolidation of military bases and resources is needed. The most recent BRAC process began in 2005, with the changes scheduled to be implemented no later than September 15, 2011. It was decided DOD offices in Crystal City would be closed and the 6,400 federal workers who work there would be relocated to one of three sites – the Victory Center at Eisenhower Avenue, the Engineer Proving Ground at Fort Belvoir, the General Services Administration facility in Springfield, or the Mark Center site in Alexandria on Seminary Road. The GSA site is Metro-accessible and was already owned by the federal government. The Mark Center is not Metro accessible, meaning that the thousands of workers who took Metro to the Crystal City offices would be forced to drive, further clogging 395.

The Fort Belvoir site was ruled out after a study showed that it would cause major congestion along 395 and Route 1. The Mark Center site appeared to be a bad idea as well, with no Metro access, potentially forcing thousands of DOD workers onto 395. The Eisenhower Avenue site would have been manageable. However, the clearest choice appeared to by the GSA facility in Springfield, which is Metro-accessible and was already owned by the federal government.

In October 2008, the Army announced it had chosen the Mark Center site, saying considerations of “cost, the schedule, security requirements, transportation and other critical factors” led them to choose the Mark Center.

When the decision was announced, Moran issued a statement saying, “Preventing the Washington Headquarters Service [a division of DOD] from moving to the Engineer Proving Ground [at Fort Belvoir] benefits the region’s commuters. Transportation studies showed that locating the headquarters there as dictated in the Army’s original plan would increase commuting times along I-395 and Route 1 by two to three hours per day. In that respect, this decision is a victory for Northern Virginia commuters.”1 In fairness, Moran did support the GSA site in Springfield, but the point remains that he praised the Mark Center site.

Shortly after the decision was announced, the federal government bought the Mark Center land, totaling 16 acres, for $105 million from Duke Realty. Three weeks after the sale, Dennis Oklak, CEO of Duke Realty and a resident of Indiana, made a maximum $2,300 contribution to Moran’s re-election campaign.2 On the same day, he made a maximum $5,000 contribution to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Oklak had never contributed to any candidate prior to that, and has not contributed to any candidate after that13 – in fact, his only other political contributions are yearly maximum $5,000 donations to a PAC called the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.13

After Clark Construction was contracted to build the Mark Center towers for $695 million, Clark executives contributed $10,900 to Moran’s campaign.3

As the public found out how the Mark Center would create even more massive gridlock on I-395 during rush hour, Moran became very vocal, making a media blitz acting like he had nothing to do with the Mark Center choice and was powerless to stop it, even though 1) he is the senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and thus carries enormous clout over these decisions and 2) nothing of this scale happens in the 8th District without him having a say. He was re-elected in November 2010 after convincing voters of just that. In May 2011, he said, “I just have to say [I am] disgusted with some of the people who, either through indifference or wrongheadedness, have allowed this to happen.”4

Moran began pushing hard to stop the move. In 2010, he inserted language into the 2011 defense authorization bill capping parking spaces at the Mark Center site at 1,000, saying, “They can fill the office building as long as they don’t drive to it.”3 His strategy was to delay the move, thus keeping DOD in their Crystal City offices as long as possible.

Here’s the twist on that aspect. Vornado Realty owned the building in which the DOD’s Crystal City offices were located. If the 6,400 DOD workers in their building were to move, Vornado and the surrounding businesses which serve the workers would take a huge hit. So a month after it was decided in May 2005 that the workers would be relocated, Vornado hired the giant lobbying firm Patton Boggs.5

On August 26, 2005, Moran got $500 checks from Vornado CEO Steven Roth of New York City,67 CFO Joseph Macnow of New Jersey,8 and New York division president David Greenbaum of New York City.9

The money continued to flow, as the four executives contributed identical amounts on the same day. On 9/14/2007, all four men contributed another $500 each. On 9/8/2008, all except Greenbaum contributed $2,000 each. And on 10/28/2010, as the controversy raged, all four contributed the maximum $2,400 each.

Moran received a total of $17,000 from Vornado executives and the Vornado PAC in the 2008 election cycle. The money has also flowed from Patton Boggs – $9,900 in the 2005-2006 cycle10 and $9,700 in 2007-200811 from its executives and PAC. After the Pentagon announced in 2009 it would keep its lease with Vornado through 2014 and as Moran began pushing to delay the Mark Center move, the money from Patton Boggs increased to $11,600 in 2009-2010, and Vornado gave him $16,800 in 2009-2010, more than any other company or group in that period.12

Let’s summarize – Moran allowed and applauded the choice of the Mark Center, and got campaign cash from the companies who benefited from the choice. Then, after getting campaign cash from the company who would lose big from the choice and realizing he could harness public outrage for his own gain, he started trying to stop DOD from using the Mark Center.

Jim Moran benefited from this whole mess. He managed to convince voters that he was fighting for them, while he was taking cash on the side from corrupt company executives. He garnered much public sentiment. In 2011 during a forum sponsored by Moran, yours truly was told by Moran’s chief of staff that our assertions were false and that the facts we presented attendees of the forum in fliers were not true. I gave him my email address and phone number, and told him to send me a rebuttal/response and I would publish it verbatim on RetireJimMoran.com. I have not heard from him since. Also in 2011, yours truly called into a radio show on which Moran was discussing the Mark Center and confronted him directly with the facts. He said I was telling falsehoods, even though you can see the sources for yourself below.

This whole story shows that Jim Moran is a liar, a con artist, and a corrupt politician. Let’s not reward him on Election Day.

1. Fort Belvoir Eagle, October 2, 2008
2. FEC records
3. Washington Examiner, January 4, 2011
4. Fairfax Station Patch, May 17, 2011
5. Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org)
6. FEC records
7. FEC records
8. FEC records
9. FEC records
10. Center for Responsive Politics
11. Center for Responsive Politics
12. Center for Responsive Politics
13. FEC Records