Dulles Airport Taxi Contract Prompts Questions About Political Alliances
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Brian Moran loved the clarity of being a prosecutor. He took a hard line on drunk drivers and put away a rapist who bound his victim with a telephone cord. "You really felt like you were righting wrongs, doing justice," he said.
After going into private practice in the 1990s, a struggling group of cabbies at Dulles International Airport appealed to the same instinct. Dozens were arrested after striking over work conditions, and Moran came to their defense. "I don't like bullies," he said.
It was an ideal case for a crusading lawyer and ambitious Democratic legislator eager to build a public image. Moran won acquittals for the cabdrivers in 1999, and helped push airport officials to oust the cabbies' boss, Farouq Massoud, whom Moran had blamed for overcharging and overworking them. "I hounded him out of there," Moran said.
But in 2005, Moran went to work as a consultant for Massoud and helped him win back the Dulles cab contract, according to records and interviews.
"When you cannot beat him, join him, right?" Massoud said recently.
A close Moran ally who chaired the airport's governing board, Mary A. "Mame" Reiley, cast a vote in 2007 bringing Massoud back as one of three contractors running cabs at Dulles. The year before, she also delayed a key vote, which allowed Massoud to stay in the running for the contract, public records and interviews show.
Reiley now chairs Moran's campaign for governor, and at the time of the 2007 vote was being paid by Moran's political action committee as a consultant, according to state and Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority records.
Reiley said she received no financial benefit from Massoud's taxi contract, and that she worked for Moran the politician, not Moran the lawyer. Moran also said there was no connection.
"His legal thing, his law office, was totally separate," Reiley said. "He had a law firm, and then he's a political person with a political PAC. So I was being paid for overall consulting in his bid for governor."
Moran's work for Massoud just a few years after opposing him shows that a life in politics and private legal practice sometimes creates tensions. Under the intense scrutiny of a gubernatorial campaign, where Moran finds himself today, not every decision fits neatly into the narrative that candidates choose to present to the public.
On the stump, he emphasizes his accomplishments strengthening laws against drunken driving, not his work helping some drunk drivers get limited licenses back. He campaigns as a buttress against suburban sprawl, not as a consultant who wrote to a state agency on behalf of an Alexandria real estate firm.
Moran says he always had the cabdrivers' interests in mind in his work for Massoud, and he made sure Massoud's proposal treated them well. "We got concessions for the drivers, and he ended up getting the contract," Moran said. Indeed, labor strife appears to be at an ebb now in what can, even without a deep recession, be a grueling job.