After Puerto Rico’s airport was privatized, we learned that the other consultant to government, Credit Suisse, had a major stake in a corporation affiliated with a contract bidder. Credit Suisse sold its interest only after the process was well under way or, more precisely, after it was caught red-handed. A similar case is playing out in St. Louis. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently revealed that Dimensional Fund Advisors, a company owned by Rex Sinquefield, the billionaire bankrolling St. Louis’ privatization effort, would profit both from the exploration process itself and the selection of a certain bidder. While Mayor Lyda Krewson dismissed this obvious conflict of interest, these connections should concern city residents.
In both cities, airport privatization has drawn players from the highest levels of big-money conservative politics. In Puerto Rico, Highstar Capital, the main financial partner in Aerostar, contributed $175,000 to the Republican Governors Association, which then ran an unprecedented ad campaign in support of Gov. Luis Fortuño. Fortuño was the initial promoter for the airport’s privatization. Overlapping personnel also linked Highstar to de la Cruz & Associates, a firm that ran Fortuño’s reelection campaign while holding more than $65 million in government contracts.
St. Louis is using Andrew McKenna, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and anti-labor groups, to move the privatization process forward. Privatization is not apolitical, and privatizing major U.S. airports is high on the right-wing agenda.