For a 77-year-old nonprofit group with substantial Washington clout, the American Highway Users Alliance keeps a pretty low profile.
Its members are not listed on its website, but interested parties are asked a few questions: "Are you outraged by the deaths of 120 people each day on our roads? Are you pro-environment AND pro-highway?" Average commuters might be lulled into thinking they could join with the click of a mouse.
But the Alliance has a specific agenda — which is on full display in the lobbying filings of Greg Cohen, its president and CEO.
During the first half of this year, Cohen reported working to "support additional supplies of domestic oil," "oppose the placement of tolls and congestion pricing on existing toll-free roads," and "support maximum funding for highways," among other goals.
That maximum cash for highways, in the Alliance’s view, should continue to relegate transit to 20 percent of federal aid. If Congress’ upcoming six-year transportation bill "starts looking more negative on highways," Cohen warned last month, "there is potential that the whole bill could be slowed down here."
Moreover, the Alliance mobilized to oppose the climate bill passed by the House last month and lobbied against Senate legislation that would set national transportation priorities such as emissions reduction and transit expansion.
Cohen also reported lobbying in favor of government loans for U.S. automakers — an appropriate priority given that the Alliance’s 2007 directors included senior lobbyists at Ford, GM, and Toyota, according to its tax returns.
The Alliance has been called many things, from "a leading nonprofit, nonpartisan group that advocates for improved mobility and safety" to "an advocacy group representing a wide range of motorists," but its true identity is best described as a card-carrying member of the road lobby.