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GETTING TAKEN FOR A ROAD

If you want a peek at Trump’s grandiose infrastructure plan, look at how Indiana drove the privatization of public roads into a ditch

PRESIDENT DONALD Trump’s $1 trillion plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure may be unprecedented in size and ambition, but it mimics a controversial scheme championed by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana’s governor. That’s why he is the public face of the Trump initiative, and executives from financial companies that helped privatize Indiana’s toll road are in the White House, sculpting Trump’s national plan.

Pence and his allies like to boast about how Indiana sold control of major roads to private companies, claiming the move prompted corporations to invest money in infrastructure that would otherwise have been funded by taxpayers. But opponents say Indiana made some bad deals that offer a cautionary tale of get-rich-quick scheming, secrecy and cronyism that led the state to sell off valuable assets that were then mismanaged.

Public-private partnerships involve private companies investing in, constructing or maintaining public assets such as roads, bridges and airports, in exchange for those companies raking in tolls, fees or other revenues generated by those assets. The model—sometimes called “asset recycling”— has been prevalent in Australia, Asia and Europe, and since the turn of the 21st century, more American cities and states have begun to embrace it. Few, however, have been as aggressive as Indiana in pursuing such partnerships.

The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it will take $4.6 trillion to maintain and upgrade infrastructure throughout the U.S., a ripe profit opportunity for politically connected companies. Trump recently secured a pledge by Saudi Arabia’s government to invest billions in American infrastructure. That money is slated to flow through Blackstone Group LP—the private equity company run by Trump adviser Stephen Schwarzman.

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BLAME CLINTON? When Gennifer Flowers went public about her a air with then-Governor Bill Clinton, she called a press conference that devolved from farce to vaudeville. It became clear that the retaining wall between news and entertainment had collapsed.
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