Lehane to help Bay Bridge construction firms shield criticism

SAN FRANCISCO: An embattled coalition of construction companies working on a new span of the Bay Bridge has hired political PR maven Chris Lehane to help ward off mounting accusations and legal troubles.

SAN FRANCISCO: An embattled coalition of construction companies working on a new span of the Bay Bridge has hired political PR maven Chris Lehane to help ward off mounting accusations and legal troubles.

The joint venture, known as KLM, hired Lehane after former employees accused the contractor of substandard welds on a new span that will replace a section of the bridge on Oakland's side of the bay.

The accusations have led to investigations by the FBI, the Federal Highway Administration, and the California Attorney General's Office, among others. KLM is led by Omaha, NE-based construction firm Kiewit.

Lehane is representing the company in the media and providing public and government affairs counsel.

"Our approach has been pretty straightforward, which is letting everyone know the contractor is cooperating fully with [all entities] in the examination of the issues," said Lehane.

The former Al Gore spokesman noted that the Bay Bridge is a perennially hot button issue with local press.

"Any time you have an issue that involves the Bay Bridge, the media and the public are very interested," said Lehane.

The accusations are just the latest in an endless list of woes to beset construction efforts on the bridge, ever since a piece of it collapsed during the 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989. Political fights over funding, cost, and design have stalled and delayed the project numerous times.

Lehane runs a public affairs shop with fellow public affairs veteran Mark Fabiani. Lehane has served as Bill Clinton's special assistant counsel, Al Gore's campaign press secretary, the head of John Kerry's communications team for most of 2003, and an unofficial advisor to Wesley Clark's 2004 presidential campaign.

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