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Infrastructure in the News 7.12.16

NATIONAL NEWS

Reuters: Tesla crash raises stakes for self-driving vehicle startups

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-selfdriving-investment-idUSKCN0ZS0CQ

Concerns raised by the first reported fatality in a semi-automated car were expected to speed adoption of more sensitive technology to help vehicles see and drive themselves safely, increasing demand on the emerging autonomous vehicle technology industry, investors and analysts said.

Curbed: Pokémon Go: The New Mobile Game Taking Cities by Storm

http://www.curbed.com/2016/7/11/12148330/pokemon-go-android-ios-game-cities

In a matter of days, Pokémon Go, the red-hot new mobile app game based on the popular video-game-trading-card-cartoon empire has become nothing short of a real-life phenomenon.

Boston Globe: Obama’s tough new standards on car fuel-efficiency may stall

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/07/11/obama-tough-new-standards-car-fuel-efficiency-may-stall/IhQWtp2Bl82baSxGEw6C6M/story.html

The Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards for passenger cars and light trucks are about to undergo a major reassessment — something that could end up unraveling one of the president’s signature achievements.

The Washington Post: It’s the Interstate’s 60th birthday. Here’s a Bronx cheer.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/tripping/wp/2016/07/11/its-the-interstates-60th-birthday-heres-a-bronx-cheer/

Last month, the United States marked the 60th anniversary of the Interstate highway system.

The Washington Post: Could self-driving cars be one solution to police shootings during traffic stops?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/07/12/could-self-driving-cars-be-one-solution-to-police-shootings-during-traffic-stops/

The shooting death of Philando Castile in a St. Paul suburb last week started out as a police traffic stop for a broken taillight.

The New York Times (AP): Houses Passes Bill to Boost Airport Security, Reduce Lines

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/07/11/us/politics/ap-us-aviation-bill-house.html

The House passed an aviation bill Monday aimed at boosting airport security, reducing screening lines and refunding fees to passengers whose luggage is lost or arrives late.

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Regulator Flags Auto-Lending Risks

http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-regulator-flags-auto-lending-risks-1468261860

A U.S. banking regulator warned about growing credit risk in the auto-lending sector, raising the prospect of fresh regulatory pressure in the area.

STATE NEWS

The Washington Post: Want to speed up your trip through customs at Dulles Airport? There’s an app for that.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2016/07/11/want-to-speed-up-your-trip-through-customs-at-dulles-airport-theres-an-app-for-that/

Even while domestic traffic has lagged, international travel through Dulles International Airport has grown significantly. But for some U.S. travelers that has also meant longer lines when moving through customs.

Wall Street Journal: Hudson River Tunnel Entity Gets a Leader

http://www.wsj.com/articles/hudson-river-tunnel-entity-gets-a-leader-1468254740

A former top U.S. transportation official is expected to be named the first leader of a multibillion-dollar, multiyear project to dig two new Hudson River rail tunnels.

GovTech.com: Pittsburgh Pushes for More Public Transportation

http://www.govtech.com/fs/Pittsburgh-Pushes-for-More-Public-Transportation.html

A public-private partnership is expected to have recommendations for transportation improvements in the 10-county area by the end of the year, but a crowdsourcing survey shows a strong interest in one particular area: more public transit.

BikePortland: People keep talking about a regional transportation ballot measure for 2018

http://bikeportland.org/2016/07/11/people-keep-talking-about-a-regional-transportation-tax-in-2018-187405

As Oregon legislators start talking about the statewide transportation bill many hope to pass in 2017 (look for some reporting on that soon), others are starting to think locally, too.

Chicago Tribune: Union Station renovation inches forward with engineering company selection

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-union-station-upgrades-met-0712-20160711-story.html

The makeover of historic Union Station inched ahead Monday as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and regional transportation officials named an engineer for the project's next phase — even as they acknowledged that the work will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and that they'll need help from Springfield and Washington to foot the bill

Boston Globe: MBTA details ‘poorly and inefficiently run’ cash-counting operation

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/07/10/mbta-details-poorly-and-inefficiently-run-cash-counting-operation/EX4u231ZjJDQSQFp2k0IEM/story.html

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s cash-counting operation has twice the number of workers typically employed by private companies in the industry, but MBTA employees often complete just a fraction of the work they should compared with the industry standard, according to a consultant hired by the agency to evaluate the department.

Crain’s Detroit Business: Urbanism conference attendees praise downtown Detroit's walkability

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20160711/NEWS/160719961/urbanism-conference-attendees-praise-downtown-detroits-walkability

Kudos and criticism were wielded by the nearly 1,500 surveyed urban planners and architects who spent up to four days in Detroit in June at the 24th Annual Congress for the New Urbanismconference.

The New York Times: Designing an Active, Healthier City

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/opinion/designing-an-active-healthier-city.html?_r=0

Despite a firm reputation for being walkers, New Yorkers have an obesity epidemic on their hands. Lee Altman, a former employee of New York City’s Department of Design and Construction, explains it this way: “We did a very good job at designing physical activity out of our daily lives.”

Politico Morning Transportation

By Jennifer Scholtes and Lauren Gardner | 07/12/2016 05:42 AM EDT

EYES ON SENATE TO PASS FAA EXTENSION: Will the Senate clear the patch - which the House approved by voice vote Monday evening - before it's too late? There's not much time left and lawmakers might want to do that fast before it disappears into the grass like a Pokemon you wanted to catch. (Come on, members, you can tell us how many you caught over the weekend.)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday afternoon that the upper chamber plans to send the bill to the president's desk this week.

In one corner: Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster praised the bill's "limited but critical and time-sensitive provisions" on security and safety, despite it not touching his air traffic control spinoff plan. "With this extension in place, Congress can continue to develop a long-term, comprehensive FAA bill that includes many additional reforms and improvements to our aviation system," he said in a statement.

And the other: Ranking Democrat Peter DeFazio had a more tepid response, calling the bill "acceptable" during the 20-minute debate. "While I would have rather moved a comprehensive long-term FAA reauthorization, this legislation reflects a bipartisan compromise that provides more than a year of certainty. ... [I] look forward to working over the next year with my colleagues to address a number of key issues that were not included in this extension," he said in his statement.

'Lookback' language: Lawmakers didn't actually cast "yay" or "nay" votes on the bill as it passed through the House. But from the sidelines, union leaders have been calling on legislators to vote against the measure because of language that would bar anyone who has been convicted of a major crime (like murder or felony bribery) in the previous 15 years from getting a badge to access secure areas of airports. As we reported for Pros , Rep. Bennie Thompson derided that language before the bill passed. Transportation workers "deserve better than living in fear that they will be able to lose their jobs in the name of homeland security," he said on the House floor.

IT'S TUESDAY: Good morning and thanks for tuning in to POLITICO's Morning Transportation, your daily tipsheet on all things trains, planes, automobiles and ports.

Lauren is using her marathon training to achieve ultimate zen this week as lawmakers try to climb the proverbial wall (doesn't it feel like we've all run a continuous 20 miles?) and catapult Washington over the recess finish line. Send us your tips, scoops, concerns and lemon-lime sports drinks: lgardner@politico.com or @Gardner_LM, jscholtes@politico.com or @JAScholtes and bgurciullo@politico.com or @brigurciullo.

"I will travel across the land/Searching far and wide ... "

HOW MANY MINUTES UNTIL YOUR DRIVER TAKES TRANSIT BENEFITS? Remember that proposal from last week to extend pre-tax transit benefits for Washington-area federal workers to the Ubers and Lyfts of the world during SafeTrack? North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows told MT he's meeting with Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Bradyon to talk about it today. And Meadows hopes to make the case for the House to consider the bill once lawmakers are back in town this fall.

A sympathetic gesture: Meadows is waiting on a Joint Committee on Taxation estimate of how much money the bill might cost the government. He said the measure could "possibly" score but doesn't think it will. "I think it's a good thing, that we can send a positive message to our federal employees that we understand their grief and what they're having to put up with and hopefully address it very quickly," Meadows added.

Immediate action: The House Oversight Committee shares jurisdiction over the bill (H.R. 5647) with tax writers, and it will mark up the legislation today.

NO REST FOR SLEEP APNEA RULE: The comment period for FRA and FMCSA's joint advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on whether and how to evaluate safety-critical rail and motor carrier employees for moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea closed Friday, and unsurprisingly, there's no consensus on how to approach it.

Medical professionals and some individuals voiced support for a formal rule outlining which transportation workers in those sectors should be subject to OSA screening. Labor groups, industry employees and others fretted about the out-of-pocket cost to the workers subject to expensive testing. And many workers (and the unions representing them) said FRA and FMCSA should ensure they have the data to back up an obstructive sleep apnea regulation, given that fatigue is a widespread issue among transportation workers that also ties into hours of service requirements and unpredictable work schedules.

GATEWAY GAINS MOMENTUM: Former deputy DOT secretary John Porcari is expected to be anointed the interim head of the group charged with ensuring two new rail tunnels get built beneath the Hudson River, The Wall Street Journal reports. From the Journal: "The tunnels are part of Amtrak's broader Gateway plan, which includes building new bridges and tracks as well as an expanded New York Penn Station. Estimated overall price tag: $24 billion.

Federal dollars: Our POLITICO New Jersey peers report that "in the coming days" DOT "is expected to announce that two elements of the Gateway Program will begin the two-part review process required to access grants from the New Starts program, which has helped fund mega-projects like the Second Avenue Subway."

SENATE FIELDS PERIMETER SECURITY BILL: Off to the upper chamber goes the airport security measure (H.R. 5056) Rep. Bill Keating has been hoping to pass since he was elected to Congress nearly six years ago. The Massachusetts Democrat has a uniquely personal perspective on the issue since he was the district attorney in charge of prosecuting the 2010 case of a 16-year-old boy whose body was found in a Boston suburb after he stowed away in a Boeing 737 en route from Charlotte Douglas International Airport. "This bill was a long time coming," Keating said just before the House passed the measure by voice vote Monday afternoon. As we explained for Pros, the legislation would force TSA to take a fresh look at the way it protects airport access points and the perimeters of the nation's hubs, and to update its risk assessment for aviation and airport security."

The impetus: Besides Keating's chief anecdote about the fact that airport security is so lax that a teenager was able to sneak onto the tarmac and inside a commercial airliner, The Associated Press compiled some shocking data last year on the frequency of airport perimeter breaches, and the GAO says TSA is in dire need of an updated strategy for locking down the nation's hubs.

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BOEING BECOMES DEFACTO STANDARD-BEARER OF IRANIAN DEALS: Sifting through letters from United Against Nuclear Iran, POLITICO's Nahal Toosi has found several intriguing exchanges between the interest group and major players in the transportation industry, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Daimler AG. In her story about how lawmakers and activists are pouncing on companies flirting with Iran, Nahal reports that Boeing's decision to engage with Iran "has reverberated in the international business community."

Everybody's doing it: In an April 28 letter, Japan-based conglomerate Hitachi notes that "now, even Boeing is in the process of offering new aircraft to Iran after getting a license from the U.S. government."

But don't do it: Boeing's interest in selling passenger planes to replace Iran's aging fleet has elicited a strongly worded warning from UANI, which wrote in a June 14 letter that its decision to enter the Iranian market "will give aid and comfort to a lawless regime that foments terrorism and unrest throughout the Middle East," and that "the legal, political, financial, and reputational risks of doing business in Iran outweigh any theoretical benefit of commercial involvement in that market."

SEC PROBES TESLA CRASH DIVULGENCE: When you're the maker of self-driving cars, telling DOT about fatal crashes might not be enough. In fact, not formally informing investors about fatal collisions could be against the law. And The Wall Street Journal reports that the SEC is investigating whether Tesla was in the wrong for not disclosing to investors the May crash involving an electric, autonomous car and an 18-wheeler in Florida. WSJ explains that "the SEC is scrutinizing whether Tesla should have disclosed the accident as a 'material' event, or a development a reasonable investor would consider important, according to a person familiar with the matter. The SEC's inquiry is in a very early stage and may not lead to any enforcement action by regulators, the person added."

TRANSIT REPORT: News flash: A group dedicated to getting people to take public transit finds that people are more likely to take public transit if they have public transit options. No, you are not reading The Onion.

A new report out today by the TransitCenter finds that putting transit options that run frequently in walkable neighborhoods is key to boosting ridership, since that approach taps into the class of users who ride transit systems for work and for play. The report also warns that the concept of "captive" transit users - those who don't own cars - is "severely overstated," meaning if the service is bad, even people without easy access to vehicles won't utilize transit.

MT-A CULPA: MT mistakenly wrote yesterday that speeches for AAAE's fly-in would occur today. They're actually on Wednesday. We apologize for the error.

THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):

- Grown man cheats at Pokémon Go with help from drone. The Verge.

- General Motors seeking to get equipment from supplier in bankruptcy case. The Wall Street Journal.

- Google self-driving car project names general counsel as scrutiny rises. Reuters.

- Qatar Airways quadruples profit on lower fuel costs, new routes. Bloomberg.

- Cybersecurity expert explains why Tesla's cars are some of the toughest to hack. Tech Insider.

THE COUNTDOWN: DOT appropriations run out in 82 days. The FAA reauthorization expires in 4 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 119 days. Highway and transit policy is up for renewal in 1,544 days.

THE DAY AHEAD:

9 a.m. - The FAA's advisory committee on Air Traffic Procedures meets. FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center, 3701 Macintosh Dr., Warrenton, Va.

9 a.m. - The National Academy of Sciences holds a meeting on performance-based safety regulation, focusing on transportation issues, with a 1 p.m. speech by NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart.

9 a.m. - DOT's Office of the Secretary holds a meeting of the Accessible Air Transportation advisory committee to talk about whether to require accessible in-flight entertainment, to levy stricter requirements for accessible in-flight communications to require an accessible bathroom on new single-aisle aircraft over a certain size and to amend the definition of "service animals" that can accompany passengers with disabilities on flights. Ritz Carlton, 1250 S. Hayes St., Arlington, Va.

9:30 a.m. - The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board holds meetings on technical programs and design guidance. Access Board Conference Room, 1331 F St. NW, Suite 800.

10 a.m. - The House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee tasked with Coast Guard oversight holds a hearing on the agency's Arctic strategy, with testimony from Vice Commandant Charles Michel, as well as officials from the Defense Department, the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service. 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.

2 p.m. - The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee marks up several bills, including a measure (H.R. 5647) that would allow workers to use pre-tax transportation benefits for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, as well as a bill (H.R. 5341) that would recalculate annuity benefits for certain air traffic controllers.

2:30 p.m. - A Senate Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on implementing the FAST Act. 253 Russell Senate Office Building.

4:30 p.m. - Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to encourage U.S. citizens planning overseas travel to apply early for their passports in light of the current record-breaking passport surge. Washington Passport Agency, 600 19th St. NW.

Did we miss an event? Let MT know attranspocalendar@politicopro.com. Now go catch 'em all.

** A message from the Aluminum Association's Aluminum Transportation Group: As automakers strive to meet increased fuel economy standards by 2025, reducing vehicle weight-without reducing vehicle size-will be vital to complement all other vehicle improvements, including advances in gasoline engines and electric vehicles. That's why automotive engineers and designers ranked aluminum as the top material to help meet federal fuel economy and emissions targets, according to a survey by WardsAuto and DuPont. Fueling good jobs in the U.S. manufacturing sector, aluminum producers committed to invest more than $2.6 billion in domestic plant expansions just since 2013. As to sustainability, separate studies by Oak Ridge National Lab and Ford Motor Company confirm automotive aluminum produces the smallest full life cycle carbon footprint of all competing materials. And the breakthrough, top-selling aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 proves aluminum can thrive in mass market applications, earning a 5-Star crash safety rating (safer than the 4-Star rated steel-bodied F-150 it replaced) and boasting best-in-class fuel economy. When it comes to automotive solutions, the aluminum industry is delivering, growing, innovating and investing. Learn more at bit.ly/29iR7zb **

To view online:

https://www.politicopro.com/tipsheets/morning-transportation/2016/07/eyes-on-senate-to-pass-faa-extension-018216

Stories from POLITICO Pro

House passes FAA extension Back

By Brianna Gurciullo | 07/11/2016 07:45 PM EDT

The House passed a 14-month FAA extension this evening - just four days before the agency's policy and funding were set to expire. The Senate is expected to follow suit later this week.

The lower chamber passed the patch by voice vote.

The measure, which was unveiled last week, puts Rep. Bill Shuster's plan for an air traffic control revamp on ice, at least for now. It increases the numbers of K-9s that patrol unsecured airport areas, expands TSA PreCheck and tightens screening requirements for airport workers.

It also prevents the FAA from using a co-called "biographical questionnaire" for certain air traffic control applicants and aims to shore up oversight of foreign companies that repair American aircraft.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) spoke in opposition to the extension, which prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from giving security badges to airport workers convicted (or found not guilty by reason of insanity) of crimes like murder and felony bribery within the last 15 years.

Back

FAA bill faces opposition over airport security badge rules Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 07/11/2016 06:15 PM EDT

Top House Democrats and labor interests say language in the latest FAA patch will hurt workers who use security badges to gain access to secure areas of the nation's airports.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who serves as ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, spoke out in opposition to the 14-month FAA reauthorization this afternoon, following on similar concerns raised by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the Transportation Workers Union and the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers.

Thompson said his "problem with the bill stems from a potential-job-killing provision" that would require TSA to update qualifications for receiving airport security credentials.

"There is no evidence that this additional scrutiny would strengthen aviation security," Thompson said. "What we do know for sure is that the changes would unjustifiably put workers at risk of losing their jobs."

The legislation would bar the Department of Homeland Security from providing airport security badges to workers who have been convicted within the past 15 years (or found not guilty by reason of insanity) of crimes such as murder and felony bribery.

DeFazio told POLITICO that he, too, is worried about that language. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's ranking Democrat said the disqualifying offenses are "not good things," but that there is "no relationship" to terrorism and that the provisions were crafted "under the guise of protecting us against terrorists."

The International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers is urging lawmakers to vote against the bill because of the provisions.

"While we clearly understand the need to add security provisions to the FAA extension in response to the recent terrorist attacks overseas, we believe the proposed aviation worker background check language will NOT address the present security vulnerabilities at our nation's airports," the union wrote to legislators.

Back

House passes airport perimeter security bill Back

By Jennifer Scholtes | 07/11/2016 03:54 PM EDT

The House passed a bill this afternoon to force TSA to take a fresh look at the way it protects airport access points and the perimeters of the nation's hubs.

The five-page bill (H.R. 5056), which would also require the agency to update its risk assessment for aviation and airport security, passed by voice vote and follows on a GAO report finding that TSA urgently needs to update its formal strategy for dealing with airport security risks.

"This bill was a long time coming," Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.), the bill's author, said on the House floor before the measure passed.

Keating has been pushing since he came to Congress in 2011 for TSA to update its plans for protecting airport perimeters, taking special interest in the issue since he prosecuted the case of a teen who died after stowing away in the wheel well of a plane that departed from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in 2010.

TSA last updated its risk assessment for aviation and airport security in 2012. And Keating said today that he is "frankly not satisfied with the progress in addressing these issues."

The Associated Press compiled a list last year of perimeter breaches over the previous decade, finding that there had been at least 268 penetrations since 2004 at 31 major airports.

Back

Lawmakers, activists pounce on companies flirting with Iran Back

By Nahal Toosi | 07/11/2016 06:41 PM EDT

When Nokia received a letter from the group United Against Nuclear Iran warning it of the risk of investing in the Islamist-led country, the Finland-based company's response was pointed. The technological services it offers, Nokia wrote on June 8, "are crucial for the development of strong civil societies and the realization of human rights."

General Electric, meanwhile, told UANI straight up in a separate letter on Jan. 19 that it is exploring the Iranian market in part because it is "in the best interests of GE's shareowners and other stakeholders."

Then, there was Right Honorable Lord Norman Lamont of Lerwick, Britain's trade envoy to Iran, who acidly dismissed several of UANI's written assertions about engaging the Middle Eastern country.

"I agree that human rights are an important part of foreign policy, but it is essential to apply any policy on a consistent basis and avoid selectivity," Lamont wrote on April 5. "I wonder whether you would suggest that we [ought] to have a trade embargo against China? What about Saudi Arabia? Is its human rights record any better than that of Iran?"

These and dozens of other letters, shared with POLITICO by UANI, provide a glimpse into the ongoing struggle over the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, which was reached a year ago Thursday.

UANI and other opponents of the deal are urging companies to think twice before investing in the Iranian market. Right-leaning think tankers still regularly testify before the Republican-led Congress on the weaknesses of the agreement. And some lawmakers are pushing bills that could undercut the nuclear deal or heap new pressure on Iran for its non-nuclear activities. News that Boeing has reached a tentative deal to sell passenger planes to Iran has particulary incensed Republicans, and some are trying to bar the sale.

"The Iran deal is going to be the Obamacare of this cycle and we intended to make sure that those who voted for giving billions of dollars to terrorists are held accountable by the American people," said Josh Canter, a representative of Secure America Now, a conservative advocacy group.

The Obama administration insists the deal is working. Iran has dismantled much of its nuclear infrastructure, and in return, the U.S., the European Union and the United Nations have lifted a slew of nuclear-related sanctions on the country, allowing its badly hobbled economy to start recovering.

Still, Iranian leaders have complained that their country is not getting sanctions relief fast enough. That has led Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials to meet with business leaders to encourage them to invest in Iran within the new legal limits. It's a complicated message, because the U.S. still has many sanctions on Iran - ones related to its human rights record, its ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism. At the same time, Kerry and U.S. officials have drawn fire from Republicans who allege that they are shilling for a rogue state.

United Against Nuclear Iran, a group founded in 2008, has aggressively tried to influence companies navigating the changed legal landscape. UANI insists it is not trying to derail the nuclear deal, but simply wants to correct misperceptions among firms who may believe that Iran - an enticing market with a youthful, well-educated population - is open for business with no strings attached.

"We wanted to professionally and thoroughly spread the word ... of the enormous risk still associated with Iran," said Mark Wallace, UANI's chief executive officer. The ultimate goal is to get Iran to change its behavior on fronts beyond just its nuclear program, and that won't happen without continued economic pressure on the country, Wallace added.

"We're rooting for changes in Iran," he said.

Obama administration officials question the motives of UANI and similiar groups, pointing out that scaring companies away from Iran could lead Iranian leaders to back out of the deal and resume an unrestrained nuclear program. That would have the "opposite effect of the stated purpose of some of these groups," one U.S. official told POLITICO on Monday.

"If such groups are truly interested in ensuring that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon, then they should perhaps be focused instead on making sure that Iran continues to see it in their interest to stick to the deal," the official said, adding, "Some of the messaging of these groups is inconsistent with U.S. government advice to companies, so companies should come to us for our views."

UANI's letters are detailed, tailored to the recipient and lengthy - some run 18 pages. They are filled with selective references to news articles describing Iran's meddling throughout the Middle East and the danger it poses to the West. Many of the letters even mention Iran's 1989 call for the killing of author Salman Rushdie over his allegedly blasphemous book,"The Satanic Verses," and Iran's persecution of religious minorities such as the Baha'is. The missives have been sent to companies, organizations, government bodies and individuals around the world. Some recipients were contacted simply because they participated in conferences about Iran.

The letters can be biting in tone.

"United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is dismayed to learn that you will be attending the 3rd Europe-Iran Forum," the group wrote on April 27 to Joakim Reiter, deputy secretary-general for the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development. "While Iran cannot be stopped from participating in such conferences, there is no reason that a senior U.N. official would knowingly attend a platform for representatives of this oppressive regime to convince others to assist it in the rebuilding of its economy so that it can finance even greater irresponsible and nefarious behavior."

UANI warned Chicago-based Boeing in a June 14 letter that its decision to enter the Iranian market "will give aid and comfort to a lawless regime that foments terrorism and unrest throughout the Middle East," and that "the legal, political, financial, and reputational risks of doing business in Iran outweigh any theoretical benefit of commercial involvement in that market."

In a similar letter the following day to Lockheed Martin, the group insisted: "Doing business in Iran will not only harm the financial interest of Lockheed's shareholders, but it will endanger Lockheed's employees and contractors who are forced to work in or travel to Iran."

Over the past six months UANI has sent at least 200 letters, eliciting a few dozen responses that were shared with POLITICO. The responses vary in tone and length. Some are curt and vague. Some are defensive. Others are lengthy, and a few are outright dismissive of some of UANI's claims. But nearly every company, organization or person who responds declares an intention to adhere to all regulations governing doing business with Iran, including still-existing sanctions.

Daimler AG, the German-based automotive corporation, quoted President Barack Obama's description of the Iran deal as "the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated" in justifying its decision to reenter the Iranian market. "This decision was made under careful consideration and thorough evaluation of all circumstances and in compliance with regulations and remaining sanctions in place," the company wrote to UANI on May 4.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive officer of WPP, a prominent British communications services firm, told UANI in an April 5 email: "We are aware of geo-political risks in many markets in which we operate. However, as a general principle we believe, strongly, that engagement is a better policy than isolation."

Wallace said that, in his view, "a lot of companies indicated they weren't going back in yet, but they wanted to keep their options open. I think they're still holding out hope."

The responses to UANI also indicate that Boeing's flirtation with Iran - which is legally complicated, but, the company insists, in line with U.S. regulations - has reverberated in the international business community. "Now, even Boeing is in the process of offering new aircraft to Iran after getting a license from the U.S. government," Hitachi, the Japan-based conglomerate pointed out in an April 28 letter.

The Boeing plans have stirred alarm in Congress, where the House of Representatives last week passed two pieces of legislation designed to block the company's sales to Iran. Boeing is trying to sell passenger planes to Iran so that the country can replace its aging fleet, a deal some have said could be valued at $25 billion. But Republicans, as well as some Democrats, worry the aircraft or their parts will be misused by Iranian entities, such as Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, that are accused of supporting terrorist groups.

Lawmakers also are using the one-year-anniversary of the deal to push a flurry of other bills aimed at Iran, including one to expand sanctions on the country over its human rights abuses and other activities; measures to prevent the Export-Import Bank from providing direct or indirect financing to Iran; and a bill to make it even harder for the country to access dollar transactions.

Obama is likely to veto any measure he sees as undermining one of his signature foreign policy achievements. But, similar to Obamacare, the Iran nuclear deal remains a lightning rod for Republicans, and some are intent on continuing to attack it the same way they have the health reform law.

Secure America Now is planning to use social media and other platforms throughout this election season to rally voters to toss out lawmakers - senators in particular - who supported the nuclear agreement, Canter said. "When people find out the details about the Iran deal, they hate the deal," he insisted.

On the business front, U.S. companies will likely be the most reticent to invest in Iran, not least because so many American sanctions are still in place on the country. (Iran and the United States have not had formal diplomatic relations for more than 30 years.) But companies based in Europe and other parts of the world, including some who have operated in Iran in the past, may be willing to risk tapping into the potentially lucrative market.

"They're companies, right?" said David Mortlock, a former National Security Council official with expertise on sanctions. Iran has "a young, consumer-oriented, well-educated population. It's a good market. It's just got some unique challenges."

Aside from dealing with international sanctions, companies looking to invest in Iran will have to deal with its opaque and often unpredictable politics, as well as a business scene that has heavy state involvement. Some hardline factions in Iran oppose the nuclear deal; reports that some Iranian entities tried to buy nuclear materials after the deal was reached last July have been cast as an example of anti-deal forces seeking to sabotage the agreement.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, a former Treasury Department official now at the Center for a New American Security, said that uncertainty about the durability of the deal is one reason that many companies don't want to rush to invest in Iran.

But, she noted, firms also are keenly aware that if they arrive too late, they "can't negotiate good terms.