28 February 2016

How Convenient

Normally, when one says that a Congressman is in bed with lobbyist, it is meant as a metaphor.

Not this time:
Congressman Bill Shuster from Pennsylvania, the Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the lawmaker behind pro-airline legislation like this 2014 bill to remove any transparency from advertised airfares — and whose top campaign contributors are United and American Airlines — has admitted today to being in a romantic relationship with a top lobbyist for the airline industry.

A lengthy report from Politico shines a light on the too-close-for-comfort relationship of Shuster and Shelley Rubino, VP for global government affairs for Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade group whose members include the aforementioned United and American, along with other top Shuster donors like FedEx, UPS, and Atlas Air Worldwide.

And when you look at which politicians have most benefited from A4A’s contributions, Shuster is right at the top of the list, at $16,700 for the 2014 election cycle. That’s more than A4A gave to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Not bad for a Congressman who represents a largely rural section of Pennsylvania.

“Ms. Rubino and I have a private and personal relationship, and out of respect for her and my family, that is all I will say about that,” said Rep. Shuster, who was recently divorced, in a statement to Politico.

The Congressman says his office has “a policy that deals with personal relationships that cover my staff and myself. This was created in consultation with legal counsel and goes further than is required by the law. Under that policy, Ms. Rubino doesn’t lobby my office, including myself and my staff.”

Even if the agreement prevents Rubino from lobbying Shuster directly, she is not prohibited from lobbying the dozens of other members of his powerful committee or their aides.

Legal experts say there is no apparent violation of House ethics rules going on here.
It does appear that the news of Congressman Shuster's application of applied kinematics to Ms. Rubino has, temporarily at least, put the kibosh on privatizing air traffic control:
The House Republican leadership is shelving plans to pass an overhaul of the Federal Aviation Administration, a major blow to House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, according to multiple senior aides

Instead, the House will revert to a short-term extension of the FAA's authority while "the Transportation Committee will continue their work on this transformative legislation," a leadership aide said Thursday. The FAA must be renewed by the end of March.


The bill was also a priority for Airlines for America, the lobby that represents every mainline U.S. air carrier except Delta. Shuster is very close with A4A, as it is known, and dates one of its top lobbyists. POLITICO reported that earlier this week, Shuster spent time lounging in Miami with Nick Calio, A4A's leader, and Shelley Rubino, the group's vice president and his girlfriend. The trip came days after Calio testified before Shuster's committee.
I gotta figure that the house leaders realized that this story was blowing up, and decided to put it on hold.

This is a good thing.

Air Traffic Control should not be placed in private hands, particularly when those hands are largely those of the 4 remaining large airlines, who are, after all, Shelly Rubino's clients.


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