Last April, while facing a primary challenger calling on him to resign over his romantic relationship with an airline industry lobbyist, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, insisted that everything was above board. She “doesn’t lobby my office,” Rep. Shuster told the Indiana Gazette. “She doesn’t lobby the committee.” Airlines for America (A4A), the lobbying group that employs Rep. Shuster’s girlfriend later clarified to Politico that she does, in fact, still lobby the committee, just not Rep. Shuster and his staff.
Now, some of Rep. Shuster’s top committee staff will be lobbying alongside her. Beth Spivey and Chris Bertram, who left the Transportation Committee’s employ in May 2016, registered this month to lobby on behalf of Airlines for America. According to Politico’s Isaac Arnsdorf, the two will work as “part of the trade group’s ongoing effort to spin off air traffic control systems into an independent, nonprofit corporation.”
In their bios on the website for their new consulting firm, both Spivey and Bertram cite their work developing “the most transformative Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill in almost 60 years” while working for Rep. Shuster’s committee. The legislation, which passed out of committee and stalled in the House, is a top priority for A4A. In fact, after Rep. Shuster’s committee approved the FAA bill, which would essentially privatize the nation’s air traffic control system, he was conspicuously spotted poolside in Miami Beach with A4A President Nick Calio and his A4A lobbyist girlfriend, Shelley Rubino.
A4A’s hiring of former Shuster committee staffers is not the first example of the revolving door between the trade group and his staff. He previously hired an A4A lobbyist to be the staff director of an aviation subcommittee. In addition, Rep. Shuster’s chief of staff is married to A4A’s senior vice president of government relations.
House Committee staffers with certain compensation levels are barred by post-employment restrictions from making advocacy contacts with any Member or employee of their former committees for one year after leaving their jobs. Both Spivey and Bertram were paid at least $42,000 in the first quarter of 2016, according to Legistorm, suggesting that the two new lobbyists would be covered by the restrictions. Spivey and Bertram have not reported any contacts yet, but their one year cooling off period is far from over. In the meantime, the former staffers can still lobby the executive branch or congressional employees, including Members, who neither currently work for nor recently worked for the Transportation Committee.
No matter who Spivey and Bertram are contacting, A4A likely only helped its chances of policy success by hiring former staffers to help promote legislation they had a hand in crafting. It helps that the organization already had a cozy relationship with the new lobbyists’ old congressional boss.