US Airways — in the midst of merger proceedings with American Airlines — is blostering its already robust lobbying force with a pair of new government relations firms, documents filed with the U.S. Senate this weekend indicate.
Joseph Gibson of The Gibson Group will handle one lobbying account, while Scott Reed of Chesapeake Enterprises will lead the other, according to US Airways' filings. Both contracts went into effect in mid-February, just days after the airlines announced the merger proposal.
Gibson, for his part, brings extensive government experience to bear, having most notably served as chief minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, deputy assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's Office of Legislative Affairs and chief of staff for Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. His lobbying responsibilities include "issues relating to the proposed merger of US Airways and American Airlines," the filing states.
Reed lists his lobbying duties as "House and Senate hearings; merger activities," according to his filing.
During 2012, US Airways spent more money on federal-level lobbying activity, $2.83 million, than during any previous year, federal records show.
Such spending paid 31 lobbyists at four firms — Podesta Group, Cormac Group, Ogilvy Government Relations and Vandor Strategies — most of whom have previously worked for the government, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. US Airways, a representative for which could not be immediately reached for comment, also employed a pair of in-house lobbyists.
The airline merger is widely expected to eventually take place, but must still be approved by both federal regulators and a federal bankruptcy judge, who is overseeing the bankruptcy proceedings of American Airlines' parent company, AMR Corp.
Some lawmakers are also concerned that the airline merger will cause service cuts or price hikes at airports within their states and districts. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Anti-Trust Law conducted a merger hearing last week.