American Airlines, which announced today that it has finalized terms of a merger with US Airways, was already the biggest spender on influence among air carriers. Adding US Airways will likely extend its reach.
While the two carriers' agreement to create the world's largest airline must win approval of federal regulators, they will have plenty of chits to draw on and an amazing array of former insiders to make to their case to Congress and the Obama administration of the wisdom of their plan.
American, which declared bankruptcy in Nov. 2011 and announced thousands of layoffs three months later, didn't cut back on the lobbyists it employed. Data in Influence Explorer shows that the airline spent more than $7 million on lobbyists over the last election cycle, more than United–which merged with Continental in 2010–Delta or Southwest. US Airways spent $2.8 million on lobbying over the same period.
Of the 42 lobbyists American employed in 2012, 37 had gone through the revolving door, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. As for US Airways, 30 of their 33 lobbyists had government jobs before becoming lobbyists.
Since 1998, the two companies have disclosed spending more than $74 million on lobbying, with the vast majority of that sum–some $57 million–spent by American. The second biggest spender, United Continental Holdings, disclosed spending $34.9 million.
In their campaign giving, employees, their family members and the political action committees of both companies have tilted towards Republicans. Former President George W. Bush remains the top recipient of donations from American, while the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is the top destination for US Airways donors.
Among other big recipients are President Barack Obama, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., for American Airlines and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. and Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz. for US Airways.