15:10 GMT +323 October 2018
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    Bill Shuster (left)

    Transportation Chairman Admits ‘Private’ Relationship With Airline Lobbyist

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    The chairman of the US House of Representatives committee that deals with aviation legislation has admitted to having a close and personal relationship with a top airline industry lobbyist.

    Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, admitted to dating Shelley Rubino, the vice president for global government affairs for Airlines for America (A4A), a trade association for major US airlines. The news comes at a time when Shuster is in a battle of negotiations ahead of a major overhaul of the Federal Aviation Administration, reports Politico. 

    “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,” the 54-year-old Shuster said in a statement.

    Shuster added that his office “has in place 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.”

    House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. William Bill Shuster, R-Pa. speaks at the 14th Annual Aviation Summit in Washington.
    House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. William "Bill" Shuster, R-Pa. speaks at the 14th Annual Aviation Summit in Washington.

    The two started dating in the summer of 2014. Shuster drafted a formal document stating that she would not lobby him, or anyone from his staff. But that document does not bar Rubino from lobbying anyone else from the committee and their aides.  A4A spokeswoman Jean Medina explained that the group’s legal counsel told them as long as she does not lobby the eighth term member of congress directly, then there is no conflict of interest. 

    “She [Rubino] lobbies on varied issues affecting our members and their customers, including proposed airline regulations, tax issues and matters related to safety and security,” Medina told Politico.

    This isn’t the first time Shuster’s been called out on controversial relations with female lobbyists. Back 2010, he was reported to have been among half a dozen congressmen reprimanded by then-Minority Leader John Boehner for partying with female lobbyists at a Capitol Hill townhouse. 

    And contentious political liaisons seem to run in the family; Shuster’s father, former congressmen Bud Shuster, resigned in 2001 after allegedly accepting gifts from and showing preferential treatment to a former aide-turned-lobbyist. 

    A4A includes member companies like American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, FedEx, Jet Blue Airlines and Southwest Airlines. The group and its employees have donated more than $20,000 to Shuster’s campaign committees, according to the Federal Election Commission, and the group’s political action committee gave $10,000 to Shuster in the 2014 election cycle — he was the only member of Congress to receive this maximum contribution from A4A.  

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