WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other top Democrats leading the charge on the United Airlines passenger-removal scandal have accepted campaign donations from United Airlines’ political PAC.
The airline has a prominent lobbying operation in Washington. Past Schumer and Democratic initiatives to reform air travel were quickly shot down after the corporation got its lobbying muscle involved. The airline’s relationship with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — including Democrats leading the charge to wrist-slap the airline — could crash the public’s chance to get any real concessions out of the embattled company.
United Airlines is under fire after video of police officers forcibly removing a man from his seat — due to alleged overbooking — went viral, with the money shot of the man’s bloodied face played endlessly on cable news and late-night TV. Washington is pretending to be very concerned about it.
Senator Schumer and fellow Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Brian Schatz, and Maggie Hassan took the lead in writing a letter to United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz expressing concern. The letter was signed by various other Democratic senators including Bob Menendez. But the letter failed to make some important disclosures.
The United Airlines Political Action Committee has doled out money to politicians on both sides of the aisle, including former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former President Barack Obama, who took from the Chicago-based PAC in his first Senate run in 2004.
Schumer took $3,000 from the United Airlines PAC during the 2010 campaign cycle. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) also took $10,000 from the airline’s PAC that election year, during a period in which the DSCC was chaired by Menendez, who took over from Schumer in 2009.
But Durbin is the biggest hypocrite of the bunch. The Illinois Democrat has raked in campaign cash from the airline’s PAC in election cycles dating back to at least 1998. He took $4,000 in 2000, $5,500 in 2002, $5,000 in 2006, $5,000 in 2008, $3,000 in 2012, and $2,000 in 2014.
Durbin even gave a quote in 2002, when United was dealing with bankruptcy, calling it a “terrible tragedy” and adding, “I regret that the federal government, specifically the ATSB, refused to play a more constructive role in stabilizing United — the nation’s second largest airline — and protecting its nearly 80,000 jobs.”
At least Patty Murray, who took $8,000 from the PAC in 2010, and Cory Booker, who took $10,000 in 2014, did not join her fellow Democrats in signing the letter.
In order to get real airline reform, it seems like some lobbyists are going to have to be “re-accommodated” out of the Capitol building.