Dems accuse Transportation Dept. of ‘improper lobbying’ on air traffic overhaul

House Democrats are accusing the Department of Transportation (DOT) of improperly lobbying Congress and other organizations to support a legislative effort to overhaul air traffic control.

The minority members on the House Transportation and Infrastructure and the Appropriations committees asked the DOT’s inspector general on Wednesday to investigate whether agency officials violated federal laws in urging support for a bill that would privatize the country’s air navigation system.
 
In a letter to the watchdog organization, the lawmakers claim that “at least four DOT political appointees” have contacted lawmakers and aviation or airport association representatives to build support for the bill, either through e-mails, written materials or phone calls.

The lawmakers pointed to a memo emailed to Hill staff by Chris Brown, the associate administrator for government and industry affairs at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), that said “it’s time for the U.S. to join most of the industrialized world and separate its ATC system from the agency that also provides safety oversight.”

Brown previously worked for United Airlines and Airlines for America, which have long been pushing for the spinoff plan.

The letter also highlighted a DOT website outlining the proposal and included a report from The Hill that the White House sent a high-ranking official to Capitol Hill to woo skeptical Republicans on the plan.

Democrats argue that this violates federal anti-lobbying laws, which prohibit federal dollars from being used to “pay for any personal service, advertisement, telegram, telephone, letter … intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, a jurisdiction, or any official of any government, to favor, adopt, or oppose, by vote or otherwise, any legislation.”

“Even when viewed in the light most favorable, these e-mails, phone calls, and other activities are highly irregular, at best,” the Democrats wrote.

A DOT spokeswoman said…

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