A “liberal media” attack.
That is what Republican congressman Bill Shuster of rural Pennsylvania is calling revelations that he’s dating a lobbyist for a top airline industry that works to influence the transport panel he heads.
“It’s the liberal media coming after the conservatives,” he told a news web site in tiny Chambersburg, Pa., from where one of his district offices operates.
EARLIER: Rep. Shuster admits lobbyist is gal pal.
It’s been his harshest response so far to the firestorm set off by Thursday’s report in Politico of his cozy relationship with Shelley Rubino of Airlines for America, which spends millions to try and get him and other congressmen to vote its way.
It’s a “private and personal relationship” Shuster, 54, told Herald-Mail Mediaon Friday. “That is what it is.”
Shuster is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. So was his dad, Bud Shuster, 83, who left Congress in 2001 under an ethics cloud when he let a female former top staffer-turned-lobbyist appear before the panel.
Critics are already drawing parallels.
House ethics rules don’t bar such relationships, so long as the lawmaker has no direct financial interest in a vote before him or her.
Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, said it is not Rubino but the group's chief executive, Nick Calio, who lobbies Shuster on behalf of the industry.
"A4A ensures all of our advocacy work complies with all lobbying rules," Medina said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Good government groups say it all still stinks.
“This is a huge, huge, tremendous conflict of interest,” Craig Holman of Public Citizen tells Politico. “I suspect the entire committee was quite well aware of [the relationship].”
The House committee Shuster heads handles an array of issues related to the airline industry and recently conducted a hearing on revamping air traffic control at the Federal Aviation Administration, the industry's regulator.
Follow Metro Editor-at-large John A. Oswald on Twitter - @nyc_oz.