Skift Take

American has been more generous so that its multiple merger issues at current and former hubs are managed well, but overall spending has slowed thanks to a Congress that everyone knows is full of people who can't get along.

The November midterm elections are only two months away, and airline political action committees (PACs) donated more than $1.3 million to campaigns so far this year, a majority of that to Republican candidates.

American Airlines Group Inc.’s PAC, created from the merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways late last year, is the top airline donor to campaigns so far this year, based on data from and FEC filings. The airline made more than $460,000 in contributions to federal candidates and committees as of last month, between donations from the PAC and individuals.

Republicans received 63%, or $294,000, of the PAC’s contributions, while Democrats got 36%, or $129,537. Republican John Boehner of Ohio, the House Speaker, received $10,000 from the PAC, and Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, also received $10,000. Republican Bill Shuster chairs the the House and its Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; while Democrat John D. Rockefeller chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

While two months still remain until Election Day, contributions by the PAC are still down compared to the 2010 midterms, when the PAC gave more than $675,000. Contributions are also down from 2012, before the merger with U.S. Airways, when the PAC gave $938,729.

United Continental Holdings, the second largest airline PAC, gave more than $265,000 so far this year, with $121,000 going to Democrats and $144,500 to Republicans. Contributions by the PAC in 2014 are the lowest they’ve been since 1994. Southwest’s contributions are down as well, the lowest since 1998.

Albeit, some airlines have higher contribution levels compared to past years. JetBlue, for example, gave significantly more this year compared to 2010 — $38,784 versus $82,100 this year. Contributions are up from $69,423 in 2012 as well. Some experts predict a boost in contributions by airlines heading into the final months of campaigns.

“I’m expecting campaign contributions in the transportation industry to actually exceed 2010 midterm contributions,” said Craig Holman, a campaign finance and lobbying expert at Public Citizen. “But travel lobbyists are staying away because of how dysfunctional this Congress is, even protesters are staying away.”

Airlines had plenty keeping them busy on Capitol Hill this year, including the poorly named Transparent Airfares Act. Airlines for America, one of the top airline PACs, is pushing Congress to pass a “National Airline Policy,” aimed at updating air traffic control systems and lowering taxes charged by the federal government on plane tickets.

Top 10 Airline PAC Contributions to Midterm Campaigns in 2014

Airlines Total Democrats Republicans
American Airlines* $354,500 $129,500 $225,000
United Airlines^ $202,000 $90,000 $112,000
Delta Air Lines $191,100 $74,100 $117,000
Airlines for America $168,500 $54,000 $114,500
US Airways* $106,000 $37,000 $69,000
Southwest Airlines $104,200 $46,500 $57,700
Alaska Airlines $92,000 $49,500 $42,500
Jetblue Airways $64,500 $20,000 $44,500
Continental Airlines^ $63,500 $31,000 $32,500
Hawaiian Airlines $15,250 $14,750 $500

*American Airlines and U.S. Airways are part of American Airlines Group Inc.
^United Airlines and Continental Airlines are part of United Continental Holdings.



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Tags: american airlines, politics

Photo credit: American Airlines Group Inc. donated the most money of any airline to midterm campaigns and federal committees so far this year. Peter Russell / Flickr

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