As the 2020 U.S. elections draw near, top airline executives and CEOs are donating money to one particular political action committee with a very particular political bent.
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With only 13 months left until election day, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly have all donated to the right-leaning Responsibility and Freedom Work PAC.
A look into the PAC’s spending habits shows that airline-related contributions went 100 percent to Republican candidates for a total of $110,000 according to the watchdog website OpenSecrets.
The breakout for the airline CEOs were:
- Doug Parker, American Airlines $5,000
- Oscar Munoz, United Airlines $2,500
- Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines $2,500
Another top figure in the industry, Airlines for America’s senior vice president of legislative and regulatory policy Sharon L. Pinkerton, also recently donated $1,000 to the political action committee, according to Federal Election Committee reports.
None of the top airline executives donated to the PAC prior to this upcoming election cycle, and marks the first time the three have not been associated with political action committees that equally contribute money to both Democrats and Republicans alike, according to the travel industry web site Skift.
On the labor side of the airline industry, groups have started to donate money to the conservative PAC as well.
2019 Travel PAC Donations to Responsibility and Freedom Work PAC
- Airlines For America (A4a) PAC $5,000
- Southwest Airlines Co. Freedom Fund $5,000
- United Airlines, Inc. PAC $5,000
- Air Line Pilots Association PAC $5,000
- Hawaiian Airlines INC PAC $2,500
- Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association PAC $1,500
- NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots $1,500
Other groups and figures within the aviation industry have made donations including the Delta Air Lines Political Action Committee contributing $5,000 to the group last year.
The PAC has recently attracted the support of numerous airline and transportation executives mainly from the southern states. Railroad and seaport operation groups are also contributing.
Asked by Skift as to the significance of the aviation industry’s recent unilateral support of Republican candidates, several top airline executives relayed that they will continue to fund political campaigns that further support the industry's corporate interests.
“Southwest has adopted a policy that it will primarily use its affiliated political action committee, the Southwest Airlines Co. Freedom Fund (Freedom Fund), which is financed through voluntary Employee contributions, to support political campaigns, and that Company funds will be limited to supporting selected political campaigns at the state and local level in compliance with the laws of the relevant states and localities,” a Southwest Airlines representative said in a recent statement.
The statement continued, “All political campaign contributions from the Freedom Fund or by the Company directly are approved by the Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Real Estate and overseen by Southwest’s Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, with an annual summary of those contributions provided to the Southwest Board of Directors. All political contributions are intended to promote the interests of the Company and are not guided by any private political preferences of any Employee.”
At United Airlines a spokesman wrote that “United Airlines employees are welcome to make political donations on their own behalf with their own money.”