Congressman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Committee on Transportation, admitted to Politico Thursday that he has a “private and personal relationship” with a woman who works as a lobbyist for the airline industry. His staff is working on a bill that would reform the Federal Aviation Administration to the industry’s liking. But none of that, Shuster insists, is an ethical party foul or a conflict of interest.
Politico reported yesterday that Shuster is dating Shelley Rubino, who for the past three years has been the vice president for Global Government Affairs at Airlines for America. According to Open Secrets, A4A gave Shuster $10,000 in the 2014 election cycle. The Associated Press reports he received $128,350 in total airline industry donations.
It’s money well spent: Every several years, Congress has to re-authorize the FAA, a process they’re working on now. One of A4A’s main goals this time around is persuading them to reduce federal regulation and taxation of the airline industry. And what do you know: Shuster’s currently sponsoring a bill that would privatize the FAA.
Shuster was divorced from his wife Rebecca last year after 27 years of marriage. He insists that his relationship with Rubino is totally cool, telling Politico in a statement: “Ms. Rubino and I have a private and personal relationship, and out of respect for her and my family, that is all I will say about that.” He added that his office “has in place a policy that deals with personal relationships that cover my staff and myself. This was created in consultation with legal counsel and goes further than is required by the law. Under that policy, Ms. Rubino doesn’t lobby my office, including myself and my staff.”
Rubino told the AP in an email, ““My personal relationship is separate and unrelated to my work, as it always has been.”
Hilariously, Rep. Shuster’s father, Bud Shuster, resigned from the same congressional seat his son now holds over an affair with a transportation lobbyist, Ann Eppard. Eppard had previously work as his chief of staff and was indicted in 1998 for allegedly embezzling from his campaign committee. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and went on to have a long and profitable career in lobbying until her death in 2006.
As for Shuster the Younger, he’s now decrying the attack on his love life as the work of the opposition, calling it “the liberal media coming after conservatives.” Politico points out that besides his own relationship with Rubino, Shuster’s personal office chief of staff, Eric Burgeson, is also married to an A4A employee, Christine Burgeson, the senior vice president of government relations. That, too, is probably the work of the liberal media. They get in everywhere.
Shuster speaks at the speaks at the 14th Annual Aviation Summit, March 2015. Photo via AP