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Bill Shuster's conflict: Way too cozy

| Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

We favor legislation converting the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control system into a nonprofit company. What we don't favor is the behavior of the Pennsylvania congressman spearheading this worthy reform now tainted.

The woes of the FAA's air traffic control system are legion. As the Reason Foundation's Robert Poole testified this month before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, it is plagued by “inadequate and uncertain funding, a flawed governance model and a status quo-oriented organizational structure.” Equipment is aging and efficiency is lagging, he added.

Turning the system into a nonprofit has broad support from aviation professionals. And it has a sound record abroad. Details still must be finalized but, in general, it's an idea whose time has come.

But the behavior of Rep. Bill Shuster, who chairs the transport committee, has cast suspicion on the proposal. As Politico documented in a Tuesday story, the Hollidaysburg Republican continues to have a very cozy relationship with lobbyists pushing the plan. A week after Shuster's committee approved the plan, Politico says he was lounging poolside and dining in Miami Beach with Nick Calio, head of Airlines for America, a lobbying group, and the group's vice president, Shelley Rubino, Shuster's girlfriend.

It was last April that Shuster denied any conflict; Ms. Rubino does not lobby him, he said. Nonetheless, the appearance of a conflict exists. And that appearance is growing.

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