US Airways beefs up lobbying power for review of American merger

Mon Mar 4, 2013 4:08pm EST

* $11 bln deal expected to be approved

* Gibson, Chesapeake are firms hired

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - US Airways Group Inc , which is seeking U.S. government approval to buy rival American Airlines, has hired two new lobbying firms, according to recent filings.

The Justice Department is reviewing US Airways' proposed $11 billion purchase of American to ensure that it complies with antitrust law, and congressional committees have been holding hearings.

US Airways, which has been pushing to buy American for months, spent $2.8 million on lobbyists in 2012, up sharply from the $1.7 million spent in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The hirings were first reported by the Center for Public Integrity.

US Airways hired Chesapeake Enterprises to assist with hearings in the House of Representatives and Senate, and merger activities, according to a filing dated last Thursday.

And it hired the Gibson Group to help with merger-related issues, according to a filing dated on Friday.

Congress has no formal role in that process although a House of Representatives panel held a hearing on the issue last week and a Senate panel has scheduled a hearing for March 19.

Chesapeake's chair, Scott Reed, is a former chief operating officer of the Republican National Committee. The Gibson Group's Joseph Gibson once worked for Representative Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas.

Other groups working for US Airways include the Podesta Group, the Cormac Group and Vandor Strategies.

The companies have argued that they should win antitrust approval in the rapidly consolidating airline sector because their networks are complementary and they have few flights that compete against each other.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker said at a conference on Monday that he expected no issues in the Justice Department review and that the deal would likely close this year. If approved, the merger would be the third by major U.S. airline since 2008.

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