FAA Measure Benefits UPS, Biggest Giver to Lawmakers (Update1)
By Jonathan D. Salant and John Hughes
May 21 (Bloomberg) — United Parcel Service Inc., whose political action committee has given more money to federal lawmakers than any other company over two decades, is a major beneficiary of legislation approved by the U.S. today House that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.
The measure includes a provision making it easier for rival FedEx Corp. workers to unionize. Under the measure, drivers for Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx could form unions locally rather than hold a national election. UPS’s truck drivers are members of the Teamsters Union.
UPS says the legislation would level the playing field, as unionizing would likely bring changes in pay and work rules that would raise FedEx’s costs.
From 1989 to 2008, the political action committee of Atlanta-based UPS contributed $19.8 million to federal candidates, more than any other company. UPS was the biggest corporate PAC giver in every election from 1992 to 2006, before Dallas-based AT&T Inc. contributed more money for the 2008 elections.
“Clearly, this is further evidence of why we have to get rid of private financing of campaigns,” said :Craig Holman, who handles campaign finance issues for Public Citizen, a Washington-based advocacy group.
UPS spokesman :Norman Black said he wasn’t able to immediately verify the numbers on giving.
“We are very proud of the participation of employees of this company in our political action committee,” Black said. “It is a point of pride that our management and employees understand the importance of our voice being heard in Washington. We play by the rules.”
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar, who inserted the UPS-sought provision, received $77,900 from UPS employees between 1989 and 2008, more than any other company, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.
The Teamsters Union, which is trying to organize FedEx workers, gave Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, $86,500.
“As committee chair, Representative Oberstar is in the catbird seat,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “So it’s no surprise that a transport company like UPS tops his list of corporate donors.”
Oberstar spokesman Jim Berard said, “Mr. Oberstar’s vote is not for sale for $77,000 or any other amount of money.” He added that Oberstar is seeking the labor provision because it is the “proper thing to do” and any implication that he is seeking it due to political donations is “absolutely wrong.”
FedEx spokesman Maury Lane said UPS lobbyists “inserted the bailout language that threatens FedEx’s ability to provide competitively priced shipping options.” He added, “UPS’s focus is holding back competition.”