FAA review of charter definitions follows uptick in lobbying

FAA review of charter definitions follows uptick in lobbying

With help from Daniel Lippman

FAA REVIEW OF CHARTER RULES FOLLOWS LOBBYING UPTICK: The FAA on Thursday announced plans to review federal regulations for charter flights, POLITICO’s Oriana Pawlyk reports, potentially paving the way for one regional carrier’s petition to operate some of its flights under less stringent charter requirements, following an uptick in lobbying on the issue, according to a PI analysis of disclosure filings.

— “The agency issued a notice of intent to solicit feedback as a precursor to a possible rule looking to better define whether some charter companies should operate under Part 135, which governs charter flights, instead of Part 121, which governs airlines with set flight schedules,” per Oriana.

— Airlines have pushed with mixed success for the designation of some of their operations as charter flights, allowing them to get around rules for non-charter commercial flights requiring that pilots have more than 1,500 training hours. Regional carrier SkyWest Charter is one such airline petitioning DOT. SkyWest hired federal lobbyists for the first time earlier this year, as PI reported at the time, paying Mehlman Consulting $30,000 between May and the end of June to lobby on charter aircraft issues.

— Another charter airline, JSX, retained JTR Strategies’ Jenny Rosenberg — its first federal lobbyist — in May to lobby on charter air issues as well. JSX’s operations in particular drew a formal complaint last month by the Air Line Pilots Association, which accused the carrier of blurring the line between scheduled service and charter operations. ALPA is one of several unions opposed to DOT’s approval of the SkyWest charter application, arguing in part that greenlighting it could hinder air service in rural communities.

— ALPA has spent just $320,000 on lobbying through the first half of this year, compared to $864,000 in the first half of 2022 — though the union has backup from former House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio, who is not registered to lobby.

— The National Business Aviation Association, meanwhile, boosted its lobbying expenditures from $390,000 in the first quarter of 2023 to $430,000 in the second quarter. The trade group, along with five other aviation industry groups, pushed back in June on “unsubstantiated claims” from critics of the public charter industry and defending the “flexibility” they allow.

TGIF and welcome to PI. This newsletter will go dark next week for its annual summer hiatus. We’ll be back in your inboxes on Sept. 5. Send tips and vacation pics: [email protected]. And be sure to follow me on the platform formerly known as Twitter: @caitlinoprysko.

CRYPTO TAX RULES SET UP NEW POLICY BRAWL: “Tax rules for crypto exchanges have finally arrived, and some of the digital asset industry’s top allies in Washington think they’re a mess,” our Sam Sutton reports.

— “Treasury on Friday proposed to set major new reporting requirements for exchanges and brokers that provide the trading infrastructure for crypto’s $1 trillion market. Sales would have to be disclosed to the IRS and some service providers would also be covered. The proposal exempts digital asset mining businesses if they aren’t also engaged in trading.”

— “House Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) called the notice of proposed rulemaking ‘another front in the Biden Administration’s ongoing attack on the digital asset ecosystem,’ in a statement.”

— “The fight over how the federal government will tax crypto trades has preoccupied Washington policymakers for years. The latest proposal from Treasury stems from a provision included in the 2021 infrastructure law that ignited a battle between industry lobbyists, grassroots crypto enthusiasts and watchdog groups over what businesses in the industry should be required to provide the government with information about their customers’ holdings and investment activity. The lobbying around the rulemaking process will likely be equally intense.”

GREENS NUDGE CALIFORNIA UTILITY TO LEAVE TRADE GROUP: Twenty environmental groups on Thursday urged California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, to leave the American Gas Association over the trade association’s stances on decarbonization, our colleagues over at Morning Energy report.

— “Led by Earthjustice and the Sierra Club California, the groups contended in a letter that AGA’s actions “do not align with PG&E’s values” and urged the utility to follow the lead of New England utility Eversource, which left the AGA last year over the association’s positions on climate issues.

— “Eversource’s decision to leave AGA is proof that a major gas service provider can continue to safely and responsibly continue its operations without supporting climate obstruction by the American Gas Association,” the groups wrote, pointing out that PG&E quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2009 for casting doubt on climate change science.

— In a statement, PG&E spokesperson Jason King called AGA a “critical partner” that allows the company to collaborate with other member utilities on safety, reliability and the future of natural gas. AGA did not respond to a request for comment.

THE TIKTOK CONUNDRUM: For POLITICO Magazine, Nancy Scola delves into the intensifying interest among political operatives in harnessing the power of TikTok creators to tap into the elusive younger electorate — despite the video platform’s ban on paid political ads and the looming threat of a ban on the app altogether.

— “In interviews with nearly two dozen digital consultants, political aides and voter mobilization experts, mostly but not exclusively Democrats, sources took me inside the quietly booming campaign ecosystem that is spreading on the app and that has become crucially important in connecting with voters of color,” she writes.

— “These strategists aren’t turning to TikTok just for brand-building, messaging and mobilizing on behalf of candidates and causes, but for establishing trust and combatting disinformation, which have proven to be particular challenges in connecting with these voters in recent years.”

— “But TikTok is also in serious jeopardy. Many critics fear that the Chinese Communist Party has unacceptable influence over TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, that it could use to, say, extract Americans’ data from the app or tweak its powerful algorithm to negatively influence public opinion. And many in Washington on both sides of the aisle find TikTok’s defense … unconvincing.

— “If TikTok is banned, young people won’t just be losing out on a place to participate in the latest viral dance challenge, share anthropological memes about the ways we live today … Both political parties will be losing out on a chance to connect with voters who are notoriously hard to turn out — and whose influence in politics is already hamstrung by restrictive voting rules and gerrymandering, which have been shown to have a disparate impact on minority voters.”

WHOOPSIES: “The head of a Supreme Court ‘transparency’ watchdog helping to spearhead a campaign alleging ethics violations among justices, including Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, admitted his group failed to disclose its own lobbying,” per the Washington Examiner’s Gabe Kaminsky.

— “Tax attorneys told the Washington Examiner in July it appeared that Fix the Court, a charity formerly a project of New Venture Fund, a liberal nonprofit group managed by the dark money organization and for-profit consultancy Arabella Advisors, likely skirted federal law in 2021 and 2022 due to not reporting activities on financial disclosures that constitute grassroots lobbying.”

— In a podcast interview released Wednesday, Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said he’d been mistaken about the rules for nonprofit disclosures of grassroots lobbying activities. “So yeah, my confusion was I didn’t hire lobbyists, so like, why does the IRS care how much time I spend?” the executive director told attorney David Lat in an interview on his podcast Original Jurisdiction. “But turns out they do. I have been corrected, and that’s being worked on as we speak.”

— But Roth defended his group’s criticism of Thomas and Alito, who recent reports have shown failed to disclose gifts and trips they accepted from wealthy businessmen over decades, even as he conceded the “irony” of Fix the Court’s flawed disclosures.

— “‘When Fix the Court was part of New Venture Fund, I never had to fill out these forms,’ Roth said, ‘and this is really my first time doing it, and at first, I didn’t get help, which, again, was the wrong idea. I think if you’re a justice, and you’ve been a justice for five years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, you don’t have an excuse because you have done this every year, No. 1.’”

Amanda Malakoff is now senior director of government affairs for BridgeBio. She was previously executive director of the Rare Disease Company Coalition.

Sean Walsh has been named the managing director of external relations at Bilt Rewards. He most recently was global chief brand officer and managing director of U.S. operations at dmg media.

Jakob Stewart has joined LSG as a director in their Houston office. He previously served on the communications team of Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and is a Chet Edwards alum.

Kevin Higgins and Paul Farley have joined WestExec Advisors as senior advisers. Both men spent at least 30 years at the CIA.

Welch-Schiff Victory Fund (Sen. Peter Welch, Rep. Adam Schiff)
Workforce Forward (Reps. Lisa Mcclain, Mike Bost, Pete Stauber)

2024 Golden State Delegation – Federal (PAC)
Ban Assault Weapons NOW! (Hybrid PAC)
Compassion & Choices Action Network Political Action Committee (CCAN PAC) (PAC)
Stop Abortion Extremism PAC (Super PAC)
Students for Life Action PAC (PAC)

Accses New Jersey: Accses New Jersey
Cr Federal: Broadway Ventures, LLC
Genesis Partners Palm Beach LLC: City Of Atlantis
Greg Wilson Pr: Polypore International, Lp
Liberty Partners Group, LLC: Brown, Goldstein & Levy
Woodberry Associates: Jabil, Inc.


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