House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster [R-PA] admits that he's having an affair with Shelley Rubino, vice president for global government affairs for Airlines for America, but swears that's not why he gave her industry so many awesome legislative gifts.
Shuster's the Congressjerk behind the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014, which let airlines go back to their old practices of not including mandatory fees in their advertised fares. Shuster, who recently divorced his wife of more than 20 years, took in more from Rubino's employer and its members than any other politician. Rubino (who used to work for a Democratic Congressjerk) gets $400K/year to lobby Congress on behalf of the airline industry.
Shuster just hired Rubino's number two, Chris Brown, who served as vice president for legislative and regulatory policy, to be his legislative aide. He often gives public statements that are paraphrases or word-perfect quotes from A4A's press materials.
Shuster is a hereditary Congressjerk, who got his seat eight terms ago, after his dad, Bud Shuster, was forced to resign after getting caught accepting bribes and giving out legislative favors.
Shuster says that neither his relationship nor his other actions violate House conflict of interest rules.
Stan Brand, the former general counsel of the House and an ethics expert, said that as long as Rubino is a registered lobbyist — which she is — there is no apparent ethics violation by Shuster, even if he backed or advocated on behalf of legislation supported by her organization.
"Absent some exchange of gifts or things that would otherwise be a problem under the rules, I don't think the mere fact of her relationship with [Shuster] trespasses any other rules, at least none that I know of," Brand said. "The rules don't automatically disqualify a spouse from being employed in a trade association that may have interests before the committee. … I don't think that, in and of itself, is a violation."
Bud Shuster, Bill's father, was also a former chairman of the Transportation Committee. Following a long investigation, the Ethics Committee found Bud Shuster engaged in a "pattern and practice" of allowing his former top aide Ann Eppard — a transportation lobbyist — to appear before him on behalf of her clients after she left his staff. The CBS show "60 Minutes" filmed the elder Shuster hiding from TV cameras in the back seat of Eppard's car in an attempt to conceal his relationship with her.
Bill Shuster admits 'private and personal relationship' with airline lobbyist [John Bresnahan, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman/Politico]