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Airline lobbying group to hire Nicholas Calio, a former Bush aide, as CEO

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 29, 2010; 4:00 PM

The airline industry's leading trade group announced Monday that it is hiring a longtime Republican lobbyist as its new chief as the industry faces increased scrutiny of airport security and other aviation issues in Washington.

Nicholas E. Calio, a former official in both Bush administrations who leads lobbying operations for Citigroup, will take over as president and chief executive of the Air Transport Association on Jan. 1, officials said. Calio will replace James May, a longtime Washington lobbyist who has headed the organization for eight years.

Calio, 57, said he will focus on trying to ease the tax and regulatory burden on the U.S. airline industry, which is struggling to remain profitable during the economic downturn.

"The industry is overtaxed and inefficiently regulated," Calio said. "You're looking at an industry that is absolutely vital to the U.S. economy, and it has to have a viable presence globally."

Calio led Citigroup's lobbying operations during a tumultuous time for the banking giant, which was aided by federal bailout funds after the 2008 financial crash. He previously served as chief congressional liaison for both George H.W. Bush and his son, including working to help shepherd George W. Bush's tax cuts and post-9/11 security plans through Congress.

The ATA has spent more than $8 million on lobbying since the start of the Obama administration, including recent efforts to oppose customer-service regulations proposed by the Transportation Department. Lately, the aviation industry has been coping with a public uproar over new passenger screening procedures implemented by the Department of Homeland Security.

Glenn Tilton, chairman of the ATA and United Continental Holdings, said that Calio's "leadership skills and reputation for integrity on both sides of the aisle make him uniquely suited to head ATA."

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