A senior White House legislative aide is leaving to become chief lobbyist for Washington’s leading airline industry group, officials said Tuesday.
The Air Transport Association of America said that Sean Kennedy, who serves as President Obama’s special assistant for legislative affairs, will take over as the group’s government affairs chief next month.
The move puts an influential Democrat in a key position at the airline lobby group, which is headed by Nicholas E. Calio, a former senior legislative aide to George W. Bush. The group said Kennedy’s experience as a bipartisan coalition-builder figured prominently in its decision to hire him.
“Sean is a recognized leader who is known for thoughtfully managing tough issues in close cooperation with both Republicans and Democrats,” Calio said in a statement.
Kennedy has been the White House’s key point of contact with the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees key aviation issues, and previously worked for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.). Kennedy said in a statement that he will focus on “industry efforts to be more globally competitive, create jobs and continue to grow the economy at a greater level.”
The air transport group, which represents all major U.S. airlines as well as many other aviation-related companies, has spent more than $10 million on lobbying since the start of the Obama administration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Under Obama administration ethics guidelines, Kennedy is forbidden from lobbying the executive branch on issues that he handled while in government for two years; however, those restrictions do not apply to Congress. The White House declined to comment on Kennedy’s departure Tuesday.