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U.S. Airlines Get Citigroup’s Calio to Lead Lobbying

Updated on

Nicholas Calio, who led Citigroup Inc.’s efforts to shape financial regulations and served as top congressional liaison for U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, will become chief Washington lobbyist for the nation’s major airlines.

Calio, 57, replaces James May, 64, on Jan. 1, the Air Transport Association said in a statement today. May has led the group since 2003.

“I am really excited,” Calio said in an interview. “The priority issues are going to be just what you expect -- taxes, regulation, infrastructure and market access internationally.”

The Washington-based association for carriers including United Continental Holdings Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc. is working to fight off tax increases and accelerate an overhaul of the air-traffic control system.

“When you have the opportunity to take advantage of the talents of somebody like Nick Calio, it is always a significant opportunity,” United Continental Chairman Glenn Tilton, who is also chairman of the trade group, said in an interview.

Calio is known for his ability to work successfully with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, Tilton said.

May, a lobbyist for television and radio broadcasters before he led the airline group, said “it was simply time” for the change. May said he isn’t ready to comment on his next move.

“I’m not the retiring type,” he said. “Stay tuned.”

Overhauling Financial Rules

New York-based Citigroup, the third-largest U.S. bank by assets, received $45 billion from the government bailout fund in 2008, and became partly owned by taxpayers. Calio started as the lender’s chief Washington lobbyist in 2003.

He was among bank lobbyists working to shape the most extensive overhaul of financial rules since the Great Depression. The legislation, spurred by the 2008 financial collapse, was signed into law in July by President Barack Obama.

Calio was White House assistant for legislative affairs from January 2001 to January 2003 in the Republican administration of George W. Bush, playing the same role as a liaison to Congress that he did under Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush. For the younger Bush, he helped enact tax cuts, the No Child Left Behind education law, and the security buildup after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Between White House stints, Calio co-founded the lobbying firm O’Brien Calio, now the OB-C Group LLC. His clients included Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR Corp.’s American Airlines and Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc., Senate records show.

Calio’s clients also have included the predecessors to Dallas-based AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. phone company, and Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., the nation’s largest health insurer by enrollment. In 2000, the year before Calio joined the Bush administration, the firm was paid $3.7 million to lobby, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington- based research group.

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