Election '98

Representing Pilots' Interests

November 1, 1998

General aviation allies in this month's elections

It goes without saying that the federal government has a major impact on general aviation and GA pilots.

From the laws and regulations affecting our qualifications to operate aircraft to the rules that we follow in flight, the airworthiness of our airplanes, the weather and support services that we use, and the airports and airways that we need — almost everything that a pilot does is discussed, debated, or voted on by someone in Washington, D.C.

AOPA dedicates significant time and resources to providing input in that process on behalf of pilots. The staff working in both the AOPA Legislative Action offices a few blocks from the Capitol in Washington and at the association's headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, assure that the interests of pilots are vigorously represented.

But they can't succeed without the vital assistance of the AOPA Legislative Action Political Action Committee. The political action committee (PAC) assures that the voice of pilots is heard loud and clear. AOPA Legislative Action's PAC provides financial support to candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who are likely to support AOPA's positions on issues before Congress.

Many of these candidates are pilots and AOPA members themselves. Others have shown a willingness to stand up for the interests of general aviation in Congress and use their clout to make a difference. They range from House and Senate leaders and chairmen of key committees to members of important committees — such as the House Ways and Means or Senate Finance committees, the appropriations committees, or the aviation subcommittees — to fellow pilots running for Congress for the first time.

Like most organizations, AOPA is forbidden by law from using dues money to contribute to political campaigns. Instead, the AOPA Legislative Action PAC serves that role, using funds given to it by AOPA members on a strictly voluntary basis. That's why the PAC asks AOPA members for support instead of including a contribution with dues. Without the kind gifts from the pilots who consistently support the PAC, the pilots and other candidates who depend on the PAC for vital support might lose the financial edge that they need to win on election day.

The PAC chooses its slate of candidates on a strictly bipartisan basis. Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, may receive its support as long as they support general aviation and have a reasonable chance of winning the election.

Thanks to the consistent support of pilots, the AOPA Legislative Action PAC is one of the largest and most effective candidate-support organizations in the country. The 1996 elections continued the high success rate of the PAC's slate of candidates. Roughly 85 percent of the candidates for the House and Senate backed by the AOPA Legislative Action PAC won their races. With the backing of pilots nationwide, the PAC hopes to continue or even top its success on this election day, November 3.

Please take a few moments to look at a few of the candidates running with the AOPA Legislative Action PAC's support this year. Whatever their views on other issues, these candidates are all pro-GA.Matt Fong is running for the U.S. Senate in California. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Fong flew as a commercial pilot before his election as California state treasurer. He is a CFI, AOPA member, and an enthusiastic pilot who often flies for business and campaigning. Flying allows him to hear the concerns of people across such a large state. Because of his experience as treasurer of a state larger than many countries, Fong is qualified to scrutinize the FAA and other federal agencies to assure that they don't waste the taxes you pay.

Robin Hayes seeks election to the House of Representatives from North Carolina's Eighth Congressional District. An AOPA member for a quarter century, Hayes has a commercial pilot certificate with a multiengine rating and flies his Piper Navajo for both business and campaigning. Born and educated in North Carolina, Hayes has served since 1992 in the North Carolina House of Representatives, where he was chosen as majority whip and named Legislator of the Year in 1996. Hayes will put his experience to good use in Congress.

Pat Toomey is running for the open seat in the Fifteenth District of Pennsylvania. Toomey is a longtime AOPA member who flies a Piper Lance for both business and campaigning. After working his way through Harvard University and graduating cum laude, Toomey worked as an investment banker and ran his own financial consulting firm. In 1990 Toomey became an entrepreneur and small businessman by opening a group of restaurants in the Allentown area. His small-business experience and views on taxation makes him a likely ally in AOPA's efforts to defeat user fees or aviation tax increases.

Randy Hoffman from California founded Magellan Systems Corporation in 1989. The company soon became one of the world's premier providers of GPS units for aviation, defense, aerospace, and other uses. Under Hoffman's guidance, Magellan has grown to a 500-employee company with $125 million in annual sales. Hoffman's contributions to avionics go beyond Magellan — he founded the U.S. Global Positioning System Industry Council to promote the technology. Thanks to his efforts, GA pilots nationwide enjoy the benefits of this simple, inexpensive, yet powerful system. His business and technical experience will go a long way in Congress.

Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota is one of the most respected aviation experts in Congress, and has a keen personal interest in aviation issues. Oberstar has moved up to the top minority party position on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee after a stint as aviation subcommittee chairman. He has put his stamp on many important laws affecting aviation, including legislation giving general aviation airports a greater share of airport improvement program funds, modernizing flight service stations, and reforming the FAA's personnel and procurement system. Oberstar is always willing to listen to AOPA's views on aviation issues.

Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee is the chairman of the House aviation subcommittee. In his four years as chairman, Duncan has demonstrated a reasonable and no-nonsense approach to aviation issues. The House passed a bill he authored that freed the FAA from burdensome federal personnel and acquisition rules and made other important reforms. Legislation from his subcommittee consistently supports AOPA's goals and, thanks to his leadership, his subcommittee has refused to give the FAA the power to collect user fees. Instead of bowing to media panic following the tragic death of seven-year-old Jessica Dubroff on her ill-fated cross-country flight, Duncan called for a restriction on aviation media stunts involving children.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama chairs the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee, making him a powerful figure in aviation. Shelby is a vocal critic of FAA user fees and has repeatedly refused requests by the Clinton administration to allow user fees in the annual transportation spending bill. Instead, his spending bills have forbidden the FAA from using its regulatory power to develop or implement user fees without Congress's approval. Under Shelby's guidance, Congress has provided record funding for the FAA. This year's bill contains all-time highs of $9.5 billion for the FAA and $2.1 billion for the Airport Improvement Program.

Rep. Ron Packard of California is a longtime supporter of AOPA who sits on the House Appropriations Committee's transportation subcommittee. As a chairman of an appropriations subcommittee, Packard is one of the 13 "Cardinals" with great influence on spending policy. Last year, Packard introduced a bill to implement AOPA's "Linked Financing" plan to speed the spending of the surplus in the Airport and Airway Trust Fund on aviation. An experienced and effective legislator, Packard excels at putting out fires in Congress before they become problems for AOPA.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada is an experienced member of the transportation appropriations subcommittee and a consistent supporter of AOPA. As a member of the appropriations panel, Reid was instrumental in AOPA's successful effort to reform the FAA's personnel and procurement rules and give the agency greater autonomy from the Department of Transportation. Reid also asserted his independence by rejecting the Clinton administration's request for user fees and backing language that prohibits the FAA from initiating or even planning user fees without congressional permission. Reid is always willing to listen to AOPA's concerns and never hesitates to stake out a courageous position to support pilots.


William Deere is the vice president and executive director of AOPA Legislative Action.