Why Are So Many GOP State AGs Helping Feds Block American-US Air Merger?

Bill Scher

Yesterday’s Justice Department lawsuit seeking to block the proposed American Airlines-US Airways merger is just the latest action in the Obama administration’s strategic turn towards aggressive antitrust law enforcement.

As Quartz’s Gina Chon explains:

The move is another sign of the department’s recent aggressiveness on antitrust, in contrast to the George W. Bush years, when it was seen as lax. Under the Barack Obama administration, antitrust officials have blocked AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile, and wrangled more concessions out of beer brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev before it approved the company’s deal for Corona maker Grupo Modelo.

The Justice Department also won an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, which was accused of working with five book publishers to increase the price of e-books.

And that’s just the high-profile cases. Last October US News’ David Balto tallied up Obama’s overall antitrust record compared to his predecessor:

The Obama administration has stepped up enforcement on every metric, including average yearly fines collected ($661.5 million per year, compared to $334.5 million under Bush), average number of cases filed (74 to 40 per year) and average jail days assigned (20,995 to 12,030). The Obama administration has also incarcerated numerous foreign nationals for their roles in price-fixing cartels for an average of 10 months, compared to 6.4 months under Bush.

Now Obama’s Justice Department is going after the American Airlines-US Airways merger, expanding on this activst liberal government record.

And four conservative state attorneys general are helping him.

These aren’t just any conservative state attorneys general who have joined the federal lawsuit. These are the folks that took the ObamaCare legal challenge to the Supreme Court and tried to defend Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws. And two of them are running for governor based on their anti-Obama litigation.

Obama’s right-wingmen include Texas AG and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, who brags that he’s sued the Obama administration more than 25 times (usually losing).

When asked about a typical day of work, Abbott likes to say, “I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.” Well, yesterday was not a typical day.

The conservative antitrust posse also includes Virginia AG and gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Cuccinelli, who once said it “doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility” that Obama was born in Kenya. He is campaigning on the argument that Obama is “picking winners and losers in our economy” while “the decisions I have made as attorney general – from challenging the constitutionality of the federal healthcare law to stopping the EPA from illegally attempting to regulate storm water like a pollutant – have been driven by a commitment to … keeping opportunity alive in Virginia and America.”

It includes Florida AG Pam Bondi, who said of her efforts to overturn ObamaCare, “If the federal government can do this, they can force us to do anything.”

It includes Arizona AG Tom Horne, who is so eager to be seen as litigious, that last year he was caught slightly exaggerating how many lawusits he has filed against the Obama administration on states’ rights grounds.

Yet these four are helping Obama’s liberal Big Government stop a decision by private sector executives because it would harm the public interest.

I’m not putting words in their mouths. Here are their own words.

Texas’ Abbott said the merger has “the potential for reduced airline service to several of Texas’ smaller airports that are currently served exclusively by American Airlines and American Eagle flights.”

Virginia’s Cuccinelli fretted that his constituents would suffer higher prices, saying “The merger, as proposed, significantly reduces competition and poses too big a threat of higher fares for Virginia consumers at Reagan National, Richmond International, Norfolk International, and Charlottesville-Albemarle airports. This is especially true at Reagan National Airport, where the combined airline would hold 69 percent of the takeoff and landing slots – almost six times more than its closest competitor.”

Florida’s Bondi similarly worries that, “This merger would be anti-competitive and harmful to consumers, with 20 percent of the problematic flight routes affecting Florida. By filing this lawsuit, we hope to save consumers from potential multi-million dollar increases in prices and fees.” The Orlando Sentinenl noted that the two airlines account for 15 percent of all passengers at the Orlando airport and Miami is an American Airlines hub.

Arizona’s Tom Horne also publicly based his decision on concerns of “increased airfare,” though the Phoenix New Times and Arizona Republic editorial board both note he left unsaid his concern that the US Airways corporate headquarters would leave Arizona, leading to a loss of state jobs and tax revenue.

To sum up, conservatives believe big government is horrible for the economy and for our freedom … unless it helps lower prices, expand services and protect jobs … at least, where we live.

So now you know.

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