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Shipping Firms Seek Legislative Deliverance

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Smith is a major political donor, particularly to Republicans. Since 2006, he has given more than $80,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He also contributed to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the campaigns of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Tennessee lawmakers such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), who has threatened to block FAA legislation if it includes the labor provision.

But Smith also donated $2,400 to the campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last year.

While critics say that Smith has become obsessed with stopping the labor changes, Lane said that is “an overstatement.”

Despite FedEx’s extensive federal operation, Lane said UPS has benefited from key allies such as Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar. The Minnesota Democrat ensured the union section made it into the FAA bill that was under his committee’s jurisdiction.

“This is a gift that UPS is getting from their favorite chairman,” Lane said.

Oberstar spokesman Jim Berard said that adding the labor change has long been a priority of the chairman. He rebutted the characterization by FedEx that the provision amounted to a bailout — a term that has taken on political resonance recently because of public opposition to the federal bank bailouts.

“There’s no federal taxpayer money going to UPS,” Berard said. “We’re just making sure everyone is playing by the same rules.”

Since 1989, Oberstar has been one of the top recipients of campaign contributions from the UPS political action committee and its executives, receiving $84,000, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. But during the same period, UPS gave more to other Members who are not considered allies of organized labor, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who received $96,000, and Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), who received $88,000.

Both transportation companies have been active political contributors, with those affiliated with UPS giving $24 million and FedEx $18 million since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Both companies also have similar giving patterns, contributing more to Republican candidates than Democrats over the past 15 years.

UPS spent almost $10 million on lobbying between January 2009 and March 2010. (FedEx chooses a more expansive method of lobbying disclosure reporting, including some activity such as advocacy advertising and state activity that UPS does not.)

UPS, which spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to Congress last year, will continue its education process, company spokesman Malcolm Berkley said. But the spokesman said UPS was not engaging in the kind of massive public relations campaign being underwritten by FedEx.

Berkley also called the bailout claim by FedEx “a ridiculous notion.”

He said that FedEx truck drivers are treated differently than other drivers in the country. The provision would not apply to FedEx pilots, who would still come under the Railway Labor Act.

Berkley also said that while UPS and unions worked together on this issue, that did not mean they were aligned on all matters.

Ken Hall, a Teamsters official, said the labor provision regarding FedEx is one of the top three priorities on Capitol Hill for his union.

“We are going to the mat,” Hall said. He said about 100,000 drivers, loaders and unloaders at FedEx would be covered under new union rules if the changes are adapted.

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