In her first address as one of the aerospace industry’s top spokespeople, Marion Blakey, a former senior Bush administration appointee, said U.S. aerospace companies had a banner year.
“With good news in nearly every sector, I am pleased to see the American aerospace industry’s strong international presences continuing to keep pace with our domestic successes,” said Blakey, the new chief of the Aerospace Industries Association, the country’s top lobbying organization for military and commercial aviation companies.
At a luncheon in a hotel ballroom about a mile from the Pentagon, she said the industry had posted a record year in 2007, with total sales reaching $198 billion.
It was also a record year for Blakey personally, whose ascent is a testament to the revolving door between government and private industry and relationship-building in the nation’s capital. Blakey has parlayed a succession of government posts with aviation oversight into one of the most coveted jobs in the aerospace industry.
Blakey previously served as President Bush’s administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration for five years. She previously chaired the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aviation and other mass-casualty accidents, and administrator at the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Prior to her employment in the Bush administration, she ran a transportation consulting business in Washington, D.C.
But it was Blakey’s leap in November to the aerospace trade group from the FAA, where she was responsible for regulating many of the companies that she now serves, that caused consternation among citizens groups.
Blakey’s appointment to the AIA “raises some pretty serious ethics questions,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, told USA Today this fall. Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, told the newspaper that Blakey’s appointment feeds the public’s “worst fear” of government executives trading on their position.
Likewise, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a frequent critic of the White House, said in response to Blakey’s job switch that “the revolving door has spun out of control.”
Blakey countered that she had been “scrupulously careful” in following federal ethics rules when she was FAA chief. She told the newspaper that after she opened employment negotiations with the AIA, she steered clear of agency business that might affect the trade group or Boeing.
There’s little doubt that Blakey received a substantial pay raise to go to AIA. At the FAA, the Alabama native earned approximately $168,000 annually. The 2005 tax return for AIA, the most recent public filing available, shows that her predecessor was paid $532,000 annually, plus benefits and expenses.