Business Group Breaks With Abbott Over Lawsuit

An influential Texas business group, in a slap at Attorney General Greg Abbott, announced its support Friday for the merger between American Airlines and US Airways.

The governing board of the Texas Association of Business voted unanimously to support the merger and to oppose a federal lawsuit blocking it. Abbott, the front-running candidate for Texas governor, has joined with the U.S. Justice Department in fighting the merger.

“We realize that there is a political aspect to this issue, but it is not the intent of TAB or its board to be seen as supporting one candidate over another as a result of this vote,” TAB President Bill Hammond said. “This vote is strictly about supporting the interests of Texas’ businesses, which is our core mission.”

Hammond said there was a “high probability” that TAB’s political arm would endorse Abbott for governor even though the association is parting company with him over the airline merger.

Abbott recently wrote in a Dallas Morning News op-ed that he opposed the merger because, in his view, the reduced competition would lead to higher ticket prices and reduced service.

“What the proposed merger seeks is not competition in the free market, but it expressly seeks the elimination of competition so the airlines no longer need to compete for customers,” Abbott wrote. “It turns the free market on its head.” 

But Abbott — who has touted the numerous lawsuits he has filed against the Obama administration — has taken flak over his stand from both the left and the right for joining U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on this one. Abbott’s chief Republican primary opponent, former state GOP chairman Tom Pauken, applauded TAB’s move Friday.

“Hopefully, our continuing attention to this issue will convince Eric Holder and Greg Abbott to do the right thing in dropping their misguided objections to the merger,” Pauken said.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, expected to announce her campaign for governor next week, has also criticized the lawsuit against the merger.

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