A month later, Elwell initiated another exchange. He emailed JetBlue executives, asking them for help with “an airport privatization issue.” He later asked if the airline had “any luck finding a JetBlue exec we can throw to the lions, er, I mean, introduce to a nice reporter to say nice things about airport privatization?” JetBlue, the airline lobbyist and the FAA then coordinated on talking points for a story about privatizing management of St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
Political appointees typically aren’t allowed to participate in issues that involve their former employer or clients they have worked for, as part of President Donald Trump’s ethics rules. But the rules did not apply to Elwell during his first few months at the FAA when he worked on the deregulatory team.
He had been classified as a kind of government consultant — a “special-government employee” — who isn’t bound by the ethics rules.