The Democratic Party and its candidates appear to have received more donations from airlines and their lobbyists than their Republican counterparts. This fact probably reflects the control that Democrats have over many key legislative committees and regulatory bodies at the national level.
Continental Airlines spent $1,330,000 in lobbying this year. In addition, its political action committee spent $220,900 on federal election campaigns, giving 52 percent of that money to Democrats and 48 percent to Republicans. Among the largest gainers was Representative Steven LaTourette, a Republican from Ohio, whose campaign received $10,000.
AirTran spent $180,000 in federal lobbying. Its political action committee donated $45,600 in this election cycle, 36 percent to Democrats and 64 percent to Republicans. Most interestingly, the PAC donated $4,500 to the campaign of North Carolina's William James Breazeale, which was roughly a tenth of the money his campaign raised in the '08 election cycle. It was Breazeale's first run for office as a Republican, according to Fox News. It is not immediately obvious why a company headquartered in Florida would donate (via its political action committee) to only one federal election campaign, especially one of a newcomer, though there must be a good reason.
US Airways donated a near identical amount to AirTran, via its political action committee. $44,500 went 38 percent to Democrats and 62 to Republicans.
United Airlines's political action committee donated about $93,000 this year to federal candidates, with 70 percent going to Democrats. It was most generous to the election campaigns of Congressman Jerry Costello, Democrat from Illinois and current chairman of the aviation subcommittee ($10,000) and Senator Ken Salazar, Democrat from Colorado ($10,000). Senator Salazar is a champion of the Essential Air Service Program, which uses federal tax money to ensure affordable commercial air service to rural communities and, some would argue financially benefits major airlines.
Southwest Airlines split its roughly $44,000 in federal campaign contributions between the two parties, via its political action committee.
Delta's political action committee has favored federal candidates who were Republicans. The airline split its $66,000 donation, giving 28 percent to Democrats, 72 percent to Republicans. A major benefactor was Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican from Georgia, whose campaign received $32,500 from the airline this year. He's a ranking member of the subcommittee on transportation and infrastructure.
American Airlines's political action committee spent even more this election cycle: $327,750. The money mostly came from American Airlines' officers, vice-presidents, and other top-level officials. It was split fairly evenly, 48 percent to Democrats, 52 percent to Republicans.
In case you don't know, here's the definition of a political action committee.
Airlines have also contributed to state-level elections. You can find this information for your state at Followthemoney.org. For example, at the state level in the past few years, United has made political contributions. In California, it has favored Republicans including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In Illinois, where the company is based, it has favored Democratic candidates.