WASHINGTON — Nicholas Calio, Citigroup Inc.'s head of global government relations since 2003, is leaving the company to run the Air Transport Association.
Considered one of Washington's top lobbyists, the move is a blow to Citi, particularly as the Republicans just won control of the House and picked up seats in the Senate. Although Calio has long-established relationships with members of both political parties, he has worked for two Republican administrations and is close to Rep. John Boehner, who is expected to be the next Speaker of the House.
In an interview Monday, Calio said it was time for a different challenge.
"For me, the ATA is a great opportunity to work for another vital industry that has a huge impact on economic growth and jobs," he said. "I think that the platform that the ATA provides for affecting public policy is one that will be challenging and interesting and fun. What I hope to bring [the ATA] is a good deal of focus to make it the most effective voice in the industry for its members."
Asked why he is leaving Citi, Calio said the new job was "just a good opportunity."
Calio also noted similarities between his new role and his job at Citi.
"It's a high profile industry," Calio said. "It's an industry that has its challenges in many ways and it is in an industry that is supposedly deregulated but really is very heavily regulated."
Before joining Citi, Calio served as President George W. Bush's top legislative affairs assistant from January 2001 to January 2003 where his relationship with lawmakers was widely credited as a critical component to the Bush administration's success on Capitol Hill.
The New York Times described him as a "forceful broker — not only between the White House and Congress, but also among Cabinet officials' and 'credit[ed] him with a major role in the biggest White House legislative victories on Capitol Hill," according to Calio's Citigroup biography.
Before working in the Bush Administration, Calio was a partner at O'BrienCalio, a law and lobbying firm he co-founded in 1993, which was named in 1998 as one of "the ten most powerful" in Washington by a Fortune magazine survey of members of Congress, congressional staff, administration staff, and Washington lobbyists.
Calio also previously served as the top legislative liaison to the senior President George H.W. Bush.