Tim Keating, then Boeing executive vice president of government operations, in 2014. He was abruptly ousted Monday. (Ellen M. Banner/Seattle Times/TNS)

Tim Keating, then Boeing executive vice president of government operations, in 2014. He was abruptly ousted Monday. (Ellen M. Banner/Seattle Times/TNS)

Boeing ousts its longtime chief lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Chief Executive Dave Calhoun’s memo provided no explanation for Tim Keating’s sudden departure.

By Dominic Gates / The Seattle Times

Tim Keating, Boeing’s executive vice president of government operations, the company’s chief lobbyist and political strategist in Washington, D.C., and a leading figure on the jet maker’s leadership council, is “no longer with the company.”

That was the curt wording in a Monday memo from Chief Executive Dave Calhoun to Boeing’s government operations team, telling them that “effective immediately” Marc Allen, the company’s chief strategy officer, would abruptly take over Keating’s role on an interim basis.

Calhoun’s memo provided no explanation for Keating’s sudden departure, which happened without warning or transition. His message included not a word of praise or thanks for the departing executive, indicating that Keating has been ousted against his will.

Keating’s bio immediately disappeared from the list of executive biographies on Boeing’s corporate website.

In a statement, Boeing said “we do not intend to comment further.”

Keating, who formerly worked in the Clinton administration, played a key role for years in managing Boeing’s relationship with Congress and the White House.

As a major U.S. defense contractor, Boeing has multibillion-dollar military contracts and its business depends on a tight relationship with the government, its single largest customer.

Keating was hired in 2008 to leverage his political clout after Boeing initially lost the Air Force aerial refueling tanker contract to Northrop Grumman, which had proposed a tanker based on an Airbus jet.

In 2011, Keating’s aggressive lobbying of Congress was instrumental in Boeing reversing that decision and winning the KC-46 tanker contract.

After that victory, Keating opened a celebratory bottle of wine with Rich Michalski, his counterpart at the headquarters of the International Association of Machinists union. The two had collaborated to swing Republicans and Democrats behind Boeing.

Keating’s closeness with Michalski also played a critical role in the bitterly contested Machinists vote in 2013 that secured the building of the 777X in Everett.

After local union leaders in the Puget Sound district rejected Boeing’s demand for major concessions — in particular, freezing the traditional pensions of their members — and their members voted it down, the national union leadership, encouraged by Keating, engineered a second vote and swung it in Boeing’s favor.

In 2014, Keating launched an unusual public attack on Boeing’s engineering union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, and particularly the union’s executive director, Ray Goforth, who was disliked by the leadership in Chicago.

More recently, Keating sat directly behind former CEO Dennis Muilenburg at the congressional hearings where the CEO was grilled about the fatal crashes of the 737 Max.

And he accompanied Muilenburg on visits to former President Donald Trump’s Trump Tower in New York and Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida — visits that developed a friendly relationship between Boeing and Trump.

In addition to steering Boeing’s public policy direction, Keating also oversaw the company’s extensive philanthropic contributions.

In 2019, company financial filings show Keating received $4.4 million in compensation. A filing in February shows that he then owned shares in Boeing valued at just less than $21 million at today’s closing price of $245.28.

Before joining Boeing, Keating had been senior vice president of government relations for Honeywell and chairperson of the board at Timmons and Company — one of Washington’s most prestigious lobbying firms.

Earlier, Keating served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton and staff director for White House legislative affairs.

Before joining the Clinton administration, Keating held several positions with the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served as assistant floor manager for the Democratic leadership.

Keating’s departure was first reported Monday by trade magazine Defense One.

Calhoun’s internal memo announcing Keating’s leaving said the company has “already initiated a search for a new leader for this critical role at Boeing.

“In the meantime, I have great confidence in Marc’s ability to lead our world-class Government Operations team on the many important public policy matters and global engagement initiatives we are currently working on,” Calhoun wrote.

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