'I Am Not a Lobbyist,' Says Registered Lobbyist

Former Rep. Ron Klein raised for Obama, despite lobbyist “ban”

February 8, 2012

UPDATE II: After a WFB exclusive, Ron Klein tells NBC’s Michael Isikoff that he plans to immediately de-register as a lobbyist for Spirit Airlines Inc., saying he never meant to register in the first place.

"I’m not a lobbyist," Klein said, claiming his registration was the result of a "clerical error" by an employee of Holland & Knight LLP, the lobbying law firm where he works.

Klein’s assertion seems to contradict comments made by an Obama campaign official earlier in the day, which indicated that Klein was, in fact, a registered lobbyist.

"The minute [Klein] became a lobbyist, he stopped raising money for the campaign," the official told Politico. "He’s no longer associated with the campaign."

Klein said he plans to continue bundling donations for Obama’s reelection campaign. He has already raised at least $200,000 to date.

Holland & Knight spokeswoman Linda Butler told the Washington Free Beacon the firm is "not commenting on this story."

UPDATE: An Obama campaign official tells Politico that Ron Klein is "no longer associated with the campaign" and never raised any money after registering as a lobbyist. The campaign does not intend to return the cash.

Former Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.) is an active campaign bundler for President Obama, having raised between $200,000 and $500,000, according to campaign records.

He is also a registered federal lobbyist.

The revelation poses a challenge for President Obama, who has banned registered lobbyists from personally contributing or bundling donations to his campaign. The president even touted these self-imposed restrictions in a Dec. 28, 2011, fundraising e-mail, writing: "We don't take a dime from D.C. lobbyists or special-interest PACs—never have and never will."

That email was sent days before Klein filed his paper work to become a "D.C. lobbyist."

Klein, a two-term congressman, registered to become a lobbyist for Spirit Airlines, Inc., on Jan. 2, 2012, according to the Senate Office of Public Records—exactly one year after leaving office in 2011 after losing to Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) in the 2010 midterms. Federal law requires at least a one-year waiting period between leaving office and registering as a lobbyist.

When Klein joined the lobbying law firm Holland & Knight LLP as an adviser on regulatory issues, he told Politico he had not ruled out lobbying in the future. As a former corporate lawyer, he was a natural fit for the job.

The news comes on the heels of the administration’s newfound embrace of Super PACs, third-party groups capable of raising large amounts of money from wealthy corporations and individuals, but which do not have to disclose their donors. Obama had previously expressed disdain for such groups, calling them "a threat to our democracy."

The president’s reversal on Super PACs has led some to question the president’s commitment to political reform. After all, reducing the influence of powerful special interests in Washington was a central element of Obama’s campaign platform in 2008.

"I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over," he said on Nov. 10, 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa. "They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president."

Obama also promised voters "lobbyists won’t find a job in my White House," a claim the non-partisan watchdog website has rated a "promise broken."

As Politifact notes, although the president signed an executive order codifying this pledge on his first full day in office, the administration has made use of a loophole in the order that permits "waivers" for former lobbyists to serve. In some cases, the administration has hired former lobbyists without a waiver and without disclosing details to the public.

The Washington Examiner reported in 2010 that there were more than 40 ex-lobbyists working in the Obama administration, including a number of senior White House officials. The Washington Post counted more than a dozen registered lobbyists on the Obama-Biden Transition Team, including the transition director John Podesta, founder and former president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress.