A former Florida congressman who has been a top campaign bundler for President Obama said Wednesday he is taking immediate steps to de-register as a lobbyist for a Florida-based airline so he can continue to raise funds for the president.
Ron Klein, who has raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for the president, was registered as a lobbyist last month for Spirit Airlines, a low-cost airline that has been fighting new Obama administration airline regulations. But the Obama campaign has a rule against accepting campaign contributions from federally registered lobbyists.
After the Washington Free Beacon website reported on his lobbyist role today -- noting that he is listed on the Obama campaign's website as one of its bundlers -- Klein told NBC News that his registration with the Secretary of the Senate last month was a "clerical error" by an employee of Holland & Knight, the Washington law and lobbying firm where he currently works. He will "de-register" with the Secretary of the Senate today, he said.
Klein said he had brought in Spirit Airlines as a client for Holland & Knight in keeping with his role of "business development" for the firm. But, he added, "I'm not a lobbyist" even thought he was listed as one of the three Holland & Knight lobbyists who were registered last month to work on issues relating to "Department of Transportation aviation regulations" and "customs and border protection" at Ft. Lauderdale airport.
The case illustrates the fuzzy rules of what constitutes lobbying in Washington. Spirit Airlines recently launched a campaign to overturn a new Transportation Department regulation allowing passengers to change flights within 24 hours of booking without paying a penalty.
The airline has launched a website to fight the new rule -- KeepMyFaresLow.org -- urging customers to contact their congressmen and senators and imposed a $2 fee on its customers it calls the "Department of Transportation Unintended Consequences Fee."
Klein said he knew Spirit Airlines, because it's located in his former district, resulting in his recruitment of the company for Holland & Knight.
"They want to express their story on Capitol Hill," he said.
When first contacted about Klein, an Obama campaign official said by email, "All of the funds he raised for the campaign were raised last year. At the moment, he became a federal lobbyist he stopped raising for the campaign."
But Klein said he had not heard from anybody in the Obama campaign. And, he added, he fully expects to continue raising money for the president's re-election.
"I understand the rules," he said.