A post here on February 3 praised Spirit Airlines for its public campaign against a costly new Department of Transportation regulation. I said then, "Give Spirit credit for fighting back in public rather than just hiring some former DOT official or former colleague of a current DOT official to lobby in private to overturn the rule, imposing yet more costs that wind up getting passed along to consumers or shareholders."
The Washington Free Beacon today has details on Spirit's lobbying. The Beacon focuses on Ron Klein, a former Democratic Congressman from Florida who is a registered lobbyist for Spirit. The Holland & Knight press release announcing Mr. Klein's hiring says, "As a member of the House Financial Services Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, he was instrumental in drafting and passing major pieces of legislation including the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) and the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010. Due to his background with healthcare businesses and regulation, Klein was also an active participant in the negotiation and passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." It also says, "Holland & Knight is pleased to announce that former U.S. Representative Ron Klein (D-FL) has joined the firm's Public Policy & Regulation Group as a partner. Klein will play a major role providing strategic counsel to clients in the area of government regulation and compliance in the financial services, healthcare and energy sectors."
This is a textbook example of how the revolving door works. The congressmen pass these pieces of legislation that are so complicated and burdensome that one of the only rational ways for businesses to respond is to hire one of the people who wrote it to advise them on how to either comply with it or legally get around it.
The lobbying filing for Spirit mentions two other lobbyists who are not mentioned in the Beacon article. Jim Davis is another former congressman from Florida, a Democrat, who is also a partner in Holland & Knight's "Public Policy & Regulation Group." And Lisa Barkovic, a "senior public affairs advisor" with the Holland & Knight Public Policy & Regulation Group, is a five-year veteran of the staff of a Republican congressman from Florida, Mark Foley.
The fees these guys charge go right into the cost of your airline ticket, as do the costs of whatever burdens Congress would heap on the airlines if they didn't hire these guys.
All the usual observations apply — it's good to see former government employees striking out for themselves in the private sector. The right of petition is protected under the First Amendment, as it should be. Maybe Klein, Davis, and Barkovic are being hired for their advocacy skills rather than for their relationships or knowledge gained while in government service. And it's all perfectly legal. But it's another argument for the application of law professor Glenn Reynolds' proposal for an anti-revolving door tax of "A 50% surtax on anything earned within five years after leaving the federal government, above whatever the federal salary was."