Tallahassee is full of lobbyists, and they’re in high gear at the Capitol for the final week of the legislative session.
A lobbyist is someone who is hired by a company or organization to convince lawmakers to pass legislation benefiting their clients.
Long-time lobbyist Jack Cory doesn’t stop moving much during the session. His firm’s two-dozen clients include the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Florida Citrus Sports, and the Florida and National Greyhound Associations.
In the final stretches of session, Cory's starting his days with four shots of espresso before dawn.
“Lobbying is not brown bags and martini lunches. My day starts at 5 in the morning on most days. It very seldom ends before 10 o’clock or midnight,” Cory says. “We will be in Saturday and Sundays during the last weeks of the session trying to get appropriations.”
Cory sees himself as an educator, teaching lawmakers about the changes his clients are seeking. His typical day during session involves lots of meetings. He’s armed with one-page documents containing bullet points of information that come in handy when he runs into lawmakers like Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami.
He tells the reps things like: “This is for your Boys & Girls Clubs down in Miami. This bill will be up next week."
Cory was part of a Boys Club as a teenager up north, where he learned how to be a radio broadcaster. He spent time in the Air Force, worked in marketing, and eventually started running political campaigns.
He now runs Public Affairs Consultants in Tallahassee with his wife Keyna. He’s been lobbying the Florida Legislature for more than 20 years.
Cory sat down for a chat before another long day of lobbying at the Capitol.
WLRN: Certainly there are people who think lobbying is about making backroom deals. What does the law say you can do?
Jack Cory: We have some state statutes that require honesty [and] ethics, require registration, require full disclosure of your clients, require factual testimony... We do all of those things, and if you don’t, you don’t survive around here very long.
WLRN: Why do companies or organizations need to have a lobbyist?
Cory: They need to have one so that their views are put forth before the Legislature and so that they can stay at home taking care of their business. Now that does not mean that those folks back home don’t have to be involved in their public affairs program. They have to participate 52 weeks a year doing their grassroots back home.
WLRN: Are there any laws you think could be changed to help make your job easier?
Cory: Well, the gift law is probably one of the silliest things the Legislature ever did to itself. Term limits is equally as silly.
We certainly wouldn’t tell doctors or bankers or brain surgeons that you could only serve for eight years, and after you’ve been a brain surgeon for eight years you have to go find a new job. But yet that’s what we tell our public officials in Florida once [they] get the experience and the knowledge of the process – and this is a very complicated process.
To have a citizen Legislature, a part-time Legislature, it’s very, very difficult. And term limits is the bane of the productiveness of the Legislature.
The gift law just broke the camaraderie of members being able to break bread with each other. To make it some sort of a sinister thing that a not-for-profit cannot take their legislator out for dinner and sit down and try to talk to them about their issues is just silliness.
Nobody who is honest, moral, legal and ethical is going to sell their soul for a meal.