Politics
4:19 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Florida Lobbying Firms Collect Millions During Second Quarter

Credit freedigitalphotos.net

With industries ranging from casinos to taxicabs looking to influence the Legislature, new reports offer a glimpse of the millions of dollars in fees that lobbying firms collected during the second quarter of the year.

The reports, due before a Thursday night deadline, show that at least four lobbying firms collected $1 million or more in fees from April 1 to June 30 --- a period that included the second half of the 60-day legislative session.

Those firms, Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting, Ronald L. Book PA and Southern Strategy Group, represented clients ranging from the obscure to the obvious. As an example, Southern Strategy reported receiving fees from the Florida Girl Scout Legislative Network, as well as from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida.

In some cases, clients paid large chunks of money for representation. That included players in the gambling industry, though a debate about rewriting the state's gambling laws fizzled during the session.

For instance, Ballard Partners reported getting paid $89,000 by Resorts World Miami, LLC, which has been involved in attempts to bring a resort casino to South Florida. Similarly, Capital City Consulting reported collecting $73,000 from Las Vegas Sands Corp., another firm heavily involved in the casino issue.

Industries interested in other issues also spent big. The firm headed by prominent lobbyist Ron Book, as an example, reported getting paid $50,000 by the Florida Taxicab Association. Taxi companies fought a legislative proposal that could have helped Uber Technologies, a smart-phone app that links riders with cars, do business in the state.

Lobbying firms are required by law to file quarterly compensation reports, but it is virtually impossible to pinpoint the total amount of money spent on lobbying the Legislature.

Firms, in most cases, do not have to provide exact amounts they are paid. The reports show firms' total compensation in broad ranges. Those ranges start with some firms reporting overall fees between $1 and $49,999 and go up to the firms reporting $1 million or more.

Similarly, firms report income from specific clients in ranges --- for example, $1 to $9,999 and $10,000 to $19,999. More exact numbers are only available when payments from individual clients reach $50,000.

But as an indication of the millions of dollars spent during the year's second quarter, at least seven firms reported earning between $500,000 and $999,999 in fees. At least 20 more firms reported earning between $250,000 and $499,999. Those firms had filed reports as of late Thursday afternoon, as information continued to be posted to a state website through the day.