On Last Day For Fundraising, Lawmakers Wine And Dine In Tallahassee

Mar 4, 2013

Andrew's Grill is the place to be for Capitol movers and shakers at lunch time.
Credit LaCrai Mitchell/WLRN

Let the last ditch fundraisers commence.

They’ve been going on for weeks now, but they're in high gear today.

This is the last day lawmakers can raise money before the Florida Legislature convenes for the regular session.

Session typically begins on the first Tuesday in March, and it means a 60-day moratorium on legislative fundraising. 

So the Monday before opening day is rife with wining and dining in downtown Tallahassee. Most of the "receptions" take place within a few blocks of the Capitol.

One of the hottest locations is Andrew’s Capital Grill and Bar. It’s usually filled with business suits at lunch time, where patrons can enjoy sandwiches named after lawmakers. The names change as the lineup of lawmakers changes.

Current menu choices include:

  • The Great “Gaetz” Triple Decker Turkey Club – for Senate President Don Gaetz
  • “Half Nelson” Turkey Sandwich – for Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
  • “Marco Cubio” Cuban Sandwich – for Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
  • “Crisafulli’s’ Gorgonzola Burger – for Rep. Steve Crisafulli, the newly minted House Speaker-designate
  • “Lenny Curry’s” Hot Pastrami – for Republican Party of Florida Chair Lenny Curry
  • “Jeb” Burger – this needs no explanation

So why the furious push for money? For one, lawmakers want to get as many donations as possible into their reelection coffers before they start voting on proposed legislation.

Also, the money often comes from people who will be directly impacted by the lawmakers' votes.

Lobbyists, for example, hope their donations will positively affect their bottom line when lawmakers vote for the lobbyists’ pet projects.

Andrew’s is located on Adams Street down the block from the affluent Governor’s Club. Most of the dozen or so fundraisers on the agenda today are inside the Governor’s Club, where membership is by invitation only.

The “house rules” of the club are akin to that of a homeowner’s association – it’s governed by a board, members pay dues, and fines are levied as necessary.

These rules are my favorites:

  • Club Members shall not generate publicity about the Club unless specifically authorized by the Board.
  • The manager and staff are expressly forbidden to disclose to any nonmember, directly or indirectly, the identity of any member of the Club unless authorized by the Board.

It’s an elite place that doesn’t even have its name over the door. And oh yeah, no media allowed without permission.