50ºF

Millions of dollars flow to lobbying firms

Florida capitol building
Florida capitol building

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida's lobbying industry remains lucrative.

With five firms topping $1 million, lobbyists reported earning at least $28.4 million during the year's second quarter for their legislative work --- an initial estimate that appears certain to increase in the coming days.

The five-highest earning firms, Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting, Greenberg Traurig, Ronald L. Book PA and Southern Strategy Group, represent dozens of clients that anted up tens of thousands of dollars each for representation from April 1 to June 30.

But big numbers were spread throughout the industry during the quarter. At least seven firms reported earning between $500,000 and $999,999; at least 12 reported earning $250,000 and $499,999; at least 33 reported earning $100,000 to $249,999; and dozens of others came in under $100,000.

Lobbying firms are required to file quarterly reports that give at least a broad picture of their income. It's not possible to get exact totals because, in most cases, firms report compensation from clients in ranges. For example, reports show compensation as $10,000 to $19,999 and $20,000 to $29,999.

Nevertheless, with second-quarter reports due Sunday night, a state compilation posted online early Monday morning offered the initial $28.4 million estimate for the three-month period. That initial compilation, however, did not include data from all firms, including Southern Strategy Group.

The reports also offer a glimpse of clients willing to pay large sums to make sure their interests are represented in Tallahassee.

As an example, Ballard Partners reported getting paid $83,000 by Shands Healthcare, which has major funding and regulatory issues before the Legislature each year. Similarly, Southern Strategy Group reported getting paid $60,000 by Costa Farms LLC, a Miami-based nursery that is part of the state's new medical-marijuana industry.

The seven firms that reported earning $500,000 to $999,999 during the quarter were Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney; Corcoran & Johnston; Floridian Partners; Johnson & Blanton; Metz Husband & Daughton; Smith Bryan & Myers; and The Rubin Group.

Among their top-paying clients, United States Sugar Corp., which has major agricultural and environmental issues at the Legislature, paid $63,000 to Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney for legislative work.

Similarly, HCA Healthcare, a for-profit hospital company that has facilities throughout the state, paid $56,000 to The Rubin Group, according to the reports. Also, Corcoran & Johnston reported getting paid $59,000 by the University of South Florida Foundation.

In some cases, major clients spread money around to numerous lobbyists instead of paying big chunks to single firms. For example, the state's lobbyist-compensation database indicated 28 lobbying firms were hired by the telecommunications giant AT&T during the quarter.