Registered governmental affairs firms, representing virtually every industry in Florida, reported earning slightly more than $35 million from January 1 to March 31 of this year to lobby the Florida Legislature.
FloridaPolitics.com previously reported which firms made what, with Southern Strategy Group leading all firms with $2.25 million in Q1 compensation.
Crunching the numbers, here are a few additional thoughts on the first-quarter numbers. (None of these numbers include compensation for executive branch lobbying, which can be just as lucrative for a firm. However, for the purposes of this story, let’s compare apples to apples and focus on just legislative fees.)
— Business is good! Median compensation figures are up at least $525,000 over the first quarter of 2014. Perhaps more telling, compensation is up at least $5,375,000 over the final quarter of 2014.
— Business will likely remain good: Although it might be assumed that firms make more money in fiscal quarters near a legislative session, most lobbyists are paid on a monthly basis, thereby spreading fees out over all four quarters. Accordingly, if compensation increased by over $5 million from 2014-Q4 to 2015-Q1, the industry could be looking at double-digit growth in 2015.
— SSG’s eye-popping number: This is only the second time a firm has reported earning more than $2 million in a single quarter. The previous time? When Southern Strategy Group reported earning $2.1M in 2014-Q2.
— The Big 4 is locked in: If lobbyists played in the College Football Playoff, the four teams playing for the championship would be SSG, Ballard Partners, Ron Book PA, and Capital City Consulting. This has not changed in any of the quarters since FloridaPolitics.com/SaintPetersBlog started tracking the compensation numbers, although SSG and Ballard often trade places. SSG has been on top for three of the last five quarters, while Ballard Partners has claimed the top spot twice in that same time.
— The interesting battle for fifth place: Since there is so little movement among the top four firms, the interesting battle is among the firms fighting for a spot in the Top 5. Since 2014-Q1, the #5 spot has been held by Colodny Fass, GrayRobinson, Colodny Fass, GrayRobinson, and GrayRobinson. At this point, it’s likely GR will hang on to the #5 spot because Colodny Fass’s fees took a bit of a hit after Fred Karlinsky departed for Greenberg Traurig. CF is still in the mix for a Top 10 ranking, especially after recent smart hires, like bringing in Donovan Brown.
— The more interesting battle to be among the Top 10: No place is the competition more intense than for spots #6-10. As it stands today, the rankings go Corcoran & Johnston, The Rubin Group, Johnson & Blanton, Metz Husband & Daughton, and Greenberg Traurig. Floridian Partners is right there at #11 with only $25K less in compensation than GT, which is posting some impressive numbers on both the legislative and executive side. Still, FP finished ahead of GT in three of the four most recent quarters.
— Stay small and keep it all: Some of the most prosperous firms are two-and-three lobbyists shops with $500K+ in quarterly earnings. In other words, nice cash flow, low overhead. This refers to firms like The Rubin Group, Johnson & Blanton, The Mayernick Group, which sits at #12 on the rankings, and Heffley & Associates.
— Who is on the Top 25 list that wasn’t this time last year? Dean Cannon & Larry Cretul’s Capitol Insight (#15), Trey Traviesa’s Strategies Public Affairs (#17), Heffley & Associates (#22), and The Fiorentino Group (#24).
— Biggest gainers: Among the non-Top 4 firms posting the biggest compensation increases year-over-year are Corcoran & Johnston (+148K), Smith Bryan & Myers (+115K), Johnson & Blanton (+90K), The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, and The Mayernick Group (+75K).
— Biggest drop-offs: As stated, Colodny Fass is down from from 2014-Q1 with the departure of Karlinsky, but its revenues are still significant. Pennington PA came in at #15 in 2014-Q1, but it’s no longer in the Top 30 for compensation after much of its governmental affairs team bolted to Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. Gunster Yoakley & Stewart has fallen from #17 to #30, while Tsamoutales Strategies dropped out of the rankings after being at #24 a year ago (just last year Sunshine State News pegged Frank Tsamoutales’ firm as the #4 overall firm in the state).
— Credit for consistency: Guy Spearman’s been doing his thing for a long time and there’s something to be said for that. As a political consultant in my early 20s, I remember reading the faxed updates he would send several times each day. Well, here he is now, still in the Top 25. In 2014-Q1, Spearman Management earned $355K and came in at #23. In 2015-Q1, Spearman Management earned $360K and comes in at #20.
— Firms on the rise, even if the numbers don’t show it: Sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story, but being a sort-of-professional-analyst of the governmental affairs industry in Florida, here are a couple of firms in or near the Top 25 to keep an eye on: The Fiorentino Group (#24) whose name partner, Marty Fiorentino, is very close to Lenny Curry, the new mayor of Jacksonville; Rutledge Ecenia, which, with Gary Rutledge and Jon Costello, has an interesting mix of tradition and new school thinking; and Jones Walker, which recently integrated Chris Moya’s shop into its Florida operations.