Easter – like the 2016 Legislative Session – came early this year. Feels weird to have it be all over in March, right?
The moveable feast dates back to the mid-2nd century A.D. on the Christian calendar and celebrates a redemption and rebirth that Capitol-going advocates of some issues – say, Transportation Network Companies legislation or campus carry – will also hope for in 2017.
The Jewish holiday Passover – of which Easter is generally considered the Gentile equivalent – memorializes the emancipation of Israelites held captive in Egypt after 400 years, culminating with the Exodus and Covenant of Moses.
Heavy stuff we know, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take an unorthodox approach in examining the reasons for the season.
Here’s a look at the holiday in lobbying terms.
Travel increases on any holiday that commands a three-day weekend — and this weekend is no different.
When you think about air travel you must doff your pilot’s cap in the direction of the (for the most part, probably) just-concluded mile-high food fight between so-called legacy airlines like American Airlines and Delta, and smaller carriers like Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways.
Both had a veritable bevy of lobbying muscle for the 2016 session. You can’t do much better than the influencers at Southern Strategy Group and Corcoran & Johnston, and that’s exactly the tack American has taken. Delta flew first class with its representation by Capital City Consulting, while JetBlue retained the able representation of Cardenas Partners and Southwest had the Governor’s ear via The Rubin Group.
At the national level, Delta for its part spent $3,053,976 in federal lobbying 2015. JetBlue spent about $2,047,000 during the same period. Air carriers also account for big-time sums when it comes to influencing federal elections. Between Delta, United, and Southwest, the firms spent about $1.2 million supporting candidates, about 60 percent of that going to incumbent Republicans.
The politics of Israel – the community of nations’ worldly manifestation of Judaism – is a pressing issue in Florida more so than in perhaps any other state, save New York. Senate President-designate Joe Negron this year shepherded legislation through the statehouse that prevents the State Board of Administration from doing business with firms who choose boycott the Jewish state.
Becker & Poliakoff’s Bernie Friedman is the Florida Association of Jewish Federation’s point man. The group retains B&P to the tune of between $10,000-$20,000, according to state lobbying registrations.
The Florida Catholic Conference and Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, employ five full-time lobbyists, along with dozens of laymen who swarm the Capitol on Catholic Day ahead of the well-attended annual Red Mass, which attracted Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Anitere Flores and Sen. Rene Garcia among other political dignitaries.
Stephen Craig Emmanuel of Ausley & McMullen reps Catholic interests in Tallahassee, as do Ingrid Delgado, James Herzog, Michael McQuone, and Michael Sheedy. Peace be with them this Easter, and also with you.
The ecumenically-minded Florida Association of Christian Colleges & Schools has representation in Tallahassee too, in the person of Howard George Burke, as does Christian Prison Ministries, repped by Jim DeBeaugrine as well as Robert Stuart and Chris Carmody of GrayRobinson, plus Christian Minor and Dawn Steward.
And lest we forget the most vital ingredient of all — ask any kiddo about the true meaning of Easter and, if they grew up like I did, they’ll invariably tell you: candy!
Chocolate giant Hershey Foods has never been shy about getting involved in The Process and they did so freely in federal elections last year, giving about $71,000 to candidates and committees in 2014, and raising more than $63,000 so far in 2016, about evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Mmm, the sweet smell of campaign cash.
The National Confectioners Association, whose political donations have spiked sharply over the past few years, spent even more. The makers of sugary goodness topped $130,000 in contributions to federal candidates last year, having a particular sweet tooth for House Democrats, who received about half of that. Yum!
Unfortunately PAAS – the retro company that makes those nostalgia-inducing egg dye kits – has no political committee, but Sen. Wilton Simpson, the Legislature’s very own “Chicken Man” does. His Jobs for Florida committee has raised more than $1.1 million since opening in 2012.
However you celebrate this springtime, we’ll all be glad for a moment or two away from the hustle and bustle of Session — before pivoting straight away into campaign season.
Chag pesach, y’all! And a Happy Easter, too.