June 21 may have been the summer solstice, but the days following Independence Day mark the beginning to real summertime. Who are the lobbyists, advocacy groups, and associations responsible for delivering the things we have come to love about these few months?
While primary elections may fall in August, politics is far from the minds of most. Yet the power brokers behind many summer biggies — vacation lodging, pools, lawn care, air conditioning, cruises and baseball — collectively wield a strong political influence that passes unseen but strong in the background.
First, lodging associations — those that represent hotels, motels, condo rentals, and the like, have a year-round political presence in the form of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. The organization represents the whole hospitality industry including thousands of suppliers to the industry. In sum, Florida’s hospitality industry represents about one quarter of Florida’s economy, including $4.3 billion in sales tax revenue, and employs about 1 million Floridians, making it the state’s largest employer. It is only fitting, therefore, that the FRLA keeps on its roster about 15 lobbyists including some of the most well known and respected in the biz, like Andy Palmer, Jim Daughton, Aimee Diaz Lyon, and Herb Sheheane. The team delivered more than a dozen legislative wins to its members in 2014, including passage of measures on vacation rentals, ticket fraud sales, Visit Florida funding, and tourism and marketing advertising dollars.
One individual hotel stands out as employing its own battery of lobbyists: the Fontainbleau Florida Hotel, with Michael Cantens, Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, William Rubin, and Heather Turnbull.
Nationally, the American Hotel & Lobbying Association is a big political player, too. The organization contributed $281,600 to candidates and committees so far in 2014, and has spent $1.3 million in lobbying activities. During the 2012 campaign cycle, the AHLA capped out at $429,100 in contributions — including $30,000 a piece to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee — and $1.2 million in lobbying activities.
Of course, most hotels also have pools. As do community centers, theme parks, and backyards across Florida.
The Florida Swimming Pool Association, with lobbyists Julie Fess and Jennifer Cole Hatfield, represents this industry before state lawmakers; as does the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, also with Hatfield. Nationally, however, it is the National Chemistry Council that brings the big guns to the political table on behalf of US swimming pools (among many other things). The organization has contributed nearly $400,000 so far in 2014, along with spending over $12 million in lobbying activities — the 23rd highest amount of all such groups. In 2012, the ACC contributed $565,646 to candidates and committees and spent $9 million on lobbying activities.
Florida is the 17th largest chemistry producing state in the nation, generating $1.1 billion in payroll and delivering wages that are an average of 17 percent higher than the average manufacturing wage in the state. The ACC employs one Florida lobbyist, William Michael Power, who is based out of Atlanta.
Then, there’s lawn care, where sprinklers around Florida make sweaty kids happy. The Florida Nursery, Growers, and Landscape Association is the political arm of your front yard. Benjamin Bolusky and Jim Spratt lobby for the association’s many issues — such as fertilizer and landscape ordinances, best management practices, immigration and insurance reform, invasive plants issues, and water supply.
The American Nursery & Landscape Association hasn’t been too active in 2014 campaigns so far, having donated only $10,000 to candidates and committees, of which $2,000 went to Sen. Marco Rubio, and $500 to Rep. Steve Southerland. The group has spent $74,000 on lobbying activities this year, too. Figures from 2012 were about the same, totaling $38,000 in contributions and $74,000 in lobbying.
Comparably, the American Society of Landscape Architects has spent over $100,000 on lobbying in 2014, and about the same in previous years. Diana Ferguson lobbies Florida lawmakers on behalf of the ASLA’s Florida chapter.
Baseball also requires landscaped fields — and the Florida Turfgrass Association has you covered there. In 2013, the association had Todd Josko on its legislative lobbying field; and the National Turfgrass Federation is at work for our political “away games”, too.
That’s not all, when it comes to baseball and politics, of course.
The Toronto Blue Jays have Brian Ballard and Mathew Forrest on their lobbying teams; the Pittsburgh Pirates have Edward Briggs, Sara Michelle Gross, Natalie King, and Ronald Pierce; the New York Yankees bring on Ballard again, along with Carol Bracy, Joseph McCann, Greg Turbeville, and Amy Young; and the Houston Astros line-up (you guessed it) includes Ballard, Forrest, and Turbeville.
Major League Baseball, itself, has spent $345,350 on candidate and committee contributions in 2014 so far, along with $470,000 on lobbying activities. In 2012, MLB pitched in $553,750 for political campaigns and another $310,000 on lobbying.
Moving inside now, where we hope for cooler air, your air conditioning unit has some political representation, too. (Insert wisecrack here about politicians being full of hot air… boom.) The Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors Association and the Florida Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors bring Anna Cam Fentriss to lobby for cooling it all down.
Then, the American Society of Heating Refrigerating & Air Conditioning Engineers, bring Kari Hebrank to Tallahassee on behalf of their many members. The AirConditioning Contractors of America contributed to Florida Rep. Dan Webster in 2012, along with the now Florida Blue chief, Jason Altmire.
None of the organization’s $15,000 in contributions have gone to a Florida candidate in 2014. The Sheet Metal and AC Contractors Association has spent $158,000 on candidates and committees so far in 2014, and contributed over $300,000 in 2012, while spending $0 on lobbying in both years.
I save a personal summer favorite for last: the cruise. No doubt Florida’s cruise industry is a giant — and there’s been plenty of political action to show for this status.
The Cruise Lines International Association has spent more than $1.4 million so far in 2014, and has contributed greater than $72,000 to political candidates and committees — including $2,500 to Florida’s Rep. Corrine Brown.
In 2012, Florida Rep. John Mica took in $8,000 from the CLIA, the second highest amount contributed to any individual candidate by the organization; and Rep. Brown, $5,000 as well. In that year, the CLIA spent a whopping $1.5 million on lobbying, and about $152,000 in contributions.
I won’t do the math to add up the political costs of “summertime” in full, and nor should these figures be front of your mind as you enjoy baseball, cruises, swimming or baseball. And one thing is certain: The Sun has nobody on its payroll.