A longtime South Broward lawmaker who represents private clients seeking government approvals says his legal degree precludes him from having to register as a lobbyist. Yet, none of the counties nor municipal lobbying ordinances exempt attorneys from rules that require lobbyists to disclose their clients, and even to sign a log when they meet with an elected official or staff member.
Steven Geller’s lawyer/lobbyist work also raises questions about whether the longtime legislator and incoming Democratic Senate leader should represent clients before city and county governments that depend on him to bring home the bacon from Tallahassee.
Criticized for being too cozy with lobbyists, Florida legislators recently passed some of the most sweeping restrictions in the nation. Geller was one of only nine legislators who voted against the law banning them from accepting any meals or gifts from lobbyists. The law would not prevent him from taking a Pompano Beach city commissioner to lunch, for example, because it applies only to lobbyists at the state level. In a comment that many of the law’s supporters found striking on the day of the vote, Geller said: “I think this bill keeps us from being senator.”
The reality of Senator Geller’s comment is that he’s right. The so-called gift ban does little to remove the corruption involved with legislators accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.
The reality is that the Tallahassee lobby corps welcomed the so-called gift ban. Expenditures by lobbyists on legislators was actually down significantly and the lobby corps would love nothing better than to not have to feed the legislators. Senator Geller may need to do a better job registering as a local lobbyist, but he’s one of the few legislators that told the truth on the gift ban.