Second in a series.
Most people are familiar with this joke about lawyers.
Q: What do you call 2,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
A: A good start.
Well, to newly installed House Speaker Richard Corcoran, if you substitute “lobbyists” for “lawyers” in that joke, it’d be twice as funny.
Despite his brother being a lobbyist, Corcoran does not think highly of the profession and that is part of the reason why he has instituted a series of reforms which attempt to diminish the influence of the influence-peddlers.
“We must close the revolving door between the Legislature and the lobby corps,” Corcoran said last year during his designation speech. “We need to restore the distance between those who seek to influence the laws and those of us who make the laws.”
One of the key reforms Corcoran has implemented is a requirement that lobbyists file electronic disclosures on what specific issues they are lobbying for or against.
There would appear to be an easy workaround to this roadblock, err, reform.
Lobbyists, especially those at the larger firms, should file disclosures indicating they are lobbying for and/or against EVERY bill that is filed.
Say it’s out of an abundance of caution. Say you are being over-transparent. Say whatever. But if you are Brian Ballard or Chris Dudley or Nick Iarossi and you have more than 50 or 100 clients, it’s not implausible to suggest your firm has a hand in almost every bill that is filed.
Or if you are a lobbyist who represents one of the major trade groups, like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, it makes sense that you are keeping an eye on every issue before the Florida Legislature.
Here’s what how top lobbyist at one of the state’s largest firm explained how they’d work around the rules:
“We’re going to hire a Session clerk, just as we hire Session interns. The clerk’s sole job will be to sit at the computer and over-report in compliance with the new House rule on registering for issues. We will give the clerk a list of clients, the lobbyists registered for each client and a list of statute chapter of any possible interest to each client. The clerk’s job will be to register each and every bill affecting any identified chapter for each client for every lobbyist registered for that client and then do the same each day for each and every amendment filed on any of the registered bills. This procedure will also apply to any bill we specifically tag. If the House wants data, we are going to give them mega data, not out of spite, but out of an abundance of caution. This will be able to find out that every one of our lobbyists registered for our insurance client is lobbying every single insurance bill and all of the amendments to those bills. I am sure that knowledge will be very helpful to somebody. (There are boutique compliance businesses springing up as I write, and we may contract with one of them to do what I have described rather than hiring a clerk. I am meeting with just such an entrepreneur on Monday.)”
Stating that you are lobbying on every bill that is filed may seem like overkill, but if you’re not cheatin’, you’re not tryin’.
Email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com if you have suggestions for other hacks and workarounds.