It doesn’t get much more American than the Fourth of July. After all, the holiday commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was then 239 years go our founders took great personal risk to declare their independence, and created this democratic republic out of their blood, sweat, and philosophical determination. The politics of 1776 were void of “registered lobbyists” but the things that we associate with Independence Day today, however — trips to recreational locales, beer & spirits and even Old Glory itself — are all “lobbied” items.
Here’s a look at the “Fourth of July in Lobbying.”
At the heart of Independence Day iconography is, of course, the American Flag. Political activity involving the production of the flag has come a long since the days of Betsy Ross and the weavers of rebellion against the British.
This year saw passage of the All American Flag Act, which means all new star-spangled banners flown by cities and local governments will be made in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
While the Legislature has done its part, foreign-made flags still represent the majority of those purchased by Americans. The National Association of Manufacturers, along with the Flag Manufacturers Association of America — and well, most Americans — would probably like this to be otherwise.
The National Association of Manufacturers has spent $3.9 million on lobbying activities so far this year, as well as chipping in $28k in contributions to mostly Republican federal candidates. The organization spent over $9 million on lobbying and contributed $28,900 to federal candidates and committees. The Manufacturers Association of Florida represents itself before the Legislature through lobbyists Nancy Stephens and Nancy Black Stewart, while the Upper Tampa Bay Manufacturers employ the influence services of Carole Duncanson.
For a lot of Americans, a festive Fourth means imbibing. The beer and spirit industry had a banner year during the regular legislative session: 2015 will forever be marked in the annals of Florida-nerd history as the year the Growler was freed at long last.
Both laws went into effect on July 1, just in time.
One beneficiary of those changes is the National Beer Wholesalers Association, a major political player that alone ranks No. 46 in all federal donations, contributing $4,027,250 to federal candidates during the 2014 campaign, and spending nearly $1.3 million lobbying Congress. During the 2012 cycle, this association contributed over $3.7 million to candidates and spent another $1 million on lobbying.
The Florida Independent Spirits Association is well-repped in Tallahassee by major firms like Ramba Consulting Group, Becker & Poliakoff, SKD and Akerman.
The FISA also got into politics last year, chipping in $2,500 along with Wal-Mart ($5,000), Bernie Little Distributors ($5,000) and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits ($2,500) to a PAC called Limited Government for a Stronger Florida which advanced their mutual interests during the 2014 cycle.
The team at Capitol City Consulting handles Florida Capitol business for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, while Ballard Partners represents Southern Wine & Spirits along with Brecht Heuchan.
Of course after all that celebratory excess, you may want to call a cab.
Or an Uber — the ride-hailing firm has made a serious investment in campaign communications and lobbying efforts over the last year, with Cesar Fernandez running point in-house and Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, RSA Consulting, Ballard Partners, the Fiorentino Group, and the Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners all pushing for the sharing economy on a contract basis.
Southern Strategy Group, Gunster and Akerman led an impressive counter-campaign on behalf of Orlando-based Mears Transportation, which delivered taxi cabs a hard-fought victory on both budget and policy proposals to enshrine ridesharing into state law.
But wait… what about “the bombs bursting in air”? Who lobbies for them? A formidable host of defense contractors, for one. According to OpenSecrets.org, while the “defense sector contributes far less money to politicians than many other sectors, it is one of the most powerful in politics.”
In sum, defense sector political action committees and individuals contributed tens of millions to federal candidates in 2014. Lockheed Martin leads the pack, having donated close to $4.1 million over the cycle, donating more some $2.5 million to Republicans and $1.7 million to Dems. Northrop Grunman, Boeing, and Raytheon were close behind during last year’s midterms, each donating $1 million or more.
And then there are the lobbyists for freedom itself: the American Civil Liberties Union –– who worked alongside more conservative groups to get legislation passed this session — enjoys the representation of longtime Tallahasseean Pamela Burch Fort of the Commerce Group as well as the aforementioned Carole Duncanson.
If Paul Revere-style muskets are your thing, those Bill of Rights enthusiasts at the National Rifle Association are, as ever, represented by 2nd Amendment stalwart and Adams Street staple Marion Hammer, who also represents the United Sportsmen of Florida.
However you celebrate in the Sunshine State, be sure to take a moment to be grateful for our Founders and the political system of checks and balances they put into place. After all, without their political descendants they bequeathed, who would the lobbying corps corps have lunch with on Adams Street?