Amid the legislative wrangling on expanded gambling, the real winners were lobbyists, who came out with millions of dollars in fees during the first quarter of 2014, according to newly released reports.
A minimum of four lobbying firms reported more than $1 million in earnings between Jan. 1 and March 31, which included the first four weeks of the 60-day legislative session. Seven more reported earnings from $500,000 and $$999,999.
Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida reports that Thursday was the deadline for lobbying firms to file compensation reports giving a broad idea of how much clients paid them to work the halls of the Florida Capitol.
The reports were posted on the state website throughout the day. It is hard to put exact bottom-line estimates on overall lobbying fees.
However, with a look at only firms reporting $100,000 or more in earnings during the quarter, it seems that fees will easily surpass $15 million — without including the large number of firms taking in less than $100,000.
As of late Thursday afternoon, Turner notes that four firms reported net earnings of more than $1 million — Ballard Partners, Ronald L. Book PA. Capital City Consulting and Southern Strategy Group. Those are the firms with client lists numbering in the dozens, many of them paying large amounts in lobbying fees.
One example is Resorts World Miami, LLC, a key player in the effort to bring a destination resort casino to South Florida. Ballard Partners received $83,000 from Resort World, according to reports. Similarly, the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which also seeks to open a resort casino, paid Capital City Consulting $79,000.
The Book firm had three clients that paid them more than $50,000, including $68,000 from auto dealer AutoNation, Inc. One of Southern Strategy’s major clients was the HMO Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc., which paid $54,000.
Quarterly reports are required from lobbying firms showing total compensation in broad ranges. Some firms report overall fees between $1 and $49,999, while the top-dollar firms report earnings of $1 million or more.
Firms report Income in specific ranges — $1 to $9,999, $10,000 to $19,999 and so on. They report accurate numbers only when individual clients give more than $50,000.
High-profile issues, such as expanded gambling – one that ultimately failed – attracted the big lobbying money during session, Turner writes. However, other issues, like insurance, also drew significant fees to lobbying firms.
FCCI Insurance Group paid the Advantage Consulting Team $60,000, in addition to another $55,000 to Floridian Partners LLC, according to reports. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. also paid The Moya Group $50,000.