Lobbyists piled up fees in early 2013

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When the legislative session started in March, it was prime time for Florida lobbyists.

And newly filed reports show the industry cashed in during the first three months of the year, with at least four lobbying firms collecting more than $1 million — and dozens of others earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

Lobbyists faced a Wednesday night deadline for filing reports that offer at least a broad picture of their first-quarter income. While some firms’ reports had not been posted to a state website Wednesday afternoon, the available information shows lobbyists getting paid to represent myriad businesses, interest groups and government agencies before the Legislature.

At least four firms — Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting, GrayRobinson and Southern Strategy Group — topped $1 million in fees between Jan. 1 and March 31.

Each of the firms represented dozens of clients and, in some cases, collected large chunks of money from individual clients.

For example, Ballard Partners reported receiving $77,000 during the period from Automated HealthCare Solutions, a company that had been embroiled in a long-running debate about the costs of drugs dispensed by doctors to workers-compensation insurance patients. That debate ended in a compromise reached during this year’s session.

As another example, Capital City Consulting, which represents a number of insurance clients, reported getting paid $56,000 by Aetna, Inc.

It is difficult to pinpoint how much lobbying firms actually get paid because they report income in ranges, except when they receive fees of $50,000 or more. Those ranges are $1 to $9,999; $10,000 to $19,999; $20,000 to $29,999; $30,000 to $39,999; and $40,000 to $49,999.

But even with that lack of detail, the reports online Wednesday afternoon showed at least seven firms earned between $500,000 and $999,999 during the first three months of the year. At least 16 firms collected between $250,000 and $499,999, and at least 28 firms received between $100,000 and $249,999.

The filings also showed large individual payments to a variety for firms. For instance, the firm Fowler White Boggs reported compensation between $500,000 and $999,999 during the period — including $90,000 from United States Sugar Corp. and $62,000 from Lee Memorial Health System.

Similarly, the firm Foley & Lardner had compensation between $500,000 and $999,999 and reported that it received $261,000 from Weston Insurance Holdings Corp.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.