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Random audits of lobbyists to kick off soon

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Following a 2005 state law, legislative staff will once again randomly pick legislative and executive branch lobbying firms for audits of their compensation reports.

The selection will take place 4 p.m., Feb. 22 in Room G-01 of the Claude Pepper Building, 111 W. Madison St. in Tallahassee, LobbyTools reported Tuesday.

The last round of audits, released in September 2015, found discrepancies big and small after staff randomly picked 26 lobbying firms to be audited.

Four accounting firms were hired to do the work: Carroll and Co.; Carr, Riggs & Ingram (CRI); Grant Thornton; and Warren Averett.

Auditors discovered a number of firms either under-reporting or over-reporting the money they made in 2014. In another case, auditors couldn’t tell who had paid a particular bill.

But generally, lobbying firms were annoyed at having to undergo auditing and lawmakers were underwhelmed.

“I don’t understand how the public’s interest is advanced by this exercise,” said state Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who formerly sat on the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.

“I just don’t see how this information is relevant” other than being a “marketing tool for big lobbying firms,” Bradley said in late 2015.

Legislation actually was filed for the 2016 Legislative Session that would have repealed the audit requirement, but it died in both chambers.

The latest audits “are scheduled to begin on or after May 1, 2017,” according to LobbyTools.

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