Rick Scott’s chief-of-staff: Staff will listen to lobbyists, but no favoritism

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When Gov. Rick Scott sought the governor’s office, he ran as the ultimate outsider and campaigned against all that is Tallahassee, a winning strategy in the tea party year of 2010, by David Royse of the News Service of Florida

And since his election, some Tallahassee insiders – often privately – have complained that the governor wouldn’t meet with representatives of some of the traditional interest groups that in the past enjoyed more access to state officials.

But Scott’s new chief of staff told a group of lobbyists Friday that the governor and his aides understand that interest groups need access to government, and he promised that on some level lobbyists and advocates will get it – though he noted that they may not always get what they want from those meetings.

Adam Hollingsworth told a breakfast meeting of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists that his staff knows that advocates who want the governor’s office’s help deserve an answer about whether they’ll get that assistance.

“No is an answer,” sometimes, though, Hollingsworth noted.

While few lobbyists are willing to speak publicly about frustrations in the lobbying corps over access to the governor, it was voiced during a question and answer session with Hollingsworth, when lobbyist Susan Goldstein – a former Republican lawmaker from Broward County – said that some advocates have had trouble getting through to the governor and his staff.

She asked Hollingsworth whether that would continue to be the case.

How much Scott himself will meet with lobbyists, “going forward is an open question,” Hollingsworth acknowledged, but promised, “you’re always going to have access to us,” the governor’s staff.

“We’re not going to offer favoritism, we’re going to offer fairness,” he told the lobbyists.

While Scott rode the tea party message into office after an upset win in both the GOP primary – in which he also ran against much of the Republican establishment – and the general election, his outsider image has softened a bit as he has moved to bring more “insiders” with Tallahassee experience into his inner circle.

Hollingsworth joined the governor’s office in July, replacing one of those insiders, former chief of staff Steve MacNamara. Hollingsworth is sort of in between insider and outsider. He has experience in government, including working as a chief of staff to a former Jacksonville mayor, but has spent most of his career in the private sector. Still, even in his private jobs, including a stint as an executive at CSX, the railroad company, some of what Hollingsworth did was lobbying.

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.