Ron Book, PA. Capital City Consulting. Gray Robinson. With client lists as long as the phone book and fees which would make investment bankers blush, they are among the most powerful lobbying forces in Florida’s capital. They are also among the 12 firms competing to represent the City of St. Petersburg in the corridors of state government in Tallahassee, according to documents obtained from the city’s purchasing department. At stake is a contract to represent the fourth largest city in the state.
The only trouble is, the contract may not be worth much, according to City Hall insiders familiar with the budget and RFP (Request For Proposal) process. The “Annual Contract for Consulting, State Legislative Lobbying” (RFP No. 7161) will pay out no more than $30,000 annually or $2,500 a month to lucky winner.
This might sound crazy to say in the current economic environment, but $30,000 doesn’t get you very far in Tallahassee. $2,500 a month probably doesn’t even cover Ron Book’s dry-cleaning tab.
Yet, the firms competing to represent the City of St. Petersburg are a veritable ‘Who’s Who of Florida State Lobbying.’ The twelve firms are:
The Advisory Group
Bryant, Miller & Olive
Capital City Consulting
Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate
Pennington Law Firm
Ron Book, P.A.
Three Bridges Advisers
William Peebles, P.A.
One local lobbyist not seeking the contract tells me that William Peebles is a front-runner for the project, despite the fact that he also represents the City of Orlando and Tampa. Actually, many of the bidders represent multiple other city and county governments. Certainly they would argue that familiarity with the legislative needs of municipalities provides them an advantage.
Finding a firm with any legislative experience would be an improvement over the city’s current arrangement. Last year, Mayor Bill Foster, in one of his worst decisions, went in-house with his hiring of a new city lobbyist. Foster hired the very smart, very well-liked Todd Yost who, despite his talents, was not suited for the position. The damage Foster’s decision did to the city is hard to quantify, but a similar decision by the City of Jacksonville to eliminate entirely any money for lobbying services, was documented by the Jacksonville Times Union to have cost that city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Accordingly, the pressure is on Foster to get it right this time. We’ll see…