Ten things I learned at the annual conference of Florida’s professional lobbyists

in Uncategorized by

This past week, the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists convened in Orlando for their annual conference. Not only did I attend the proceedings, but one of my projects, Context Florida, sponsored a reception for attendees. After all, there’s no surefire way to ingratiate yourself than to pick up a bar tab.

Because my wife, Michelle, and Baby Ella were in tow, I was not able to attend all of the panels and presentations. Still I was able to glean some interesting nuggets from what was essentially Adams Street at Universal Studios.

As much as it occasionally sounded as if the FAPL conference was a love-fest for SaintPetersBlog, few things can make this blogger feel more insignificant than when a well-heeled lobbyist approaches and asks for the spelling of SaintPetersBlog.com — an act which indicates they have never viewed the site. No one ever goes up to Mary Ellen Klas and asks for the spelling of the Miami Herald.

That said, I did see Sunburn — my morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — on a lot of iPads.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who delivered a luncheon address to the organization, is a nerd. A brilliant, numbers-rattling-off-the-top-of-his-head, forward-thinking nerd. Atwater delivered more interesting statistics than a Freakonomics podcast. And he did it all with wit and self-effacing charm.

Melanie Brown of Johnson & Blanton may be the most infectiously positive person with whom I’ve ever chatted. Erin Daly follows close behind.

Keyna Cory knows how to organize a silent auction!

Matt Dixon, a reporter for the Florida Times-Union, did not receive as warm a reception as I would have expected. Dixon is the “it” reporter right now in Tallahassee, yet when he finished his speech to the FAPL, he was asked just one or two questions and was not mobbed after he left the dais. With his “Florida Morning” email and ability to scoop the Times/Herald bureau, Dixon has established himself as one of the best reporters covering the capital. Yet, you would not have known this from the cold shoulder he seemed to receive from the lobby corps.

The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists is serious about wanting the Legislature to audit the compensation reports submitted by lobbying firms. So much so that they have sent a letter to Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford requesting that the group be allowed to “provide input and offer our assistance.” The association “stands ready to provide suggestions to the Legislature on ways to streamline the current regulations relating to lobbying including an online client registration process, electronic payment of registration fees and streamlined access to the Capitol predicated upon successful background checks.”

Christina Johnson of On 3 PR sounds like she is getting into pre-roll. Ask her what that means.

Listening to Johnson present, as well as Sarah Bascom and Ron Sachs, it’s clear to me there is a gigantic struggle in the public relations industry over how much attention should be paid to new and social media. The appropriate ratio between traditional and new media is still not clear.

I only caught a glimpse of it, but the panel on post-secondary education, with Dr. Ed Moore among the presenters, was an hour chock full of the kind of wonkiness Florida’s decision-makers need to hear more of.

Inexplicably, Dave Mica is able to pull off wearing ridiculous Hawaiian shirts.

Lobbyist Carlos Moya is even better looking in person than he is online. He’s one of those guys who looks as if he just stepped out of a commercial for Ketel One. Moya billed his presentation on lobbying Florida’s multicultural Legislature as “sharp-elbowed.” 

Associated Industries of Florida’s Ryan Tyson is quickly earning a reputation as one of the brightest minds in state politics. His data-driven presentation on how Florida’s changing demographics will impact upcoming elections is nothing if not eye-opening. In fact, I’m not sure some of the people Tyson has presented his findings to want to hear what he has to say, but they ignore him at their own peril. Bottom line, Tyson may be the Cassandra of Florida politics, boldly predicting a future some do not want to hear.

Thank you to FAPL executive director Mark Landreth and his team for the warm hospitality while making sure the conference’s trains ran on time.

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.