Saturday, February 21, 2015

There is a moat around the state capitol meant to keep the public out … by gimleteye

According to the Palm Beach Post, "Who tops the list of the top paid lobbyists in 2014?",
"… data show that 13 lobbying firms earned more than $1.5 million in 2014, with Ballard Partners topping the list with $7.4 million in earnings. The firm is headed by powerful Republican fundraiser Brian Ballard, whose sister — former Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty — spent two years in federal prison for honest services fraud before being released in 2011. Ballard founded his lobbying firm in 1998 with Jim Smith, former Florida Attorney General as a Democrat and Secretary of State as a Republican. Ballard and Smith parted in 2011 and the firm is now known as Ballard Partners.

Southern Strategy Group was the next top earner, bringing in $7 million. Southern Strategy Group is the former lobbying firm of John Thrasher, newly appointed president of Florida State University. The third highest earner in 2014 was lobbyist Ronald Book, with earnings of $5.3 million. Capital City Consulting was the fourth highest paid lobbying firm, receiving $4.3 million."*

The amount spent on lobbying by lobbyists is only part of the equation. There are at least three other parts: the amount spent by industry associations, like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, the amount spent on lobbying by corporations, and the campaign contributions that flow between lobbyists, trade associations, and political candidates and political action committees.

For example, US Sugar paid hundreds of thousands to ferry GOP officials by private jets to the King Ranch in Texas for "hunting expeditions". When one reporter from the Tampa Bay Times asked Ag Secretary Adam Putnam about the all-expense paid trip, Putnam slammed the door in the reporter's face. US Sugar is also a major contributor to political campaigns in the state. Its lobbyists literally flood the state legislature when any policy decision, impacting the industry, is under consideration.

When we talk about "crony capitalism", understand that the immense amount of money spent lobbying in Tallahassee turned the state legislature into a fortress and special interests like Big Sugar, into a shadow government. So far as people are concerned, there might as well be a moat around the state capitol.

*The exact amounts received by lobbying firms is not known. Under Florida law, lobbying firms report their quarterly compensation totals in ranges of $0; $1 to $9,999; $10,000 to $19,999; $20,000 to $29,999; $30,000 to $39,999; $40,000 to $49,999; or $50,000 or more. If the category “$50,000 or more” is selected, the specific dollar amount of compensation must be reported. The earnings data are tabulated by using the median amount within each range, and the median is what’s reported in this story.


Anonymous said...

What's the latest with Fair Districts?

Anonymous said...

The Masses Are Revolting!

Anonymous said...

They all deserve prison. Ballard's sister was a crook. The list is endless.The masses need pitchforks.