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Tallahassee Lobbyists Rake in Big Bucks

Four lobbying firms – the ones you would expect – pulled in more than $1 million each for lobbying the Legislature in the first quarter of 2009, newly released disclosure forms show.

Ron Book, GrayRobinson, Smith & Ballard and Southern Strategy Group were the top money earners on the Fourth Floor during this year's first quarter – which ended halfway through the legislative session. The disclosure forms were due to the Legislature by midnight Friday.

Another nine lobbying firms reported compensation above a half million dollars for legislative lobbying in the quarter.

Compensation reports don't show which firm made the most because lobbyists are only required to report their compensation in broad categories. The top category in the most recent reports is $1 million or more. The next category down is $500,000 to $999,999. Some firms report single amounts anyway, however.

While Book, GrayRobinson, Smith & Ballard and Southern Strategy Group led the overall money chase, the kings of the big paying clients may have been two firms that earned less than $1 million.

The firm Fowler White Boggs, led by lobbying legend J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich, Jim Magill and Kimberly McGlynn, had two clients, AT&T and U.S. Sugar, that paid slightly more than $100,000 each during the three month period. Fowler White also earned $62,000 from Health Management Systems.

And construction design giant HNTB Corp paid the Foley & Lardner firm $143,000. HNTB is currently involved in a host of road projects including the Florida Turnpike and I-4 expansion.

Among the $1 million earners for the quarter, Book had the most large clients. His biggest client was Gold Giant Internet LLC (“Turn Your Gold Into Cash”), which sent Book $75,000 of that former gold.

Another of Book's clients, Midwestern farming concern The Lawrence Group, based in Nashville, Tenn., paid his firm at least $60,000. The Lawrence Group's interests in Florida included the effort to undo the South Florida Water Management deal to buy U.S. Sugar land for Everglades restoration. The Lawrence Group was a rival bidder for the land.

Miami-Dade County paid Book $62,500.

Book also had at least three clients who paid him more than $50,000 in the quarter – Florida Power & Light, the Florida Heart Research Institute, and the West Flagler Kennel Club – and several $30,000-plus and $40,000-plus clients.

Southern Strategy and GrayRobinson, by contrast, made much of their money by spreading out among several clients who paid much less.

Southern Strategy, with a stable of lobbying heavyweights like Paul Bradshaw, Steve Madden, Chris Dudley, Paul Mitchell, John Thrasher and David Rancourt, had only one client paying more than $30,000, the Florida Hospital Association.

GrayRobinson also relied on breadth to bring in its million. The firm, whose lobbyists include Pete Antonacci, George Meros, and Fred Leonhardt, did get more than $40,000 from Dosal Tobacco Corp., which used its advocates to avoid being added to the state's tobacco settlement.

The firm had a few other large clients, including the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which was unable to kill the cigarette tax increase.

Nine firms reported compensation between $500,000 and $1 million.

Those firms, along with their principal lobbyist listed on their disclosure report were:

-Capital City Consulting; Gerald Wester.
-Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky and Abate; Michael Colodny.
-Dutko Worldwide; Van Poole.
-Floridian Partners; Charlie Dudley.
-Foley and Lardner; Thomas Maida.
-Fowler, White, Boggs; John “Mac” Stipanovich.
-Greenberg Traurig; Fred Baggett.
-Johnson and Blanton; Jon Johnson.
-Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell and Dunbar; Gene Adams.

Capital City Consulting, whose lobbyists also include Nicholas Iarossi, Ronald LaFace and Patricia O'Connell listed as its biggest paying client Allied Veterans of the World, which paid the firm at least $40,000.

Dutko Worldwide's biggest paying clients was Coventry Health Care of Washington, D.C., which paid the firm more than $20,000.

Floridian Partners biggest client was Florida Power & Light, which paid the firm $65,000.

In addition to HNTB, Foley & Lardner counted Lo Land Assets, a California land bank that deals in foreclosures, among its major clients, and WRB Enterprises, a Tampa company that operates electric utilities on several Caribbean islands, and has desalination, real estate and banking interests.

Greenberg Traurig PA's 's top client, Cash4Gold, shelled out $50,000.

Johnson & Blanton – Jon Johnson, Travis Blanton and Amy Christian – counted Florida Hospital as their biggest client. The hospital paid the firm $63,000 in the quarter, the records show.

Pennington Moore, whose lobbyists include Mark Delegal, Pete Dunbar, Doug Bell, Sam Bell and Ramon Safley, had three clients that paid at least $40,000: Professional Staffing A.B.T.S., Progressive Insurance, and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance.

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