Florida lobbyists piled up fees in 2013

TALLAHASSEE — When the legislative session started in March, it was prime time for Florida lobbyists.

And newly filed reports show the industry cashed in during the first three months of the year, with at least four lobbying firms collecting more than $1 million — and dozens of others earning hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lobbyists faced a Wednesday night deadline for filing reports that offer at least a broad picture of their first-quarter income. While some firms' reports had not been posted to a state website Wednesday afternoon, the available information shows lobbyists getting paid to represent myriad businesses, interest groups and government agencies before the Legislature.

At least four firms with a major Tallahassee presence — Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting, GrayRobinson and Southern Strategy Group — topped $1 million in fees between Jan. 1 and March 31.

Each of the firms represented dozens of clients and, in some cases, collected large chunks of money from individual clients.

For example, Ballard Partners reported receiving $77,000 during the period from Automated HealthCare Solutions, a company that had been embroiled in a long-running debate about the costs of drugs dispensed by doctors to workers-compensation insurance patients. That debate ended in a compromise reached during this year's session.

As another example, Capital City Consulting, which represents a number of insurance clients, reported getting paid $56,000 by Aetna, Inc.

It is difficult to pinpoint how much lobbying firms actually get paid because they report income in ranges, except when they receive fees of $50,000 or more. Those ranges are $1 to $9,999; $10,000 to $19,999; $20,000 to $29,999; $30,000 to $39,999; and $40,000 to $49,999.

But even with that lack of detail, the reports online Wednesday afternoon showed at least seven firms earned between $500,000 and $999,999 during the first three months of the year. At least 16 firms collected between $250,000 and $499,999, and at least 28 firms received between $100,000 and $249,999.

The filings also showed large individual payments to a variety for firms. For instance, the firm Fowler White Boggs reported compensation between $500,000 and $999,999 during the period — including $90,000 from United States Sugar Corp. and $62,000 from Lee Memorial Health System.

Similarly, the firm Foley Lardner had compensation between $500,000 and $999,999 and reported that it received $261,000 from Weston Insurance Holdings Corp.

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