Millions of dollars poured into lobbying firms during the first three months of the year, as they sought to sway Florida lawmakers on issues such as gambling and health care, according to newly filed reports.
Four lobbying firms reported earning $1 million or more between Jan. 1 and March 31 for legislative work, while eight others reported earning between $500,000 and $999,999, and 21 reported earning between $250,000 and $499,999. Dozens reported earning smaller amounts.
The four firms that brought in $1 million or more were Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting, Ronald L. Book PA and Southern Strategy Group, according to the reports, which were due by a Friday deadline.
The exact amounts that those firms earned are not available because they, like other firms, are only required to report most of their compensation in ranges.
But as an illustration of the money involved, the Book firm reported that 11 of its clients each paid at least $50,000 during the first three months of the year — with three of those clients each paying $100,000. Similarly, Southern Strategy reported that four of its clients topped $50,000 in payments during the first quarter.
State law requires lobbying firms to file compensation reports after the end of every quarter. They must list the clients and ranges of payment amounts, such as $1 to $9,999; $10,000 to $19,999; and $20,000 to $29,999. Firms only have to report exact compensation amounts of $50,000 or more.
Many of the industries that spent heavily on lobbying during the first three months of the year have major interests in Tallahassee. As an example, lawmakers discussed — but did not pass — proposals to expand gambling, including the possibility of allowing resort casinos in South Florida.
One prominent player in the casino issue, Las Vegas Sands Corp., paid $92,000 to Capital City Consulting, while another player, Resorts World Miami, paid $79,000 to Ballard Partners, according to the reports, which are posted online.
Various parts of the health-care industry also wrote big checks to lobbying firms. For instance, a company called Automated HealthCare Solutions, which provides technology used in doctor's offices, paid $75,000 to Ballard Partners. Meanwhile, Simply Healthcare Plans, an HMO, paid $54,000 to Southern Strategy.