Southern Strategy, hit on offshore drilling by Welch, loses bid
Southern Strategy Group, the influential lobbying firm based in Tallahassee, has lost a bid to be Pinellas County's consultant for its latest charter review.
One reason has nothing to do with the charter. It's offshore drilling.
The charter review commission voted 8-4 late Tuesday to hire veteran consulting hand Kurt Spitzer over Southern Strategy for the contract, which will pay up to $50,000.
Southern Strategy's Amy Maguire ran into trouble from County Commissioner Ken Welch not just over the differences over experience, but most pointedly oil drilling, attendees said. Most Pinellas cities and the county oppose allowing drilling off the coast. Southern Strategy's Tallahassee office has lobbyists working for Florida Energy Associates LLC, the group pushing oil.
Maguire tried to explain that the Tampa Bay office didn't represent the drilling supporters, according to county officials and commission members. Funny thing was, Welch remembered a November forum in Gulfport where Maguire stepped up for drilling.
"You can’t tell me as she attempted to do last night, that there are two different Southern Strategies and that she’s not been involved in near-shore oil drilling," Welch said today.
But Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, saw it differently. A panel member, he also opposes drilling off Florida's shores. But he said Southern Strategy's work for oil drilling was no reason to not hire Maguire, who couldn't be reached immediately for comment.
"That’s not what we’re hiring her for. If she’s going to be our consultant, she’s going to be working for us," Hooper said.
The debates made for an interesting start to the commission process, which roiled cities against the county in 2006, its last go-round.
David DeCamp, Times staff writer