Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott turns to lobbyists to help push his agenda

TALLAHASSEE — When Rick Scott captured the Republican nomination for governor in 2010, he openly made fun of lobbyists backing his opponent for "crying in their cocktails."

But as he seeks a second term and needs to raise tens of millions of dollars, Scott not only has made peace with lobbyists, but he is beckoning them to the Governor's Mansion to help get his agenda through the Legislature.

On Feb. 4, about 40 lobbyists were ushered into the mansion for private briefings, where Scott made an earnest pitch for his two top political priorities: a $2,500 pay raise for every teacher, which would cost $480 million, and a sales tax exemption for manufacturers' equipment, estimated to result in a loss of revenue of $141 million.

"Certainly, the lobbying community, who represent interests in Tallahassee, are going to be talking to the Legislature," said Adam Hollingsworth, Scott's chief of staff. "We thought it was important for the lobbying community to know that while they're focused on a myriad of interests, the governor is focused on two."

Hollingsworth said the sessions with lobbyists are part of a continuing effort by the governor to improve the level of communication with various interests.

Some lobbyists said Scott asked for their advice, which, for anybody else, would cost a lot of money.

"He did more listening than talking," said J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, who declined to discuss what he told Scott. "He asked for our advice, and I would not be inclined to share what that was."

The mansion briefings are another step in Scott's evolution as a politician who arrived in Tallahassee as the outsider who shunned lobbyists.

The gatherings also reflect a significant difference in how Scott's inner circle views the political universe, from antagonism to cooperation, hoping to encourage people with influence to create a buzz about the Scott agenda. Scott's Cabinet aide, Michael Sevi, and communications director, Melissa Sellers, also attended.

The guest list included some of the capital's most experienced insiders and aides to former governors. Among them: Guy Spearman, John French, Ron Book, Brian Ballard, Stipanovich, James Harold Thompson, Paul Bradshaw, Steve Metz, Charlie Dudley, Dean Cannon, Mike Haridopolos, Steve Dyal, Mercer Fearington, Travis Blanton, Electra Bustle, Mike Corcoran, Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull and Steve Uhlfelder.

Many have had extensive experience in state government and now have clients seeking access or favorable treatment from Scott's office or the agencies under his control.

"It was very smart," said Book, a South Florida lobbyist. "He's figuring it out — the importance of listening to folks in general."

Book, a former senior aide to Gov. Bob Graham, a Democrat, said most other governors held talks with lobbyists, whose perspective — in addition to their campaign money — is typically valued by political leaders.

But unlike Scott's previous get-togethers with interest groups — teachers, a teachers union leader, superintendents and college presidents ­­— the sessions with lobbyists were not publicized and did not have to be, so they did not appear on Scott's official agenda for Feb. 4.

Hollingsworth, who once hired lobbyists as an executive for CSX Corp., considers Thompson, a former Democratic House speaker, as a personal mentor. He said inviting lobbyists to the mansion was one element of a broader and deeper "engagement of all the folks who are impacted by the governor's policy agenda," and ensure that as many people as possible know exactly what Scott wants.

It was described to participants as a businesslike discussion with no wining and dining, and soft drinks only.

"There wasn't even a Saltine cracker served," Hollingsworth said. "This is part of a very broad effort to have the governor share his message and his priorities and the rationale for them as broadly and as widely as possible."

Times senior correspondent Lucy Morgan contributed to this report.

Comments
23 seek vacant PSC post

23 seek vacant PSC post

There is another Mariano seeking a job in Tallahassee.Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano, the father of state Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson, is seeking an appointment to the Florida Public Service Commission, the powerful board regulating Florida ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Trump administration to take DACA repeal directly to the Supreme Court

Trump administration to take DACA repeal directly to the Supreme Court

SAN FRANCISCO — The Trump administration on Tuesday appealed a judge’s ruling temporarily blocking its decision to end protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and announced plans to seek a U.S. Supreme Court review even before an ap...
Updated: 11 hours ago
North Korea calls Trump a ‘lunatic’ and a ‘loser’ in response to nuclear button tweet

North Korea calls Trump a ‘lunatic’ and a ‘loser’ in response to nuclear button tweet

North Korea’s official news agency responded Tuesday to President Donald Trump’s controversial "nuclear button tweet," describing it as the "the spasm of a lunatic," according to AP."The spasm of Trump in the new year reflects the desperate mental st...
Published: 01/16/18
‘What do we want? Apology!’ Hundreds of Haiti supporters protest near Mar-a-Lago

‘What do we want? Apology!’ Hundreds of Haiti supporters protest near Mar-a-Lago

Sun Sentinel (TNS)PALM BEACH — About 500 Haitian-Americans and their supporters used the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to protest derogatory comments President Donald Trump reportedly made about immigrants from majority-black countries."What do we w...
Published: 01/15/18

U.S. forced to renew DACA permits as furor over Trump’s immigration slur persists

Los Angeles Times (TNS)WASHINGTON — The Trump administration, under court order, said it would resume taking applications to renew temporary protections from deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegall...
Published: 01/14/18
GOP senator: Reports of Trump’s ‘s---hole’ comments a ‘gross misrepresentation’

GOP senator: Reports of Trump’s ‘s---hole’ comments a ‘gross misrepresentation’

A Republican senator is insisting that President Donald Trump did not use a vulgar term in referring to African countries during a closed-door meeting on immigration that he and five other senators attended last week.Georgia Sen. David Perdue called ...
Published: 01/14/18
The Trump-O-Meter: PolitiFact rates Donald Trump's first year

The Trump-O-Meter: PolitiFact rates Donald Trump's first year

By Angie Drobnic Holan PolitiFact Editor Much of Donald Trump’s presidency has been defined by provocative tweets and gloves-off fights. But Trump has used the power of the presidency to move the country toward the overarching vision he ran o...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Ethics panel advised to deny legal fees in unfounded Ken Hagan complaint

Ethics panel advised to deny legal fees in unfounded Ken Hagan complaint

A Florida Ethics Commission staff attorney has drafted an order denying Hillsborough County’s request for reimbursement for attorney fees from one of four citizens who filed unsustained ethics complaints against Commissioner Ken Hagan.The commission ...
Published: 01/12/18
Haitians in Tampa Bay area react to Trump’s slur:

Haitians in Tampa Bay area react to Trump’s slur: "It’s very racist"

Fadia Richardson had just finished dinner Thursday when she sat down to watch the news and saw a report she didn’t want to believe.In an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers to discuss immigration policy earlier in the day, President Donald Trump repor...
Published: 01/12/18
Sen. Durbin says Trump said ‘hate-filled things’

Sen. Durbin says Trump said ‘hate-filled things’

WASHINGTON — A senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly." Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois D...
Published: 01/12/18