It's bad enough that a government agency wants to spend public money to get more public money from another branch of government. It's worse that the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority will spend $80,000 for a lobbyist just to draft a plan for lobbying the Legislature. But it's ridiculous that one authority member suggests the lobbying fees could run to $300,000.
The aviation authority has voted to spend $80,000 to hire the lobbying firm headed by Al Cardenas, the former head of the Republican Party of Florida. But that firm will only propose a plan to lobby the Legislature for $250 million for Tampa International Airport's expansion plan. The real money, apparently, would come later.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, an aviation authority member who spent nearly 20 years in the Florida Legislature, estimates it will take $300,000 to hire enough lobbyists to persuade lawmakers to approve the airport money. If that's what it takes to get Tallahassee to invest in airports, should the aviation authority also send a six-figure check to Gov. Rick Scott's re-election effort?
TIA chief executive officer Joe Lopano and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who serves on the airport board, bristled at spending the kind of money Crist suggests. Lopano is reaching out to business groups to help make the case for the airport, whose importance to the region is well established. The last thing the airport should do as it asks for more money is to damage its credibility with an egregious example of wasteful spending.