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What’s in a Name? Everything. The AIF lobbying team is well recognized as the most powerful and influential voice advocating for the state’s business community. Ethical, experienced and well connected—Florida’s decision makers know they can trust our word, our actions, and our people.

Character I Respect I Influence

ASSOCIATED INDUSTRIES OF FLORIDA The Voice of Florida Business Since 1920 www.aif.com


Water Forum

Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld September 24th & 25th Be the first to hear from Florida’s key policymakers on critical water legislation.


This meeting will provide participants with the most current information from Florida’s policy leaders in the legislature and state government on issues relating to water policy. Experts and policymakers in the industry will serve as guest speakers and panelists and will provide a solid agenda of the on-going, critical issues facing our state. The Florida Water Forum has garnered overwhelming recognition by business community leaders, regional and local government officials and members of the general public. Registration is open to all. A detailed agenda will be announced at a later date.

Day 1 • 9/24

Day 2 • 9/25

5–7pm Networking Reception

9am–1pm General Session (lunch included) 1–3pm Breakout Sessions

Register On-Line at www.flawaterforum.com Associated Industries of Florida 516 North Adams Street • Tallahassee, Florida 32301 Phone: 850.224.7173 • Fax: 850.224.6532 • aif.com


The Voice of Medicine For more than 140 years, the Florida Medical Association has been the most influential voice for medicine in the Sunshine State. No other organization can match our track record of successful advocacy for physicians in the legislative, legal and regulatory arenas. By serving the medical profession, the FMA makes it easier for doctors to deliver high-quality care that keeps Floridians healthy. No matter how complex Florida’s health care environment becomes, our mission — Helping Physicians Practice Medicine — will never change. Learn more about the FMA at www.FLmedical.org or by calling (850) 224-6496.



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@ SaintPetersBlog

A Sequel Better Than The Original To say that I now have an enormous level of respect for other magazine publishers is an understatement.

The first issue of INFLUENCE Magazine hit the streets March 3 and, with all humility, was a smashing success. Ten thousand copies of the first edition made their way into the hands of lobbyists in Tallahassee, fundraisers in South Florida, major donors in Naples, and so many other political aficionados throughout the rest of the state. Media outlets, including POLITICO, Business Insider, and the network of Business Journals all took note. I even personally delivered several dozen copies to law offices and PR shops up and down Adams Street in Tallahassee. That was the fun part. The tough part was the actual production of the 134 pages of INFLUENCE Magazine. THAT (!) was one of the most difficult undertakings of my career. To say that I now have an enormous level of respect for other magazine publishers, especially those at Florida Trend and other Florida-centric publications—is an understatement. The things I know now that I didn’t then—weights of paper, design specs, postal regulations, etc.—could fill a magazine in its own right. Mistakes were made. Sins of omission were committed. But we got through it all and delivered a high-quality product that, in the end, made for a pretty interesting read. So here we are again, climbing up the very steep learning curve.


If I was proud of the first edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, I am even more proud of the second. We’ve added pages. We’ve added new features. We’ve dramatically improved the design. More importantly, we took off our blinders and looked for stories beyond the state capital. That’s why one of the focuses of this second edition of INFLUENCE Magazine is South Florida. To some, South Florida can feel like an entirely different world than the rest of the state. To this point, the city of South Miami in November adopted a resolution suggesting Florida be split into two states. I don’t think we’re ready to go that far, but it is worth exploring how South Florida politics can operate differently than the rest of the state. That’s why we’re profiling three firms—Floridian Partners, LSN Communications, and Mercury Public Affairs—that have a full understanding of both the regional and statewide scene. We also tasked veteran journalist Buddy Nevins to provide a lay of the land in Broward County, where the politics is as competitive as Wall Street. Few in the process understand politics more than Marc Caputo, who, after making the jump from the Miami Herald to POLITICO, may have the best gig in Florida journalism. James Call sat down with Marc to talk about how he grew up in his father’s (award-winning author Phillip Caputo) shadow to become one of the most

respected reporters in the country. Our tour of South Florida also includes a look at some of the celebrity chef-driven restaurants that are making Miami one of the hottest food scenes anywhere. Returning to capital politics, we highlight some of the winners and losers who emerged from the truncated 2015 Legislative Session. I hope you’ll share our enthusiasm for this second issue and agree that we’ve improved upon the first. Before this edition went to print, we already started planning the third and fourth issues slated for publication this fall and at the end of the year. If you have any constructive criticism or suggestions, please email me. Stay cool this summer …

Peter Schorsch Publisher




INFLUENCE MAGAZINE A FloridaPolitics.com Publication



Tisha Keller


Rich Bard Bill Prescott


CONTRIBUTORS James Call Gina Melton Buddy Nevins Mitch Perry Ryan Ray

Peter Schorsch

Florence Snyder

Melissa Ross Christine Jordan Sexton Florence Snyder Benjamin Todd Mary Beth Tyson


Benjamin Todd Mary Beth Tyson


Harold Hedrick


Thomas Kiernan

SUBSCRIPTIONS One year (4 issues) is $25. Call (850) 590-5914

INFLUENCE Magazine is published quarterly by Florida Politics, LLC, a subsidiary of Extensive Enterprises Media, LLC. 204 37th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33704. INFLUENCE Magazine and Extensive Enterprises Media are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. Editorial contributions are welcomed and encouraged, but will not be returned. INFLUENCE Magazine reserves the right to publish any letters to the editor. Copyright July 2015, Extensive Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.


HCA: Florida’s Choice for Quality Healthcare

46 HCA Hospitals to Serve Your Community · Most Joint Commission-Accredited Hospitals in Florida · Largest Healthcare Provider in Florida · Largest Trauma Network in Florida · Committed to Caring, Committed to the Community

For more information visit


Challenge us with the issues that challenge you! Our Practice Areas

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1028 East Park Ave. Tallahassee, Florida 32301 (850) 216-1002


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2655 N. Ocean Dr., Suite 330 Singer Island, Florida 33404 (561) 845-7453

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1501 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 107 Miami, Florida 33132 (305) 631-2115

www.pittman-law.com The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide to hire an attorney, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience.

Contributors Melissa Ross “My favorite part about summer is the freedom it gives our family from the morning grind of getting the kids off to school. Our daughters are old enough to stay home by themselves now—for the first summer ever! So getting off to work in the morning is a breeze for a change. And they are loving the time off from school, of course. Our summer plans involve the mountains. That’s my family’s escape. In August we’ll decamp to Lake Lure, North Carolina, near Asheville, where there’s no humidity, beautiful crystal blue waters, and a cool microclimate.”

Christine Jordan Sexton “Our summer plans include traveling around the state touring different colleges with our daughter, who will graduate from high school next year, as well as spending time at St. George Island and Siesta Key. We will also take in a concert or two with our guitar-playing son, who enters high school next year.”

Florence Snyder is spending the summer visiting with friends in the Florida Journalism Diaspora and writing twisted musical tributes to The Process for a planned re-launch of Miss Quote and the Clarifications. Look for her in the real world, because she’s not on Facebook.


Mitch Perry “Although I tend to stay indoors as much as possible, living in Florida, in summer I do like the occasional Friday night trip out to a Pinellas County beach with a bottle of Cabernet in hand to watch a glorious sunset.”

Instead of the usual biography thumbnail and headshot, we asked our stable of contributors to describe their favorite part of the summer and what plans they may have for the season. Fortunately, none of them wanted to share a picture of themselves in a swimsuit.

Gina Melton “My favorite part of summer: The smell of sunscreen. Sweet corn with lots of butter. Lazy beach days, breathing salty air and enjoying a cold brew. Summer reading lists. Squeals from my kids as they play in the pool. Family picnics and fireworks. Road trips.”

Buddy Nevins “I spent 10 days in June in the Rockies. I also plan take advantage of the warm weather by swimming in our pool with our granddaughter. Fumigating my house for termites and using that as an excuse for throwing out a lot of junk unfortunately will take too much of the summer.”

Ryan Ray “As someone who’s from here, the summer is my homeland. Looking forward to getting back in touch with its lesser traffic, no political ads and swimming as a form of selfdefense.”




Ft. Lauderdale


From start-ups to large multinational corporations, Stearns Weaver Miller is proud to represent many of the businesses that have contributed to the best of Florida’s growth. We offer multidisciplinary solutions with a focus on business restructuring, corporate & securities, labor & employment, land development, zoning & environmental, litigation, real estate and tax matters. By achieving success in those endeavors we have been able to help make our communities better places for all.

Now in the Highpoint Center, Tallahassee • stearnsweaver.com 16 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2015




78 Political Hot Spot The Biltmore Bar is where we interviewed some of South Florida’s most influential politicos. BY PETER SCHORSCH AND MITCH PERRY

60 The Scoreboard

From the Florida Justice Association and No Casinos to medical marijuana and the LGBTQ community, we’ve identified the 2015 legislative winners and losers.

96 Jose Oliva Heats Up

Oliva’s forceful presence in the Florida Legislature is already shaking up state government ahead of his expected ascension to House Speaker in 2019. BY CHRISTINE JORDAN SEXTON

100 Marc Caputo

Known for his tenacity and astute perception of Florida politics, reporter Marc Caputo—now at POLITICO—may have the best job in Florida journalism. BY JAMES CALL

106 The Gentle Giant

In Tallahassee, Florida Power & Light has a reputation for rolling opponents. But in South Florida, the company has become known for its relentless— almost obsessive—drive to improve. BY PETER SCHORSCH

112 Woman to Watch

She’s an insider’s insider, while also reflecting a story not always evidenced in the stodgy halls of state power: the growing power of people of color in Florida government. Yolanda Cash Jackson is an ideological sphinx in an increasingly polarized political dynamic. BY RYAN RAY

120 Tailor of Adams St.

Arron’s Fine Custom Clothing is about a mile from the Capitol, and is a trusted sartorial source for many in the state’s lawmaking arena. BY JAMES CALL

124 Lions in Winter

Van Poole and Sandy D’Alemberte look back at the gentlemanly days of the Florida Legislature. BY FLORENCE SNYDER



34 117



45 Fourth Floor Files

Insider’s Advice

Nelson Diaz, Heather Turnbull and Sean Pittman answer the pressing—and personal—questions about life in the political lane.

53 Breaking Through Ryan Cohn makes the case for shorter, trendier, more accessible marketing.

117 Advocate Profile Open communication and determination define Juan Flores’ political strategy for AT&T. BY JAMES CALL

132 On Point What are the unspoken rules among Florida lobbyists? Top names tell us.


55 Prescription for Publicity

On the Move

Karen Moore shares leading strategies for grassroots patient advocacy.

Policial Aficionado’s Guide


Briefings from the Rotunda


Miami’s Haute Cuisine Scene


What Bob Lotane Learned 128

57 Taking Stock Steven Vancore extolls the virtues of asking voters what they really think.

With co-hosts Gary Yordon, Sean Pittman, and Steve Vancore.

· IRREVERENT · · ENGAGING · · ENTERTAINING · Capitol conversations for over 16 years. Airs weekends locally on WCTV-CBS, Saturdays at 11:00 a.m.


Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC is a Florida-based political communications consulting and public aairs rm, specializing in executing winning messaging and public relations plans for trade associations, coalitions and corporations, as well as candidate, referendum and issue advocacy campaigns. We've worked inside the halls of government, we've sat inside the war rooms of campaigns, and have advised some of Florida's most innuential trade associations, leaders, CEOs and Fortune 500 executives. Our passion for what we do drives our work product every day, which translates into success for our clients.

the Political GOOD READS


Aficionado’s  Guide to ... BIG SCREEN







How can Florida afford to shut down Tax Credit Scholarships?

Despite the loss of two key educational allies, the Florida Education Association (FEA) has filed an appeal of a Leon circuit judge’s dismissal of its lawsuit against the 14-year-old Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The FEA wants to take away scholarships from 69,846 of Florida’s most economically disadvantaged students, and the fact that these students would be pulled out of schools that are working for them apparently had no effect on the decision to appeal. But has the Florida Education Association considered the financial impact its lawsuit could have on public schools?

69,846 current scholarship students


11th largest school district1


New state budget revenue from elimination of scholarship tax credit



Current projected growth in public school students


98,213 over next five years2

Cost of new public school spaces for only half of evicted scholarship students


Public schools’ cost to educate evicted scholarship students






... leaves a $1.3 billion hole.

Will we raise taxes

Current classroom capacity shortage in Orange Co. public schools


Will we cut services

The numbers from one urban school district:

Scholarship students who would return to Orange Co. public schools


3,471 student stations6

7,159 Projected five-year enrollment growth in Orange Co. public schools

Total Orange Co. public schools at least 10 percent over capacity

21,738 students7





How can public schools, already overcrowded in many urban counties, immediately absorb nearly 70,000 new students?

Learn more.


The calculations: 1) From district student FTE counts on Florida Education Finance Program Third Calculation, 2014-15; 2) From April 13, 2015, Public Schools PreK‐12 Education Estimating Conference report; 3) New construction student-station cost of $33,685 from 2013 Department of Education Cost of Construction Report; 4) Using proposed House FEFP allocation from March 26, 2015; 5) From Department of Revenue March 2015 report on tax-credit reservations for 2014-15; 6) From December 2, 2014, OCPS Capacity Comparison Update; 7) Based upon Florida’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research FTE Enrollment Forecast, April 13, 2015; 8) From December 2, 2014, OCPS Capacity Comparison Update; 9) Projection from Department of Education Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program Quarterly Report, February 2015.

Paid for by the Black Alliance for Educational Options and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options.

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... GOOD READS

Reliving Ancient History? Stacy Braukman’s book turns a searching eye on the notorious Johns Committee, a 1960s incrimination commission created by the Florida Legislature BY MARTIN DYCKMAN


Government documents can be as bland as the telephone directory,

Communists and Perverts under the Palms: The Johns Committee in Florida, 1956 – 1965 By Stacy Braukman Rembert Patrick Book Award (2013); Finalist, Lambda Literary Awards (2012); Southern Association of Women Historians Willie Lee Rose Prize (2013) Published in 2012 by the University of Florida Press Buy online at www.upf.com

but that was far from true about what came to be known, infamously, as the Florida Legislature’s “Purple Pamphlet.” Published in March 1964, the 44-page Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida, purported to justify seven years of work by the seven-member Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (FLIC), better known as the Johns Committee after its founder and occasional chairman, Sen. (and former acting governor) Charley Johns, a Democrat from Starke. Created in 1956 to thwart desegregation, the committee had fired blanks in its hunt for Communists among the Florida NAACP and its litigants and had turned to hunting for homosexuals in the universities and public schools. It had also tried to destroy academic freedom at the infant University of South Florida, nearly succeeding. Hobbled at long last by the courts and embarrassed by its chief investigator, who had set a sex trap for a newspaperman critic, the committee attempted to justify its existence with its first-ever report to the public. The pamphlet, as author Stacy Braukman tells the story in her masterful book Communists and Perverts under the Palms: The Johns Committee in Florida, 1956 – 1965, “was supposed to be the Johns Committee’s crowning glory, the culmination of years of painstaking interrogations, surveillance, and collecting informants’ secrets. >>


“But the FLIC drastically overestimated the public’s tolerance for being scared straight. Upon opening the swirling lavender cover, the reader was greeted by a black-andwhite photograph of two men, naked to the waist, embracing and kissing on the mouth.” After a preface meant to alarm “every parent and every individual concerned with the moral climate of the state,” the pamphlet featured more homoerotic photographs, including one of a bondage situation and another of oral sex in a public restroom and a glossary of what it claimed were such sex terms as “seafood,” supposedly meaning gays in the Navy. The pamphlet was a smashing failure. Even politicians and editors who applauded the committee’s homophobia denounced how it had been expressed. The Dade County state attorney threatened to prosecute anyone distributing it—the ultimate possible disgrace, considering that FLIC had also been crusading against obscenity. The committee’s last gasp, a year later, was a report attempting to besmirch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and others who had demonstrated against segregation at St. Augustine. The 1965 Legislature let the committee expire. Braukman’s book, published to regrettably little notice three years ago by the University Press of Florida (my publisher also), is more than a work of uncommonly interesting history. It’s also an object lesson in why not to license a legislative committee for a searchand-destroy mission rather than an honest quest for facts on which to base legislation or impeachment. (FLIC produced no laws in the course of destroying dozens of academic careers.) Most importantly, Braukman draws a direct line from the politicians who made scapegoats of gays and lesbians a half century ago, through Anita Bryant’s 1977 campaign to repeal Dade County’s pioneering gay rights ordinance and the Legislature’s ban on adoptions by gays (only lately overturned by the courts), to the politicians and preachers who rail today, in the face of a vastly more tolerant public, against allowing same-sex marriage. More than religion was and is involved. She absolves Johns and his committee of the widely held belief that they turned to pursuing homosexuals at the University of Florida and elsewhere merely because the civil rights probe wasn’t yielding red fruit. To Johns and like-minded politicians, she writes, civil rights activity and homosexual conduct were related threats to the security of the United States as well as to the character of its society. Years before FLIC, she notes, the federal government purged thousands of suspected homosexuals as security risks. “If the United States military, the federal

...The pamphlet featured more homoerotic photographs, including one of a bondage situation and another of oral sex in a public restroom and a glossary of what it claimed were ... sex terms

government, and the police and courts all agreed that homosexuals were untrustworthy, morally degenerate, and a threat to children, it matters little whether Charley Johns’s adherence to these beliefs was sincere,” Braukman writes. “In fact, he likely used the committee to raise his own political profile, in addition to trying to stanch civil rights activism, halt the rapid changes that were occurring in the society in which he lived, and simply—and more nebulously—trying to defend conservative values. But it matters a great deal that these ideas could be put into practice and accepted, even applauded, by many Floridians for almost a decade.” The committee literally blackmailed scores of students and faculty into confessing sins and naming names, threatening to expose them in public hearings if they didn’t cooperate and resign their jobs. Transcripts reveal a curious obsession with lurid details on the parts of some of the investigators. The Department of Education and the Board of Control, which ran the universities then, were co-opted. Eventually, however, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the committee had exceeded its lawful power and ordered three Pinellas County teachers restored to their jobs. That and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning contempt citations against NAACP witnesses who had refused to surrender membership lists, contributed to FLIC’s downfall.

Braukman, a college student when the committee’s files were finally unsealed two decades ago, recognized them as rich material for her eventual doctoral dissertation at the University of North Carolina. Extensively rewritten from that, Communists and Perverts under the Palms reads like original history and brings to mind the familiar warning about failing to learn from history. If your public library doesn’t have the book, ask them to get it.

From her summary: “The culture wars waged during the last half of the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first, were fought largely within a framework constructed during the postWorld War II era. Conservatives came to power and held on to it in part by articulating a narrative of the social and national security threats of racial and sexual deviance, liberalism and secularism, and an intrusive federal government. Florida and the South helped to blaze a trail from Cold War politics to the ascendancy of social conservatism, a trail that wound its way from the Johns Committee to Anita Bryant, the Moral Majority, and Jesse Helms’s assault on the National Endowment for the Arts, to name a few. The ideas that emerged from the confluence of antiCommunism, massive resistance, and the rise of the evangelical Right in the postwar years have displayed a breathtaking tenacity in American political culture.” Braukman’s account of the culture wars waged by the Johns Committee and its counterparts in other states makes it easy to recognize how they continue today in the form of hostility toward Mexican immigrants, same-sex marriage, and abortion rights, as well as in the disdain for liberal arts education expressed by governors such as Rick Scott in Florida and Scott Walker in Wisconsin. There is no such thing as “ancient” history in American politics. Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times. He lives in western North Carolina.

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... BIG SCREEN

Annual Pilgrimage to the Cinema Since the opening of Jaws in June 1975, summer has become the designated time when Hollywood releases its block-


buster films, increasingly tailored for sales to international markets, making them less interesting for the discerning filmgoer. But beyond Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Fantastic Four and Ant-Man, there are other American films coming out this summer that could be thought-provoking and worth leaving the house for, as opposed to waiting for video on demand. BY MITCH PERRY

IRRATIONAL MAN (July 17) – This is Woody Allen’s latest, as Joaquin Pheonix and Emma Stone star respectively as the philosophy professor who develops a crush on a student. At 77, Woody’s now old enough to stop casting himself as the nebbish schlub who gets the girl, which already makes it a better film, but who knows how this will come out? Allen deserves praise for his amazing work ethic—theoretically at some point we’re going to be faced with a summer without an annual film from him. Until then, though, you know what you’re going to get in content. As to quality? It’s definitely been hit-or-miss from Woody the past 15 years or so. For every Vicki Christina Barcelona that dazzles, there have been too many Whatever Works (that was the one with Larry David playing a Woody surrogate? Oh, forget about it).

THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT (July 17) – Described as among the most chilling psychological experiments ever conducted, in 1971 psychologist Phillip Zimbardo and his colleagues created an experiment to examine the effect of being a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment—carried out in a simulated prison at Stanford University—was slated to last 14 days but went only six. Afterward, Zimbardo said it should have ended even sooner. The head scientist is played by Billy Crudup. PAPER TOWNS (July 24) – It’s the latest from young adult novelist John Green to hit the big screen. In this story, London-based model Cara Delevingne stars as the charismatic high school student Margo Roth Spiegelman, who is the object of affection (obsession?) by her neighbor Quentin, played by Nat Wolff.

SOUTHPAW (July 24) – This film feels like it will be an event. Written by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter and directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), it stars Jake Gyllenhaal in what is being described “as the story of a boxer in search of redemption.” If you’ve seen photos of Gyllenhaal, you know he’s pumped himself up to almost unrecognizable stature as a boxer. It comes off his similar physical transformation last year for Nightcrawler, where he was deserving of an Oscar nod as much as anyone not named David Oyelowo, whose equally mesmerizing take as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma was similarly overlooked by the Academy. The film will also feature original music by Eminem, who allegedly was initially slated to play the lead character. >>



VACATION (July 31) — The National Lampoon Vacation films from the 1980s are absolute classics—a reminder that yes, Chevy Chase actually did make a few decent Hollywood comedies after bolting from Saturday Night Live after just one season. This is not a true remake, but let’s just hope it brings the funny like the 1983 original John Hughes story did. Rusty Griswold is a grown-up now (played by Ed Helms), as he takes his wife (Christina Applegate) and their two sons on a cross-country trip to Walley World. Chase and Beverly D’Angelo are back as the grandparents. DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL (Aug. 7) — This is a story of a 15-year-old living in San Francisco in the early 1970s who loses her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend. Adapted from a graphic novel written by Phoebe Gloeckner, and with animation, this film was a big favorite this winter at the Sundance Film Festival.

RICKI AND THE FLASH (Aug. 7) — This film stars Meryl Streep, 65, as an “aging rocker,” as her character is described by the studio. It has an impressive pedigree, with Jonathan Demme directing and a Diablo Cody (Juno)-penned script. The story is a family drama, as Streep’s character apparently was a bad mom while she lived for herself as a traveling musician for decades. But after her daughter (played by Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer) is dumped by her fiancée, the family unit plays a big part in this intriguing drama. STRAIGHT OUT OF COMPTON (Aug. 14) — Another biopic regarding a major American artist, in this case, the rap group N.W.A.


THE END OF THE TOUR (July 31) — The news of writer David Foster Wallace’s suicide in September 2008 was a stunner. He was 46. Though I never finished his opus Infinite Jest, I did read one of his collections of short stories, Brief Encounters with Hideous Men, and thought he was a pretty special artist. Although he was a relatively famous author, his legacy was only enhanced when there wasn’t one but two big biographies that came out shortly after his death. The End of the Tour is about the aborted profile that Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg) tried to write in 1996 about Wallace’s book tour the same year for Infinite Jest, while Wallace was at the height of his fame. Wallace is played by actor Jason Segal, who in the trailer depicts the writer wearing his ubiquitous bandana.



Why I’m quitting Tallahassee. Recently, another legislative session ended without action on medical marijuana, despite the 58% majority who voted for it last fall. And I’m disappointed, but relieved. Since the 2014 elections, we devoted ourselves to lobbying the legislature on an issue for which the will of the people is irrelevant. This legislature doesn’t work for the people and is intent to let hundreds of thousands suffer by their inaction. Maybe there wasn’t enough money in it. Not enough lobbyists. People were depending on us and we failed them. People sick and dying and in pain every day. Tallahassee failed them. And when the Florida House simply decided to quit, I realized, here was our chance to truly help those people, and allow them to see the relief that those in nearly half of the country already has. So as of the end of session, we are recommitted to putting medical marijuana back before the voters in 2016. We know it’s going to be hard. But we will win this time. If you’re interested in continuing to lobby Tallahassee on this issue, here’s a list of firms who will gladly do it: the Rubin Group, Ballard Partners, Southern Strategies and Ron. L. Book, P.A.. As for us, we welcome a vote in November 2016. If you do too, sign the petition at www.unitedforcare.org/petition. Sincerely,

Ben Pollara Campaign Manager United for Care

Pd. Pol. Adv. paid for by People United for Medical Marijuana, 20 North Orange Avenue, Suite 1600, Orlando, FL 32801

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... MUST-SEE TV

Instant Political Access Although there’s no one statewide “Sunday show” to rule them all à la Meet the Press or Face the Nation, Florida’s regional television news instead offers a diverse and interesting tapestry of local shows of varying style and scope. Someone who wishes to start that gold-standard Florida public affairs show, however, would do well to catch a few episodes of these. BY RYAN RAY

BLACK ALMANAC WITH DR. ED JAMES – Hosted by Sarasota stalwart and pillar of the city’s Newtown district Ed James, Black Almanac offers by turns James as a probing critic or a sympathetic listener as necessary. On the Sarasota airwaves since 1974, BA is the longest-running public affairs show in the state and perhaps even the Southeast. Recent shows have tackled issues ranging from the quotidian—the show is a prized stop-off for local candidates campaigning— to the essential: James and more than a dozen local members of the clergy recently met in a solemn on-air meeting to discuss the slayings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. FACING FLORIDA – Mike Vasilinda started Facing Florida in 2010 after covering the Capitol for more than 30 years, spanning nine governors. He seems to have found his definitive vehicle after a long, award-winning

career including a nightly cable talk show and thousands of interviews and segments he produced appearing on local news across the state. Vasilinda, admirably, often gives non-Tallahassee residents a good chance to hear from the Democrat’s Bill Cotterell and uses his broad connections and decades of experience to host substantive, well-moderated conversations with analysts and decision-makers. FACING SOUTH FLORIDA – A former newspaper journalist with the Miami Herald, host Jim DeFede uses his investigative skills and his eye for the interesting detail to draw out—to the extent that anyone can fully understand America’s political Wild West—what’s really going on in Miami politics each Sunday morning. Unlike of the Florida public affairs shows enumerated here, DeFede usually books his

guests on Friday, making for a highly contemporary, up-to-the-minute look at what’s driving the agenda south of Alligator Alley FLORIDA THIS WEEK – Rob Lorei’s political roundtable program on Tampa Bay’s WEDU makes excellent use of its public television format. Each Friday evening and Sunday morning, the half-hour-long show brings together four assiduously balanced panelists to discuss the issues of the day at length without commercial interruption. Lorei’s approach is to channel his best Diane Rehm, letting his guests have their say and, for the most part, serving as a discursive referee and incisive asker of follow-ups. Plus, you can watch hundreds of past shows in an online archive, an area where supposedly “old-line” public media is well ahead of the curve. Stream a recent FTW and get a broad lay of the land, unladen with spin or sensationalism. >>


ON POINT WITH SHANNON OGDEN — Local to the strategic and growing market of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, broadcaster Shannon Ogden’s weekly show highlights his own original reporting as well as that of the Capitol Press Corps’ Garin Flowers. Recent guests include provincial bigwigs such as Jax Mayor-elect Lenny Curry and City Councilman Tommy Hazouri, as well as slice-of-life profile subjects such as Rona Brinlee, owner of The BookMark, a local bookstore in Jacksonville Beach. POLITICAL CONNECTIONS — The Political Connections franchise consists of two different shows with similar formats in two major Central Florida media markets served by Bright House Networks: Tampa Bay and Orlando. They are well-produced programs anchored by Bay News 9’s Al Ruechel and Ybeth Bruzual of News 13 respectively, who sometimes co-anchor special coverage. Contributions from smart local analysts—former U.S. Rep. Lou Frey and former state Rep. Dick Batchelor in Orlando, former Florida Democratic Party director Ana Cruz and GOP comms guru Chris Ingram in Tampa Bay—combined with packages from Tallahassee political reporter Troy Kinsey and special guests more or less every week make for probably the closest approximation of a national Sunday show as there is in Florida. Anchor Al Ruechel is said to soon be retiring. Is Kinsey the logical choice to replace him? Or with many viewers “cutting the cord” and going without cable, will he make like Adam Smith and take his talents elsewhere? SUNDAY MORNING WITH THE TAMPA BAY TIMES — When Adam Smith left the above Political Connections in March, it wasn’t long before Tampa’s CBS 10 News began promoting a new Sunday show of its own, now spearheaded by Smith. Sunday Morning is a brief 30-minute Florida-centric show that follows a weekly 8 a.m. pitch by Christian televangelist Joel Osteen and serves as 10 News’ lead-in to the national CBS Sunday Morning and then, of course, Face the Nation, now led by Slate Gabfest superstar John Dickerson. Featuring reporting content and analysis from Times reporters, this show is still finding its bearings but with the weight of the “All Seeing Eye” behind it is certain to stay around through at least the 2016 cycle. THIS WEEK IN SOUTH FLORIDA — Michael Putney and co-host Glenna Milberg’s South Florida-oriented show airing on South Florida’s WPLG Local 10 is another thoroughgoing effort toward a broad national-style show, though focused on the mega-region from southeastern Palm Beach down to the Keys. Local elected officials—state lawmakers as well as the hundreds of local positions that make up SoFla’s political tableau, as wide and complicated as that of many entire states—predominate on the show. The quality of the guests and commentators, as well as the production value, is consistent with a slick, newsroom-informed offering. THE USUAL SUSPECTS — Broadcasting on Tallahassee’s WCTV as well as in Panama City and several counties in south Georgia, Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon and Sean Pittman co-host a weekly political talk show that’s probably the most likely to feature elected officials and insiders in a shop-talking back-and-forth. A show caters to insiders and does it well. You’re more likely to hear from Adams Street lobbyists here than anywhere else above. But they’ve also been known to play host to local electeds, national political analysts and even Influence publisher Peter Schorsch. It’s a small world, after all.


Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

the Political


Boss Phishing BLAKE DOWLING warns of new cyberfraud scams—impersonating your boss


have had the privilege of working with several lobbying entities over the years. During that time the technical landscape has turned several “Triple Lindy’s”—see Rodney Dangerfield’s film Back to School. Technologies such as wireless, tablets, cloud storage, smart phones, software as a service, search engine optimization, and mobile apps have become commonplace. I’ve enjoyed watching these innovations become a reality by consulting and selling them to clients. However, some of the most gratifying work I’ve done through the years is to share information that costs nothing. The other day I sent an email to a few friends who are primarily lobbyists and lawyers to clue them in about a new threat

called “Boss Phishing.” One said they wished I had mentioned it a month before: Their firm had just been scammed out of $40,000. Boss Phishing is the latest cyber-crime gambit to come out of vacation hot spots such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Russia. I personally refer to this fraud as the Tony Danza attack because the perpetuator is looking for “Who’s the Boss?” Seriously, here’s how it works: A fake website is registered that closely resembles their target’s website. Usually, though, it’s off by a letter or two. For example, if the legitimate site is www.scotchisgreat.com, they would register www. scotchisgreats.com. Then a fake email account is created to go along with the faux website.

Then the criminal effort goes into overdrive. They begin trolling the Internet for information about their victim. Specifically, they want to know “Who’s the Boss?” and who’s the accountant. They look for headlines in the news or on social media about specific issues or clients the victim might be working with. A bogus email would look something like this: …Terry (accountant) it’s Rob, I am in Orlando working with the Disney Team on the pending legislation we have been discussing and I need you to wire payment to account number ******* to our attorney down here with Brooks and Peters, I would prefer not to use company plastic. Rob Smith, CEO. Some organizations conduct their operations so this type of request might sound legitimate. Other businesses might have a corporate culture that dictates employees do what the leadership demands whatever time of day and no matter how odd the request. One person I spoke with said they had received a fraudulent email such as the ones I’m describing. Just as they were about to respond, they saw the “boss” walk by their office. They asked what the money was for since it would take all the free cash in their operational account. The boss then called me. I calmed the client’s worry that they had been hacked, which is what most people assume. I slowly walked them through the scheme and told them to report the situation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, their local police Cyber Crime Unit, or the FBI. Tech threats are more prevalent than ever. Make sure you and your lobbying team are in the loop on Boss Phishing. It’s happening around the world, and more people than you would think have fallen victim. Also, if you made it this far through the column I formally thank you for tolerating my Rodney Dangerfield and Tony Danza jokes. Blake H. Dowling is chief business development officer for Aegis Business Technologies. He writes, speaks and consults on all things technology for a variety of organizations. You can reach him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.


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Celebrity chef juggernauts transform the South Florida dining scene BY GINA MELTON


Chef Michael Mina of the Fontainebleau and other brasseries nationwide. Photo courtesy Fontainebleau



PHOTOS BY Michael Pissari

Clockwise from top: Miami-native Chef Michelle Bernstein serves farm-to-table classics with a South Beach flair at Seagrape in the Thompson Miami Beach; her Braised Short Rib; Seagrape’s reinvented retro bar area.


Mario, Emeril, Wolfgang The moniker “chef” is superfluous to describe these rock stars of the culinary world who have achieved a celebrity status rivaling Madonna, Prince and Jagger. The influence of reality television shows like Top Chef and thousands of Yelpers and Instagram-happy food bloggers have exalted a once-lowly position in the service industry caste system into a billion-dollar business of pasta sauces, chef-themed cruises and even a viable “garbage bowl” business for Rachael Ray. The celebrity chef juggernaut has transformed the restaurant industry and people’s expectations of what they should eat. Admittedly, there is something special about dining at a celebrity chef restaurant. Maybe it’s attributable to the palpable buzz in the air or the chance to be one of the “beautiful people,” even if it’s just for one evening. Will the chef be in house tonight? What NBA player or actress will have reservations at the VIP table? Then, of course, there’s the food. The amuse-bouche may have a sprinkle of stardust (or in Emeril’s case, Essence) and the meals end with more gusto, perhaps with a foie gras PB&J or a delightful mignardise

cart: the little bites of pastries and sweets that are legendary at Joel Robuchon’s eponymous restaurant in Las Vegas. The renaissance of the South Florida food scene in the early 2000s coincided with rise of the Food Network and unprecedented growth in the region’s hotel and tourism sector. If Miami was cool enough for JLo, it was hip enough for throngs of tourists, ready to live la vida loca. The Magic City—like New York and Las Vegas before—was ripe for what can only be characterized as a celebrity chef invasion. For the many Miami and Miami Beach hotels vying for the same tourist dollar, the business of cultivating an escape for their guests is what differentiates one establishment from another. Successful South Florida resorts cater not only to visitors looking for surf and sand, but also provide an escape from run-of-the-mill small-town victuals. The glitz and glam of the celebrity chef restaurant fulfills those fantasies, making collaboration between power chefs and resort hotels a fruitful partnership. Such synergy is apparent at the landmark Fontainebleau, where Chef Michael

Mina heads two restaurants, StripSteak and Michael Mina 74. Those establishments, along with New York transplants Scarpetta and Hakkasan, round out a successful collection of experiences for every palate, enticing travellers to never leave the 20-acre Miami Beach megaplex for a meal. The sexy SLS South Beach is home to The Bazaar, Spanish avant-garde Chef Jose Andres’ small-plate concept that caters to those looking for an exotic take on tapas. Patrons settle under seashell-laced chandeliers to sip on liquid-nitrogenized caipirinhas and nosh on the chef’s trompe l’oeil olives (green spheres bursting with olive oil) or an homage to the venerable Café Versailles, where a puff composed mostly of air molecules, Swiss cheese foam and a curl of jamón puts a twist on the traditional Cubano sandwich. En route to a James Beard award for Best Chef in the South, Miami-grown Chef Michelle Bernstein rose to fame in the Food Network’s golden era and now has several South Florida notches in he star-studded belt. Her farm-to-table brasserie Seagrape, housed at the boutique hotel Thompson Miami Beach, showcases the >>

PHOTOS COURTESY (previous spread) Fontainebleau;

Star-Studded Eats Crumb on Parchment

Cafe Boulud

Restaurateur and Chef Daniel Boulud’s namesake at the historic Brazilian Court hotel in Palm Beach offers a mix of classic French and American fare (found in “Le Tradition” portion of the menu) and more adventurous global cuisine (listed under “Le Voyage” section). The dining room glows with inviting canary yellow, amber and terracotta tones, but the most coveted tables are on the expansive terrace. The most current Le

Voyage section of the menu highlights Florida indigenous cuisine aka “Florida Cracker” fare, like royal-red shrimp with Florida citrus, cucumber and local watercress, and heirloom tomatoes with pickled watermelon rind, peanuts and chèvre. The Brazilian Court, 301

The newest venture of James Beard Award winner and Miami Superchef Michelle Bernstein, this Design District eatery serves up “Hot and Messy” sandwiches like “gooey grilled cheese” with wild mushrooms and bacon as well as salads, coffees and housemade cakes and pies, all for a reasonable price. 3930 NE Second Ave.

Australian Ave., Palm Beach, Tel: (561) 655-7740.

(Atrium of The Melin Building), Miami, Tel: (305) 572-9444.

J&G Grill

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Asian-spiced food has landed at the ritzy St. Regis in Bal Harbour. The décor at J&G Grille suggests pared-down luxury and sophistication, but the cuisine is transcendent. Meals may begin with quenelles of hamachi tartare plated with ribbons of Iberico ham and end with the “salted caramel ice cream sundae” borrowed from Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen in New York. Topped with candied >>


peanuts, caramel popcorn and thick chocolate sauce, it’s like a DQ sundae for the jet set. St. Regis, 9703 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, Tel: (305) 993-3300.

La Mar by Gaston Acurio

Chef Gaston Acurio, lauded by some as a Peruvian gastro-god, serves up outstanding ceviches, tiraditos and signature pisco sours at the upscale Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. Peruvian cuisine represents the blend of every group who has called the country home: Incas, Spaniards, Africans, Italians, Japanese and Chinese. No dish is more representative of this than the chifa, a pan-fried rice dish mixed with Chinese sausage, roasted pork, shrimp omelet, pickled salad and soy-based nikei sauce. Mandarin Oriental, 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami, Tel: (305) 913-8358.

Morimoto South Beach

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto showcases his renowned raw delicacies at the recently updated Shelborne Wyndham Grand on Miami Beach. Diners flock to Morimoto for uber-fresh sushi, like tuna tartare served on a plate of ice-like glass, but signature dishes such as the hamachi taco with guacamole and the pastrami fish—ribbons of yellowtail encrusted with togarashi (a chile pepper blend) and accompanied with dill and gin crème fraiche—are also worthwhile.

fruits and vegetables specially grown by local farmers for her kitchen in dishes like a pickled root vegetables and a mahi-snapper spread with crème fraîche and dill. Certainly, there is a price tag that is associated with celebrity chef establishments—in part because of the swanky hotels many celebrity chef restaurants call home. But there are places in South Florida where frugal diners can get a slice of the celebrity chef experience without the hefty price tag. The Food Network’s Ingrid Hoffman of Simply Delicioso fame has a food truck venture, Latin Burger and Taco, where the Latin Macho burger—a chorizo burger topped with Oaxaca cheese, caramelized onions and jalapenos and “avocadolicious” sauce—is sought by the masses. Burgers are also the center of Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace concept in Kendall’s Dadeland Mall and Danny Meyers’ Shake Shack in Coral Gables and on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Francophiles on a budget flock

Shelborne Wyndham Grand, 1801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, Tel: 
(305) 341-1500.


Chef Scott Conant, celebrity chef and wellknown Chopped judge, opened his newest Scarpetta outpost at the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach. Scarpetta, which means “little shoe” in Italian, refers to the hunk of bread used to sop up lingering sauce, because well, licking a bowl is frowned upon in public. On the menu, dishes are traditional and rustic. Conant has a magician’s touch with tomatoes, showcased in his signature spaghetti pomodoro, but the house-prepared agnolotti dal plin are even better. These pasta pouches are stuffed with a purée of veal, pork and melted Fontina cheese, and then bathed in butter, truffle oil and Parmesan. Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, Tel: (305) 674-4660.


Internationally celebrated as “the founding father of New World Cuisine,” Chef Norman Van Aken’s Floribbean dishes are a mix of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavors. His newest venture, Tuyo, sits atop Miami Dade College’s Miami Culinary Institute, where Van Aken is the chef and director. The menu features dishes such as Brazilian creamy cracked conch chowder, Mongolian barbecue veal chops and pan-cooked fillet of Key West yellowtail. Miami Culinary Institute, 415 NE Second Ave., Miami, Tel: (305) 237-3200.


The Fontainbleau’s culinary panoply, clockwise from top: Mina’s contemporary steakhouse, StripSteak; the cucina rustica, Scarpetta; and modern Chinese menu, Hakkasan.

to Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Market at Marriot’s new EDITION hotel, where a coffee shop/patisserie/boulangerie/salumeria offers casual gourmet food around the clock. And at Crumbs on Parchment, Michelle Bernstein’s Miami Design District bakery, foodies find buzz-worthy soups, salads and sandwiches at accessible prices. Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant empire spans upwards of 90 restaurants and Jean-Georges Vongerichten owns about 27 establishments around the world. Clearly, celebrity chefs are not cloning themselves to oversee dinner service regularly: That’s delegated to their executive chefs. But the notion of the celebrity chef as a brand is what customers are buying into when they make a reservation. As long as South Florida remains an epicenter of culture and tourism, celebrity chef restaurants, housed in chic hotels looking to sell an entire experience to their patrons, will continue to dominate the high-end restaurant sector. ][




Briefings from the Rotunda

Firms collect more than $35 million during first quarter 2015 to lobby Legislature

Cameron Yarbrough took his talents — and his increasing roster of clients — to the law firm of Gunster Yoakley & Stewart recently, leaving behind his one-man shop Yarbrough Consulting. “As a sole proprietor I was looking for an alliance that would help me statewide and provide additional resources to complement my legislative and executive practice,” Yarbrough said. Yarbrough’s practice has a substantial focus on the often-overlooked world of executive branch lobbying. It includes major clients in higher education (Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida), pari-mutels and gaming (Caesar’s Palace, Tampa Bay Downs, and Tampa Greyhound Track), public safety communications systems (Motorola), and tax policy, on behalf of retail giants Walmart and the Florida Retail Federation. The former legislative director for the Florida Department of Management Services boasts an intimate familiarity with state and federal procurement processes. He also staffed the governor’s mansion under then-Gov. Jeb Bush as a governmental analyst and was a legislative aide to state Sen. Jack Latvala. “In the end Gunster was a great fit for me and my clients. For one of Florida’s oldest law firms with 400-plus attorneys with 11 offices from Florida Keys to the Panhandle, I’m able to serve my clients statewide not just in the halls of the Capitol or in the state agency headquarters in Tallahassee,” Yarbrough said.


Former Rick Scott staff member Marlene Williams leading GM’s Florida lobbying efforts A former legislative affairs director in the Rick Scott administration is now heading General Motors’ lobbying efforts in Florida. MARLENE WILLIAMS, 28, is the new Southeast Regional Manager of State Government Relations. Williams’s role will be to direct state legislative issues affecting GM in its southeast region. Based in Tallahassee, Williams also will be responsible for GM’s state government lobbying in Alabama, Florida and South Carolina. “Marlene’s experience dealing with key state policy issues in the Legislature will be invaluable to advancing GM’s state policy priorities and strengthening the company’s position in the southeast region,” said Eric Henning, GM’s regional director of state government relations. Previously, Williams was director of legislative affairs for the Florida Department of Management Services, acting as the department’s chief lobbyist.


Cameron Yarbrough joins Gunster

SOUTHERN STRATEGY GROUP led all firms in compensation for lobbying the Florida Legislature during the first quarter of 2015, hauling in $2.25 million, according to reports filed with the state. Registered lobbying firms, representing virtually every industry sector in Florida, reported earning slightly more than $35 million from January to March of this year. SSG stood alone in crossing the $2 million mark, but three other big-time firms collected $1 million or more in fees: BALLARD PARTNERS ($1,985,000), RONALD L. BOOK PA ($1,855,000), and CAPITAL CITY CONSULTING LLC ($1,270,000). Six firms earned more than $500,000, but less than $1 million: GRAYROBINSON PA ($875,000); CORCORAN & JOHNSTON ($805,000); THE RUBIN GROUP ($770,000); JOHNSON & BLANTON ($745,000); METZ HUSBAND & DAUGHTON PA ($725,000); GREENBERG TRAURIG PA ($705,000); and FLORIDIAN PARTNERS LLC ($680,000). Another 13 lobbying firms booking between $300,000 and $499,999: COLODNY FASS ($495,000); CAPITOL INSIGHT ($445,000); THE MAYERNICK GROUP ($495,000); SPEARMAN MANAGEMENT INC. ($360,000); BECKER & POLIAKOFF PA ($340,000); ANFIELD CONSULTING ($385,000); BUCHANAN INGERSOLL & ROONEY PC ($320,000); POOLE­ MCKINLEY ($305,000); SMITH, BRYAN & MYERS ($495,000); THE ADVOCACY GROUP AT CARDENAS PARTNERS LLC ($430,000); ADVANTAGE CONSULTING TEAM ($360,000); HEFFLEY & ASSOCIATES ($345,000); and THE FIORENTINO GROUP ($325,000). Although by law lobbying firms must file quarterly compensation reports, reports show only firms’ total compensation in general ranges, making it difficult to obtain exact totals spent on lobbying the state’s executive and legislative branches. For example, ranges reported by firms start between $1 and $9,999, $10,000 and $19,999 and so on, increasing in $9,999 increments. Exact numbers for individual clients are only reported when they pay $50,000 or more.

RFB Lobbying association plans annual conference Registration is underway for the 11th annual conference of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists, scheduled Sept. 9 through Sept. 11. The meeting brings together leaders in Florida’s political influence sector to learn latest trends and best practices, and to give them a chance to meet and greet legislators. Once again, the industry’s premier event will be held at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Drive in Tampa.

Use of public space no longer considered reportable lobbying expense in statutes Using public spaces is no longer something that elected officials and candidates have to worry about being a lobbying no-no.

Activities will include a series of networking events, seminars and roundtable discussions on subjects such as insurance, health care, transportation, public safety and economic development. Registration fees are $375 for FAPL members, $450 if bringing a spouse. Non-members will pay $500, which includes a oneyear FAPL membership, $575 if bringing one guest or spouse. Information and registration forms are available online at the FAPL website at http://www.fapl.us/.

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law SB 984, which makes clear that candidates and officials can use public property such as city halls and conference rooms without having to list it as an “expenditure” or “in-kind contribution” for purposes of the legislative lobbying ban. The bill created a statutory exception in law to the definition of “expenditure” for a “public-legislative use.” The exception provides that a “public-legislative use” is the “use of a public facility or public property that is made available by a governmental entity to a legislator for a public purpose, regardless of whether the governmental entity is required to register a person as a lobbyist pursuant to this section.” This statutory exception does not include the requirement of approval by the presiding officers currently contained in both the Senate Rules and the Administrative Policy Manual for the House of Representatives. SUMMER 2015 INFLUENCE | 41

Briefings from the Rotunda

Tammy Meyerson leaves behind a legacy of caring, professionalism in Tallahassee and beyond

The sudden death of Tammy Meyerson in late May shocked those who knew the health care executive as a constant presence in South Florida and Tallahassee circles. Amid the grief, though, a portrait has emerged of someone whose life went beyond the political realm. She was an accomplished managed care executive, political fundraiser and the driving force behind the establishment of the Florida Association of Health Plans, the statewide organization that represents managed care companies and HMOs before the Legislature in Tallahassee. Meyerson, president and chief executive officer of the South Florida-based Preferred Medical Plan, died May 22. She was 45. She moved at ease in Miami, her home and place of birth, as well as in Tallahassee political circles. Upward of 1,000 people attended the Jewish Orthodox funeral, solemnly reflecting on the loss of their friend, peer, boss, mother, daughter and mentor as her plain wooden casket was lowered into the ground. Among the crowd were politicians, including Gov. Rick Scott who donned a yarmulke, state lawmakers, lobbyists, and professional athletes. Meyerson was at the helm of Preferred Medical Plan for more than 20 years. The HMO is one of the oldest independently owned and licensed managed care organizations in Florida, with more 42 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2015

than 40 years in the business. Although the HMO is based in South Florida, Meyerson often traveled to the capital to track legislative developments or attend rule hearings at the Office of Insurance Regulation and the Agency for Health Care Administration. Often, she would be the only female CEO in the meeting. “Tammy Meyerson was a strong and beautiful person. She had a stellar reputation as a bold and brilliant businesswoman. Tammy was long-time advocate for our industry, and leader of the association,” Florida Association of Health Plans president and CEO Audrey Brown said in an email. “Above all, she inspired loyalty from all who knew her because of her grace, integrity and devotion to others. We miss her dearly.” Meyerson’s obituary noted that “she was happiest among her family” and that she was proud of her three children: Jared, Dean and Amber. The obituary also noted that Tammy loved and mentored Jimmy Graham as a son. “They were all always the number one priority in her life,” the obituary read. Graham plays in the National Football League for the Seattle Seahawks. He met Meyerson while attending the University of Miami and she became his personal manager. Graham put a picture of Meyerson, wearing his jersey, on his Twitter page. “R.I.P Tammy,” he tweeted. “We all love u more than life it self (sic). We know u are looking down on us Today Tomorrow & Forever.” Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, accompanied Graham to the funeral. Meyerson was a force to be reckoned with when advocating policy, Senate Budget chief Tom Lee said. Childhood friend, Harold Foster, said Meyerson was competitive, but compassionate. “She competed for the highest grade in the class,” said Foster, who has known Meyerson since he was 10 years old. “But then she’d be the first to volunteer to tutor people who had a hard time with the work.” Meyerson was among the South Florida Business Journal’s “Power Leaders in Health Care” in 2014. She was on the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Dean’s Advisory Council. According to its website, Preferred Medical Plan has voluntarily agreed to immediately stop all new enrollment and the renewal of current enrollment for all lines of business at the present time. The plan stopped enrollment, according to the website, as “a result of the uncertainties related to the final payments due under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) premium stabilization programs.” It continues, “This decision was also precipitated by the well-publicized issue of the insufficient current Medicaid rates under the Medicaid Managed Assistance program. Sen. Rene Garcia, chairman of the Senate health care spending committee, called her one of the “greatest people I ever met.” “Not only because of her entrepreneurial skills, but because of her people skills,” Garcia said, still shaken by her passing nearly one month later. “She walked into a room and would light up that room. And she would give you the shirt off her back without any questions, and she was always there to help. She was an amazing person.”




Monte Stevens to SSG With more than a decade of public service experience, insurance regulation expert Monte Stevens is moving to the private sector, joining Southern Strategy Group (SSG) as a lobbyist. SSG, one of the largest advocacy firms in the South, is adding Stevens to its roster of leading Tallahassee power players who represent a broad range of industries and interests. He brings a wealth of knowledge in all things insurance, refined over years at the Florida Capitol and on Adams Street. After serving in both the Florida Office of Legislative Affairs for the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Financial Services, Stevens joined the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) in 2008. As deputy chief of staff, Stevens oversaw all of the agency’s advocacy efforts. Along with lobbying the Florida Legislature on insurance matters, Stevens also played a key role in a series of industry reforms for personal injury protection and homeowners insurance. He supervised Florida’s passage and implementation of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Insurance Holding Company System Regulatory Act, and modernized reserving requirements for life insurers. With an intimate knowledge of every type of insurance, Stevens has been long considered the go-to expert, and was frequently called on to testify before legislative committees on a variety of industry issues. While acting as OIR’s representative to Florida’s governor and Cabinet, Stevens helped modernize collateral requirements for reinsurers—establishing some of the first-ever such rules for Florida. SUMMER 2015 INFLUENCE | 43

FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Grandkids? Amazing wife (Lisette) and beautiful 4-year-old girl (Liliana Maria).

If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … I love my clients. Wouldn’t want anyone else’s.

In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I help organizations communicate their needs to their government, be it locally in Miami-Dade County or in Tallahassee, and help ensure that the message and request is received, understood and addressed.

Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Along with my other partners, helping to build up the Miami office at Southern Strategy Group.

Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I believe strongly in personal responsibility and that each citizen is responsible for him or herself. Government should be small and limited in scope and our society should be as free as possible with as few regulations as possible. Entitlements should be limited to only those who are in absolute need and incapable of helping themselves and for only so long as is it is needed by those people. If you have one, what is your motto? A few: Be prepared. Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.


During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Kristi House—It’s a great organization. I served as president and on their board. We provide treatment for sexually abused children and trafficked kids. We also work with the state attorney to prosecute perpetrators. Three favorite charities. Kristi House, Amigos for Kids (helps child abuse victims), League Against Cancer. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Not last day, but last week. Order Gumby’s Pizza (pizza, pokey sticks and that cinnamon pie thing) to the Capitol for me and my friends.

Nelson Diaz


Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? I don’t. I’m more about comfort than looks and I just don’t find those shoes to be all that comfortable. Shoes just aren’t that far up on the priority list. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter? Trick question! Other than SaintPetersBlog. com, your reading list includes … Of course, Sayfie, Politico, The Miami Herald, The Washington Post, CNN and Fox News websites. What swear word do you use most often? Coño. What is your most treasured possession? My home. The best hotel in Florida is … Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Reubin Askew and Jon Mills. Favorite movie. Not sure. I don’t really watch movies. Too short of an attention span. I suppose Goodfellas or Scarface. When you pig out, what do you eat? Chicken tenders or pizza. Or anything (everything) at Joe’s Stone Crab. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Ronald Reagan or Abraham Lincoln.


Florida’s future is bright, and naturally, we’re doing our part to help lead the way. For nearly 120 years, we’ve been committed to the communities we serve.This shows through our continued investment in renewable energy technologies to produce electricity and our continued expansion of infrastructure to provide our customers with a clean, domestically produced energy resource – natural gas.


FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Grandkids? For the past six years I’ve shared my life with Juan Muriel. I am also the very proud aunt of the most adorable niece (Hadley, 3) and nephew (Dane, 5). In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Navigate clients through Florida local and state government and provide a strong voice for them with elected and government officials. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. After years of working in the political process, I’ve learned my clients generally appreciate me keeping my mouth shut on this topic, so I will keep it brief. I’ve evolved from very partisan beliefs to learning the best policies usually come from the center. I most enjoy working with moderate and pragmatic elected and government officials rather than those with extreme views. I hold strong beliefs on social justice and personal freedoms and believe governmental practices should be adjusted as society evolves. If you have one, what is your motto? “If you obey all the rules, you miss all of the fun.” —Katherine Hepburn



During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Over the years I helped on a few pro bono appropriation items for charitable organizations: helped secure a specialty license plate for the Transplant Foundation to encourage organ donations and assisted on a few Animal Rights Foundation of Florida initiatives. However, I haven’t done my fair share and need to dedicate real time to focus on an organization or issue I am passionate about and try to make a difference. Three favorite charities. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Companion Animal Rescue Endeavor (CARE), Florida Suicide Prevention Coalition. Any last-day-of-session traditions? Fight until the very end followed by dinner and lots of red wine with my favorite people in the Capitol.

bono to work with Brian Ballard on David Beckham’s issues anytime he needs my help. Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Surviving this long in this business and Bill Rubin making me a partner. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? No. I’m really hard on my shoes (try being a woman walking around the Capitol grounds), so designer shoes are a complete waste of money for me. However, maybe I should try a good pair of loafers instead of heels. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol press corps reporter? I read them all and find them all very talented and fair. However, Marc Caputo makes me laugh the most. Other than SaintPetersBlog.com, your reading list includes … For Florida politics, my goto reading list is The News Service of Florida, Sayfie Review, Lobbytools and Sunshine State News. I also love to read anything unrelated to politics in my free time. Right now I’m reading the Game of Thrones series. What swear word do you use most often? All of them and often. Most of the time I sound like a cast member of the The Sopranos. What is your most treasured possession? Right now it is my Kindle reader. I love to read and travel a lot. It is the perfect way to have a book and reading materials at your fingertips without weighing you down or disturbing other people on a plane. The best hotel in Florida is … Toughest question on the list, since Florida is home to the best hotels. To narrow it down….Fontainebleau for dining and nightlife and Watercolor Inn & Resort for relaxation and enjoying my favorite place in the world … 30A. Favorite movie. True Romance, circa 1993. It’s written by Quentin Tarantino and has everything you want in a movie … all-star cast, romance, violence, drugs, Elvis, the best dialogue exchange in movie history between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hooper in the “Sicilian Scene,” and the movie’s opening scene begins with, “I had to come all the way from the highways and byways of Tallahassee, Florida … to find true love.”

If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … I would not trade my clients for the world; however, I’m available pro


Public Affairs For Florida’s Best Companies




Significant other? Children? Grandkids? My wife Audra; we have been married since 2009. We have three beautiful daughters: Paloma, 4, and my twin girls Phoebe and Pilar, 2.

What are you most looking forward to during the 2015 Legislative Session? I am looking forward to working with new clients and furthering the interests of our existing client roster.

In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I help my clients navigate through Florida’s legislative process, Florida’s political and legal landscape, within all levels of government.

If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … Ronald Book.

Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I would describe myself as being a moderate. I am in the middle of the spectrum on most of my political views. If you have one, what is your motto? Attention to detail. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? My favorite pro bono client is the City of Gretna because it is the only city in Florida that meets all eight indicators for impoverished communities under federal government criteria, yet has a real opportunity to be positioned to control its own destiny. Three favorite charities. Children’s Home Society, Smokey Hollow and John G. Riley House. Any last-day-of-session traditions? I wear a compassion blue jacket to remind legislators to have compassion with power, and more importantly, because everyone else wears pink.



Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? My biggest professional accomplishment was founding the Big Bend Minority Chamber. It was my sole intention to create an organization that would promote a business climate favorable for minority and women-owned businesses. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? Yes. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol press corps reporter? Dara Kam and Mary Ellen Klas. Other than SaintPetersBlog.com, your reading list includes … The Sayfie Review and the Fort Report. What swear word do you use most often? Dammit, man! What is your most treasured possession? Other than Paloma, Pilar, and Phoebe, my three beautiful daughters, it is my 1983 SL 380 antique convertible Mercedes. The best hotel in Florida is … The Breakers in Palm Beach. You’ve just learned that you will be hosting a morning talk show about Florida politics. Who are the first four guests you’d invite to appear? Gov. Jeb Bush, Ronald Book, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and state Sen. Chris Smith. Favorite movie. The Godfather. When you pig out, what do you eat? Buffalo wings. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? John F. Kennedy.


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{ insider’s ADVICE Trend 2: Video Video content accounts for 55 percent of mobile data traffic globally. The video landscape, once dominated by YouTube, has expanded to also include Netflix, Hulu, Facebook and more. Auto-play videos, typically short and “snackable,” have fueled Facebook’s recent growth. Running a 30-second television spot online simply won’t produce the results you’re looking for as a single tactic; online video must be crafted for different screens and channels, with these new consumption habits in mind.

Trend 3: Content Clutter

Breaking Through ryan cohn makes the case for shorter, trendier, more accessible marketing


ou think that you have a winning message and you’re sure that when the right people hear what you have to say, they will surely support you—on any issue or in any election. But what if they never see your message because it’s lost in the crowded cloud of other messages? With so many new ways to reach people, getting key audiences to pay attention seems simpler than ever—

but it is not that easy. By understanding today’s top media trends, we can develop smart and strong strategies that reach key audiences with meaningful results.

Trend 1: Mobile Mobile technology has forever changed how we consume information and communicate. Mobile must be a primary focus of messaging strategy, rather than merely an afterthought. In 2010, the average American adult spent 24 minutes a day consuming digital media on a mobile device. Today, that daily figure is 2 hours, 48 minutes. More than three-quarters of Florida’s state lawmakers’ Facebook activity takes place on mobile devices; your message must be mobile or it will miss the mark.

Americans spend twice as much time with digital media today as they did five years ago. The volume of content online is growing exponentially with mobile and social technology enabling everyone to be a producer and publisher. We face a crisis of clutter as content volume increases and available time to consume it all decreases. A recent study found that attention spans have decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2015—shorter than the 9-second attention span of a goldfish. Breaking through the clutter requires investing in smart message development and testing, complemented by high-quality creative production.

Trend 4: Email 2.0 Rumored to be on death’s doorstop for several years, email is actually resurging. According to MailChimp, 23 percent of political email is opened and 2.25 percent is clicked on—higher engagement levels than many other communication channels. The one-size-fits-all email approach is fading away though, replaced by segmented email distribution and auto-response chains. Demographic and psychographic data can help personalize email campaigns and increase effectiveness with content that varies by location or interest. Anyone who wants to win in the halls of power and the court of public opinion cannot be complacent about their message and its delivery. The new rules for success require adapting and evolving communication strategies that fit today’s ever-changing media landscape. Ryan Cohn is vice president of Social/Digital Operations at Sachs Media Group. A nationally acclaimed digital and social media strategist, Cohn teaches advanced social media at the Florida State University and is a frequent speaker and writer on emerging technology issues.


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{ insider’s ADVICE


rassroots is often associated with political campaigns, but outside of the campaign world, grassroots support is an essential part of any successful public affairs campaign. When it comes to getting your story told, grassroots advocacy is the most important tool that companies should consider employing. Healthcare issues continue to play a large role during Florida’s annual Legislative Session. Many of these issues require public attention and support to ensure a win for the patients directly affected. The patient voice is necessary to shed some light on what is occurring in a legislator’s home district and throughout the state. Without the patient voice, delivering meaningful results would be difficult, if not impossible. To create a successful grassroots patient advocacy network, it is necessary to identify, educate and engage advocates. These grassroots advocates become your team of volunteers. They are passionate about the issue because it has affected them directly and can communicate this experience. Here are a few best practices to execute a successful grassroots patient advocacy campaign.

PATIENT ADVOCATES are your team.

Prescription for Publicity karen moore shares leading strategies for grassroots patient advocacy


Position them for success. In order for your advocates to be well-informed on the issue, it is necessary to provide resources, such as talking points, templates, leave-behind pieces and perhaps even a website. These arm them with the knowledge to not only tell their story, but be informed on the issue as a whole and deliver consistent messages to align all parties involved.

cate accepts a task, ask them to keep you updated on the result of their outreach. Receiving this feedback is vitally important to the overall effort of the public affairs campaign as it allows you to understand the results that have been generated. It gives the patient advocate ownership on the issue. Feedback can also allow you to preemptively identify a potential roadblock to adjust your strategy as needed.



COMMUNICATE ways to take action. Once a patient advocate commits to championing your cause, they want something to do. Immediately giving them a simple task makes them feel needed and is a great strategy in retaining your volunteers for future needs—whether it’s help on social media or visiting a legislator’s district office. Although you may not have an immediate need, keeping advocates involved at some level is vital to their participation when you do have a fire drill. The worst thing you can do with a willing volunteer is have them do nothing. Remember, patient advocates are passionate and truly believe in the cause.

Communication is an easy way to build a relationship of trust between your team and the advocate. It certainly isn’t necessary to divulge every detail of the strategy, but it is important to share some insight into the strategy so they are empowered by a sense of ownership. Whatever the ask, patient advocates need to know why the ask is important and to be continually updated on the results of their action.

REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE OF A SIMPLE THANK YOU. Advocates are simply volunteers who are giving their time and energy to something they are passionate about. An unexpected thank you not

only will make them feel appreciated, but energizes them to continue to advocate for your issue and ensure it is a success. Amplifying the patient voice is a necessary complement to any government relations effort to ensure a winning strategy is delivered and impactful policy change is adopted. Whether you’re polling for a candidate race, a local referendum or to gauge public support (or opposition) to a new development, community project or legislative fight, understanding the real purposes of a poll can help ensure that the money you spend measuring public opinion is money well spent.

Karen Moore is Founder and CEO of Moore Communications Group, a nationally ranked public affairs communications firm. A leader in the advocacy arena, Karen has successfully built more than 40 state and national coalitions addressing health care disparities and affecting important legislative issues. She is recognized as an expert on shaping conversations surrounding critical patient access policies using a smart mix of grasstops, grassroots and strategic alliance development efforts.


{ insider’s ADVICE

Taking  Stock A

common misperception holds that political polls primarily see only who’s winning and who’s losing. While that’s certainly a key part of most, a good survey can teach us a lot more about the electorate.

MOOD OF VOTERS: Like a physician’s cuff on the arm or a thermometer under the tongue, it’s vital to know voters’ general mood. Are they generally content or mad as hell? Do they want change or do they fear someone’s going to harm the status quo? Such vital information helps a candidate know the general tone and tenor to take in the campaign.

KEY MESSAGES/THEMES: Too many times, candidates think what they hear from their circle of friends is what “everyone is talking about.” Busy candidates rarely engage with people who, while likely to vote, don’t participate in the political process. Polls help us understand what matters to regular voters: those who don’t go to club meetings or work in government or on campaigns. A good poll let’s you know what regular people are thinking about, what issues matter to them, what their level of intensity is about various

steven vancore extolls the virtues of asking voters what they really think

subjects, and even what they think about your opponent.

WHO CARES ABOUT WHAT? We know Republicans differ from Democrats. But how do Millennials differ from older voters? What about people who live in the various parts of your community or represent different ethnicities? And, what do (the ever-growing) “no party affiliated” voters think about issues that might drive the election? Such key data points are vital to targeting a message and influencing key voting groups.

PARTISAN LEANINGS: Like it or not, one of the very few pieces of information that actually appears on the ballot – in partisan races – is the candidate’s political affiliation. If a district overwhelmingly prefers Republicans and the poll shows a party preference of 25 points, a win by a Democrat may be out of reach. It’s vital to know the inherent partisan leanings of the electorate, and a poll is your best means of knowing that.

THE TEST BALLOT: No political poll is complete without an unbiased check of the likely candidates and what the election

looks like today. Although a lot of consultants will tell you that’s not very important, we think it is. It’s critical to know where you’re starting from, which voters populate your base, which are up for grabs, and which ones wouldn’t vote for you no matter what. Is it predictive? No, but knowing where the race starts is a critical part of building a successful campaign plan. Whether you’re polling for a candidate race, a local referendum or to gauge public support (or opposition) to a new development, community project or legislative fight, understanding the real purposes of a poll can help ensure that the money you spend measuring public opinion is money well spent.

Steven J. Vancore is president of VancoreJones Communications Inc., a Florida-based communications firm, and Clearview Research LLC, a Florida-based polling and research firm. He has been polling in Florida for three decades and is an adjunct professor in the Political Science Department at Florida State University. He can be reached at svancore@vancorejones.com.




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winners + losers from the 2015 Legislative Session

L to R: Jeff Porter, Debra Henley, G.C. Murray, Kevin Sweeny and Lynn McCartney.

Brokering Truth THE FLORIDA JUSTICE ASSOCIATION continues to beat the odds. Despite a legislative agenda set by a group of voraciously pro-industry Republicans who continue to have the electoral advantage, the FJA has just emerged from yet another annual lawmaking session in much better shape (and spirits) than most would have predicted. But FJA never paid much mind to those who predicted Big Tobacco-inflicted gloom or medical malpractice doom in the first place. Like any indispensable institution, it just went about its business like it always has, whether in today’s rightof-center climate or during the days when Lawton Chiles and Democrats with juris doctorate degrees ran the show. “We believe that if we can get into the committee room or wherever the debate on our issues is taking place, we can


make our case well and we can win that argument,” says FJA’s Operations Director Kevin Sweeny, in a tone more akin to an amicus brief than a boast. “We can win because our issues have public policy merit, people know we are truthful brokers, and no one works harder to make their case.” For an association of plaintiffs’ bar attorneys, FJA plays a lot of defense these days, but it did it exceptionally well this past Session. It fought off well-funded efforts to limit industry liability on multiple fronts. It even managed to win the day on a handful off proactive issues brought to the table by its allies. Not bad for a Tallahassee spring when almost no one—including the governor and presiding officers—got much of what they wanted. The reasons for their recent success

are a mixture of savvy political and legislative maneuvering plus, seemingly, something more elemental: It could well be that for an association driven by trial attorneys, people who fight for and articulate their clients’ interests in Florida courts every day, “winning” is simply part of its DNA. “I don’t feel like we retooled,” FJA’s Executive Director Debra Henley said in a May interview. “I feel like we’ve always tried to work through the political cycle where we have our priorities, but if those don’t work out, we always have another way forward.” After a string of doleful outcomes in a handful of midterm elections last year—“I don’t think it’s any secret that our preference for governor was Charlie Crist,” one FJA-er told me, reflecting on 2014, the prevailing theory was the association had some serious fence-mending to do.


Quiet competence maintains FJA’s winning edge by ryan ray

FJA won plaudits for a smart hire from nearly everyone around the Capitol when it brought on Brecht Heuchan as a contract lobbyist. It was a huge coup, considering he’s a former Senate campaigns chief for the Republican Party of Florida and was top aide to three Senate presidents, as well as to House Speaker Dan Webster and Senate President Jim King. But that was no reflexive move to make amends, despite what some critics have said. The move was well within the FJA’s playbook. The association and Heuchan had worked together on and off for years. The “boutique lobbyist” had represented it before on multiple issues, especially an extensive (and successful) campaign to reform regulations governing assisted living facilities and elder law. In fact, Legislative Director Jeff Porter said the GOP dynamo was a natural ally, regardless of past clashes, when it comes to campaigns. “He kind of exhibits a lot of the things that we exhibit as an organization,” Porter said at FJA headquarters on Monroe Street, half a block from the Capitol. Echoing a frequent refrain about the FJA’s role as an honest broker and keeper of institutional knowledge in the term-limits

era, when both are in short order, Porter said of Heuchan: “He’s a guy you can always trust. Any time he says anything, you know he’s not going to tell you anything that’s inaccurate; he’s not going to just make something up. “And bizarre to say it, in the world of lobbying, you never know what you’re going to get with different people. “He’s got some conservative relationships and a lot of depth to them, too, not just with legislators—which, he has a lot of that—but also with staff. He just kind of dovetailed into our operation on a lot of different fronts. We were already working with him in the world of nursing homes and a couple of other places, so it was great to be able to insert him on a much broader array of topics, many of which he already knew a lot about. He’s operating on multiple different levels with legislators and I think he complemented the team we had together.” Deputy Executive Director Paul Jess underscored that point when discussing the dynamics of FJA’s extensive lobbying efforts. “Some people on our team are closer with Democrats, some with Hispanic members of one chamber or another, and

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so on. I think Brecht’s main strength, if I can say that, his forte if you will, is with Senate Republicans. He’s very beloved by most of them, and that’s something that’s been one aspect of the success we’re talking about this year. He dovetailed into what we were doing beautifully.” While the FJA’s efforts at influencing are widespread and varied, its work for plaintiffs and consumers has been tenacious. Its advocacy regarding access to the courts for jury trials in civil cases, the basis of the U.S. Constitution’s Seventh Amendment, takes it to the supermarket and the PTA meeting. The FJA is smack dab in each Floridian’s everyday life. “I think they’ve done a pretty good job over the last few years—2014 primaries kind of notwithstanding—of picking off some seats here and there,” said veteran political strategist Steve Schale, who oversaw FJA’s political operations from 2011 until 2013. “And when you take in the long game, basically the politics of it, they’ve done a good job of creating friends,” Schale said. “One thing that I’ve always really respected about those guys is that they have this wealth of individual members who take what they do very seriously, and they invest in building relationships. >>

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While the FJA’s efforts at influencing are widespread and varied, its work for plaintiffs and consumers has been tenacious. ... And when you take in the long game, basically the politics of it, they’ve done a good job of creating friends. “When you look at strong member-driven associations who do well here—there’s all of what happens in Tallahassee, but the reality is that they do their work in the 10 months out of the year when we’re not in Session, when folks are back home. Having dinners with people, speaking with people at their kids’ softball games, and building real friendships. That’s something they’ve done a great job with and that’s a real, material aspect of their success of late.” Schale said such efforts are essential to how FJA navigates a “new political world,” a reference to much tougher times the organization has weathered. The political guru came on board after a 2009 scandal rocked the association, forcing its longstanding executive director, Scott Carruthers, to resign after several of its heavyweight members, including John Morgan, withdrew from the group. Carruthers and his lieutenants at the time, the aforementioned Paul Jess and Albert Balido, who left the group amicably late last year, approved a controversial campaign flier targeting former House Speaker John Thrasher, who supported restrictions to filing lawsuits and other changes to the tort laws. Henley—who was the group’s legislative director for 19 years—was made acting executive director after Carruthers’ departure, edging out 50 other applicants and selected executive director in 2010. The group has weathered problems from without as well, with an occasionally hostile legislative climate ruling the day in Tallahassee. House Health & Human Services Committee Chairman Jason Brodeur, for instance, warned that 2015 would be the Session the Florida Legislature readdresses medical malpractice. It’s been 12 years since the last round of legislative changes, but those who survived the 2005 Special Sessions under Jeb Bush— when the Senate Judiciary Committee put doctors under oath— will never forget the battle. The FJA-ers INFLUENCE spoke with were always careful not to tempt fate by saying the worst of the legislative antipathy to trial lawyers is over, but they can point to even more recent successes to bolster its winning ways of late. A recent case before the Florida Supreme Court highlights another, more obvious venue where advocacy for FJA’s membership takes place: in the courtroom. The high court ruled in favor of the trial bar in late May when it said a 2003 law placing caps on jury awards in medical malpractice suits—passed during the above trickier times for the association—does not apply retroactively to decisions reached by juries before its enactment. It constitutes another off-the-front-page victory for a group who adapts with ease to changing currents, be they political or juridical. FJA seems ready for the next challenge—undoubtedly, one it intends to win. ][


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No Casinos’ John Sowinski and Paul Seago of No Casinos have a laugh as they discuss their group’s good luck during the 2015 Session.

Doubling Down to Block Casinos No Casinos continues winning streak against expanded gambling by melissa ross


winners + losers from the 2015 Legislative Session

AFTER ONCE AGAIN LEADING a successful charge against expanded gambling in Florida, the advocacy group No Casinos came out of the 2015 Legislative Session a clear winner. “Every year that goes by for us, our case is strengthened,” said president John Sowinski. He’s taking a victory lap as he tells INFLUENCE that more legislators are buying into the argument that expanded casino-style gambling in Florida doesn’t help; that it hurts the economy. “The industry always promises it’ll create jobs or tax revenue. But our view is backed up by independent studies on the net effect of gambling. You have to look at things on a net, not gross basis, and a dollar spent in a casino is a dollar not spent somewhere else in our economy today. “This time around, what is starting to happen—refreshingly—is some legislators are starting to question even the constitutionality of any legislation approving expansions of gambling without a constitutional amendment,” he said. Sowinski sees No Casinos as the ultimate scrappy David fighting the Goliath forces that would, in his words, “turn Florida into Las Vegas.” “The gambling industry has tons of lobbyists and a lot more money than we have,” he said “The way we’re able to impact things

is basically to embarrass people into doing the right thing. We work hard with Web videos, social media, and earned media to get the message out.” The next skirmish around gambling in the Sunshine State will involve negotiations over a new agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Tribe is accusing the state of ignoring federal law by not coming to the table. The five-year agreement, or compact as it’s known, that allowed the Seminoles to offer blackjack and baccarat at five casinos expires July 31. Sen. Rob Bradley had proposed a oneyear extension on the compact, but that proposal died when the House shut down three days early in its dispute with the Senate over health care funding. “The certainty provided by a multiyear agreement to renew the banked card games would allow the Tribe to move forward with plans to invest over $1.6 billion in capital improvements and hire thousands of new employees,” the Tribe said in a prepared statement issued May 1. “The state would further benefit by receiving billions of dollars in exclusivity payments from the Tribe over the term of the new agreement.” Sowinski sees three potential outcomes to any future compact renegotiation. “One, there could be no successful renegotiation. It would simply expire. Two, the Legislature could re-enact the compact as it is today, with no expansion of gambling—no new games at existing facilities—no new facilities at all,” he said. “Or three, the Seminole compact is used as leverage as an excuse to expand gambling. That expansion could either be more gambling on the reservation like craps and roulette, or it could be used as an excuse to expand gambling off the res. “The one thing we would fight like hell would be number three: the compact being used as a tool to expand gambling.” The scrappy Sowinski says No Casinos might sue on that front. In the meantime, he says he’ll keep trying to make the case that Florida’s family-friendly image is incompatible with the vibe tourists experience in Vegas or Atlantic City. “The Vegas folks are very frustrated when they come to Florida. They’re used to states rolling over and saying ‘OK,’ because they promise tourism and jobs. “But the broader issue is whether gambling is good for Florida or not,” he said. “Gambling is actually a threat to our tourism and economic strategy.” Time will tell whether No Casinos can keep coming up sevens with that argument. ][




winners + losers from the 2015 Legislative Session

Crossing Party Lines Sen. Jeff Clemens’ bipartisan outlook on lawmaking is rarely seen these days—but it’s helping him get things done

THE 2015 REGULAR LEGISLATIVE session was good to West Palm Beach Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens. His bill to have Florida establish an online voting system, SB 228, easily passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Rick Scott. That was in spite of objections from Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and occasionally Scott himself, during the Session. The bill “is the most significant legislation sponsored by a Democrat in the 2015 session to clear Scott’s desk,” wrote Tampa Bay Times Capitol bureau chief Steve Bosquet a day after the governor signed the law in May, when he again mentioned his fear of cyber attacks. Although the legislation allows the Sunshine State to join 21 other states that have implemented online voting registration, Detzner and Scott managed to delay the process until after next year’s presidential election date. Clemens isn’t complaining too much about it, though, nor about anything else these days. He said he’s thoroughly enjoying his time in the Senate, where he’s coming off his third legislative session. He almost didn’t get there, though. He won >>



by mitch perry

the SD 27 seat in 2012 by a mere 17 votes, defeating fellow Democratic Rep. Mack Bernard in an election so close it required a circuit judge to check 40 absentee ballots rejected by the Palm Beach County canvassing board. As the Regular Session concluded this year, speculation had Clemens ditching the Legislature to run for Congress in District 18. That South Florida district opened when Democrat Patrick Murphy announced his U.S. Senate candidacy in March. CD 18 is no gimme for any Democrat, but Clemens, 44, says a major factor in declining to run for the seat is simply that he doesn’t want to desert his constituents. “I had a little bit of heartburn about leaving people behind that I’ve represented—whether it was mayor or in the House or Senate for the past seven, eight years, and taking on a whole new group of folks,” he said. He emphasized that although there would be nothing wrong with representing new constituents, he really does care about the people he now represents. Senate District 27 encompasses much of West Palm Beach County, including Lake Worth, where he first broke into elected office as mayor in 2007, defeating

“I think he’s a libertarianleaning Democrat. I’m a libertarian-leaning Republican, and we find a lot of common ground. We’ve worked together on a number of different policies, and you can have an incredible impact with just a couple of members.” —Sen. Jeff Brandes incumbent Marc Drautz. In an email, though, blogger Wes Blackman wrote that from his point of view, Clemens was not much more than a caretaker as mayor. “Make no waves, get-me-through my term of Mayor of Lake Worth so that I can run for another office,” he wrote dismissively. After one two-year term there, he sought


service | dedication | integrity | excellence 68 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2015

the House District 89 seat in 2010 against fellow Democrat Pete Brandenburg, husband of Democrat Mary Brandenburg, whom Clemens served as a legislative aide from 2002 – 2004. She was term-limited out of the seat in 2010. Among fellow Democrats in his first term was St. Petersburg Rep. Rick Kriseman, who calls his former colleague “very bright.” “This is a guy who came into the House and hit the ground running,” said Kriseman, who left the Legislature to campaign for mayor of St. Pete in 2013. “I mean, there was no lag time, no ‘I gotta learn the process.’ He just came in and was effective right from the beginning.” Kriseman and Clemens share Detroit as hometown. They remain friends, and Kriseman says it was Clemens who recommended he hire political wunderkind Cesar Fernandez to run his successful 2013 election campaign to victory. Clemens said near Session’s end he had procured enough pledge cards to be Democratic Minority Leader in 2019 – 2020. “I love my district,” he said when asked why he was content to remain in the Legislature. “I love representing West Palm, Lake Worth, where I was the mayor, and unfortunately that congressional district doesn’t really encompass any of that.” Clemens, though, said he’s not opposed to running for Congress, that it’s something he may look at “further down the road.” Like most Democrats, most of his legislative wish list didn’t get accomplished in 2015—such as a medical marijuana bill. Clemens has pushed for such a law since 2011, but opted to support St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes bill this time around. He’s extremely critical of the Charlotte’s Web legislation passed in 2014, delayed by court proceedings until late this past May. The Charlotte’s Web marijuana strain is low in the compound THC that gets users high, but curbs seizures in children with intractable epilepsy that traditional medication can’t control. The legislation that Scott OK’d restricts production to up to five commercial nurseries certified capable of growing 400,000 more plants and having operated in the state for 30 continuous years. Clemens said the law is straight up “anti-free market” and creates a system to benefit a small group of longtime nursery owners. He said those actions tend to anger Senate Republicans, citing Niceville Republican Sen. Don Gaetz taking issue with a provision passed in an adoption bill in the House that was favored by Senate

President Andy Gardiner. The provision would have expanded a scholarship program for children with special needs that allowed $300 to be deducted from each child’s award and given to the group Step Up for Students, an insertion that Gaetz said did not meet Gardiner’s “moral standard.” “This happens time and time again, where the House carves out candy for their friends, and it’s just a poor system for creating laws,” Clemens said angrily. Clemens works in the energy and wind mitigation programs for the Florida Association for Insurance Reform, but he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University in 1982. He wrote for newspapers in Ohio and West Virginia before landing at the Naples Daily News. He said he got into reporting for many of the same reasons many people did in the post-Watergate era: “to root out corruption and shed some light.” Of the common assumption that most reporters are left-of-center in political views, Clemens said he thinks journalism “attracts a certain type of individual.” He said he sometimes misses the newsroom camaraderie, but soured on the profession

when he was shipped out to write features at the News. Clemens quit at the paper in 2000 to devote all his energy to a music project, a power-pop band called Super Model that attracted minor buzz at the time. It’s 2001 album release It Ain’t Pretty featured “The Drink Song.” “We were all making pretty decent money at our jobs, but then we decided we wanted to become broke musicians,” Clemens said at the time to a reporter with the Daily Collegian newspaper, a student newspaper at Penn State University. Although Super Model’s lifespan was limited, rock ’n roll still plays a major part in Clemens’ life. He sings and plays guitar with a cover band, Datura Street Band. Clips on YouTube feature him channeling Eddie Vedder singing Pearl Jam’s “I’m so Alive.” Clemens has shown an ability to work well with Republicans, an absolute must if a Democrat has any hopes of passing legislation in the GOP-dominated Legislature. Among those he gets along with are Brandes and Jack Latvala. Brandes says he and Clemens are both libertarian-oriented lawmakers who have come together on

issues such as medical pot, civil forfeiture laws and what they perceive to be conservative speed limits. They co-sponsored a 2014 bill to increase the speed on Interstate highways in Florida to 75 miles per hour, but Scott vetoed it last year while he ran for re-election. “I think he’s a libertarian-leaning Democrat, I’m a libertarian-leaning Republican, and we find a lot of common ground,” said Brandes, who sat with Clemens on the five-member Criminal Justice Committee this year. “We’ve worked together on a number of different policies, and you can have an incredible impact with just a couple of members.” Clemens also has respect for Latvala, calling him not only a “legislative stalwart,” but one of the few in leadership who he trusts to go “toe-to-toe with Richard Corcoran in the future.” “He’s been great for me and Palm Beach County,” Clemens said. Clemens plans on staying in the Legislature a few more years. Whether they’ll be more Democrats to add to his clout in Tallahassee will be something to watch for by the time he becomes the Senate Minority Leader in 2019. ][

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Live to Fight Another Day Lawmakers have pondered highs, lows of medical marijuana by james call


winners + losers from the 2015 Legislative Session

WHEN A BASEBALL TEAM splits a doubleheader, winning one game and losing another, players compare it to kissing your sister through a screen door. That’s how medical marijuana advocates reacted in May when an administrative law judge upheld the Florida Department of Health’s proposed regulations for the Charlotte’s Web law. The court victory came after advocates were blocked from expanding the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act during the 2015 Legislative Session. The decision by Judge W. David Watkins ended nearly a year of legal wrangling and public hearings over how low-THC cannabis will be processed and distributed in Florida. Medical marijuana proponents accepted the win but say they will continue to work toward further lifting state prohibitions on cannabis, to include additional diseases to be treated with more varied cannabis products—including those with higher THC levels. “To the extent that the proposed rule being upheld brings medicine to sick and suffering Floridians, versus the continued delays they have so far seen, it is a good thing,” said Ben Pollara, director of United for Care, the group working to place a

medical marijuana constitutional amendment referendum on the 2016 ballot. “Only a fraction of suffering Floridians can potentially benefit under the current law, and if they don’t realize that now, they certainly will if the law is ever actually put into effect,” Pollara said. Others agree with Pollara. Watkins’ ruling may result in a short-term shift of momentum away from further changes in the law, but advocates point out that the Legislature already has agreed that cannabis is medicine, so they’re banking on lawmakers not passing on the opportunity to help more sick people. If their assumption is wrong, they say they will turn to the ballot box. Gov. Rick Scott signed the Charlotte’s Web bill in June 2014, but a series of court challenges to the proposed regulations prevented any marijuana from being grown legally in Florida for processing into oil to treat epileptic children and cancer patients. Pollara suggested that when DOH begins to award the five licenses lawmakers authorized for cultivating marijuana and dispensing oil from the plant, there will be more protests and court battles, further delaying the availability of cannabis medicine. >>


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United for Care is raising money and collecting petitions for a ballot initiative that would allow higher levels of THC, and authorize doctors to treat a score of diseases with a wider variety of cannabis products than now permitted. Advocates pleaded with lawmakers during the regular Legislative Session this spring to revisit the Charlotte’s Web law, pointing out how the 2014 Act is inadequate. “It is almost cruel because it will not help terminally ill patients who are now forced to take pain killers that don’t provide true relief,” former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp told the Senate Health Policy Committee during his March testimony to support higher THC levels. Medical marijuana proponents say Florida passed a milestone when Scott signed the Charlotte’s Web law. They say getting the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act through the legislative process and Scott’s signature on it was the hard part to have Florida join the 23 other states that allow doctors to treat patients with marijuana. The effort continues in the wake of Watkins’ ruling that will make Charlotte’s Web oil available in Florida later this year, barring unforeseen legal obstacles.

“There’s no turning back now,” said Ron Watson of Watson Strategies. He was among a handful of lobbyists pushing proposals this year that would have allowed doctors to prescribe edible, smokable and vapor medical products with higher THC levels. “The Legislature has recognized cannabis as medicine,” Watson said. “It may take some time, but Florida is on its way to helping even more patients.” During the spring 2015 Legislative Session, Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Matt Gaetz advocated for a more expansive medical marijuana law. Both argued that it was wrong to place government between a doctor and a terminally ill patient. “It’s amazing how uncontroversial medical marijuana is when you are holding the hand of somebody with ALS or you are dealing with someone who has terminal cancer. At that point, who am I to say whether you should smoke it or eat it? However you deal with it is between you and your doctor,” Brandes said in April. Sen. Rob Bradley sponsored the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act in 2014 and a glitch bill in 2015, designed to free it from a web of lawsuits. He urged




lawmakers to proceed with caution since there is scant research on the drug’s effectiveness. “I just don’t want to go from 0 to 100,” he said. Bradley mentioned that other states are experiencing ill consequences from lifting marijuana prohibitions too quickly. Bradley’s ally in the effort was Sen. Aaron Bean, chairman of the Health Policy Committee. Bean articulated lawmakers’ reluctance to view marijuana as medicine. Bean told a packed committee room he wanted to wait to see how the current law plays out before doing anything more with marijuana. “We have no evidence on any type of non-euphoric medicine that we have approved already,” Bean said. “Remember last year we just started off taking baby steps, and we haven’t completed our first baby step and people say let’s run this triathlon.” Bean acknowledged that cannabis can be a useful medicine, but also argued that THC has harmful side effects and feared it has addictive qualities—especially for adolescents. It is unclear whether Bean and Bradley hold the majority view among lawmakers. Sen. Oscar Braynon, in line to lead the Democratic Caucus after the 2016 Session, argued in favor of higher levels of THC during a committee meeting Bean chaired. “We have things like tobacco, alcohol, oxycodone; all these different things that are definitely proven to be dangerous and can hurt us and we regulate them, so I think this is something that should be put in the same exact category,” Braynon said. Gaetz was optimistic about how House members reacted to his amendment to the Right to Try Act allowing terminally ill patients to use marijuana. However, he pulled it at the sponsor’s request, recognizing the need for a more expansive law including higher THC levels. Caution prevailed, though, during the 2015 Legislative Session, with no proposal other than Gaetz’s temporary amendment making it to the floor in the House or Senate. After one lengthy committee meeting, Sen. Joe Abruzzo talked directly to medical marijuana advocates. “We need to make sure medical marijuana fits the needs of what the people want, and if the Legislature and governor are not giving the people of Florida what they want, then put it on the ballot,” he said. “Put it on the presidential ballot when we have a larger turnout of voters.” That may be how medical marijuana advocates open the screen door and move past their sister to a more appropriate object of their affections. ][



winners + losers from the 2015 Legislative Session

Defining Family Values 

Same-sex issues muddy the legal path to parenthood by mitch perry

ALTHOUGH IT WOULD BE delusional to suggest the Florida Legislature has seen the nationwide surge in support for samesex marriage as a green light to be progressive on gay rights, the 2015 Regular Legislative Session included more victories than losses for the LGBT community. One of the most contentious issues was same-sex adoption. Florida’s 1977 ban on gay couples adopting children was ruled unconstitutional in 2010 by the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal, upholding Miami-Dade Judge Cindy Lederman’s original 2008 circuit court decision. Same-sex adoptions have proceeded in Florida since then, but all hell broke loose this spring when Miami Beach Democrat David Richardson attempted to actually repeal the same-sex ban language that remained in state statute.


Richardson, a 57-year-old CPA and small-business owner, became the Sunshine State’s first openly gay member of the Legislature in August 2012, when he won the House District 113 Democratic primary. He attached his repeal language as an amendment to a leadership-supported adoption bill that would provide financial incentives to state employees who adopt special-needs children. However, the House sponsor, Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur, asked him to withdraw it. “I said, ‘No, I’m not going to withdraw it. I’m going to present it. And I’m going to have everybody vote on it,’” Richardson recounted recently. The House did vote on the amendment, and passed it, 68 – 50. Such a potentially toxic vote prompted surprisingly

little floor discussion; the most notable comments from Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley, a former state chair of the Christian Coalition. Calling it among the toughest votes of his legislative career, Baxley said he had prayed through the previous night, and ultimately decided that though troubled, “Every child deserves a mother and father.” He concluded he was “looking at a bill that helps a child find a home.” Social conservatives then turned up the heat and he reconsidered: Baxley reversed his vote 48 hours later. “What it has done is put me in the position of affirming homosexual adoption, and that’s not where I am,” Baxley said when asked about his flip-flop. The repeal of the ban on same-sex adoption in the House then led to a push


in both chambers for a “conscience protection” measure. It would protect adoption agencies that didn’t want to provide services to gay couples from being hit with discrimination lawsuits. Brodeur’s legislation would shelter private adoption agencies in the state whose “written religious or moral convictions” ruled out placements with gays or lesbians. It would also protect their licenses and state funding. That’s when Richardson and his allies from Equality Florida sprang into action. “It was just a knee-jerk reaction,” Carlos Guillermo Smith, public policy specialist for Equality Florida, said of the conscience protection bill. “They had to do something to score points with the far-right base, and this bill was a solution to that, but it wasn’t very well thought through.” LGBT advocates, though, knew that without a sustained counterattack, conscience protection could very well become law. Brodeur and other supporters warned that without such “conscience protection,” private adoption agencies contracted with the state could be forced to close. However, they couldn’t come up with a single example of that happening in Florida in the previous five years. Instead, they cited examples in Illinois and Boston. In 2006, Catholic Charities in Boston stunned local officials when they announced the agency would end its adoption work rather than go along with state law that required that gays be allowed to adopt children. As reported by The Boston Globe, Catholic Charities had been accepting state money to provide adoption services, and so was bound by the gay-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation. Catholic Charities President Bryan Hehir said that although he didn’t like placing children with samesex couples, he viewed it as a “legal accommodation in the name of a greater social good.” Local bishops then unilaterally shut down such adoptions despite a unanimous vote by their 42-member board to continue them. Meanwhile, as Florida’s conscience protection bill moved through committees in Tallahassee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was being savaged nationally by progressive groups for the Hoosier’s state’s passage of a Religious Freedom Restoration

Rep. David Richardson, joins colleagues in a shout of “yea” on the House floor April 8, 2015, in favor of his amendment to a bill regarding actions of private child-placing agencies. Act. It would allow any individual or corporation to cite religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party. The law was considered to be written so broadly that many Indiana businesses and LGBT advocates grew concerned that it would allow widespread discrimination. Richardson seized the moment and contacted the national media about what was happening in Florida. Quickly, the term “Indiana-style” discrimination became the meme of the moment, shorthand for “religious freedom” to discriminate, Guillermo Smith said. It helped to have allies such as Sen. Don Gaetz, who beat back attempts to attach the conscience protection language to the Senate’s version. Gaetz said it was “no time to turn the social clock back to 1977.” “I don’t think it would be right for this Senate to take the position that we believe, as some believed in 1977, that there was something wrong with a child having a chance to have a loving home, even if the people in that loving home didn’t have the kind of traditional family values that we have,” Gaetz said on the Senate floor during review of the Brodeur bill. “I don’t think that’s right.” The adoption bill—sans conscience protection—went to Gov. Rick Scott in late May. He signed it on June 11. Another win for the LGBT community was blocking Miami-Dade County Republican Frank Artiles’ bill to stop transgender people from using public restrooms

aligned with their gender identity. If passed, the legislation would have limited, if not eliminated, transgender nondiscrimination ordinances throughout the state. “It was a poorly written bill,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director. “It would have been a lawsuit factory (if passed), and it addressed a made-up issue, and I think legislators recognized that.” “It was not only unnecessary, but it was mean-spirited and meant to humiliate transgendered Floridians from being able to integrate themselves into public life,” Guillermo Smith said. Equality Florida took it extremely seriously. It blanketed its membership up and down the state to go to Tallahassee to testify at committee hearings against the proposed law. Artiles acknowledged early in the session that he only introduced the bill because Miami-Dade County commissioners wouldn’t change their own ordinance regarding transgender people. In spite of those successes, the LGBT community didn’t get everything it wanted in 2015. A number of cities and counties in the state include gays, bisexuals and transgendered people in their local human rights ordinances. However, Florida remains one of 29 states where people can be fired for being gay, leaving much of the state’s LGBT population vulnerable to employment discrimination. “The Competitive Workforce Act” had bipartisan support this year, backed by Key Largo Republican Holly Raschein in the House and Boynton Beach Democrat Joe Abruzzo in the Senate. The bill sought to update current anti-discrimination law and create uniformity across the state. It went nowhere in the Legislature, though, despite the fact that more than 275 businesses signed up to show support. Despite public sentiment overwhelmingly in support of such a bill, Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith said its Achilles’ heel is a lack of support from House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner. “The votes are there,” she said. “If it goes to the floor, it passes, so this really falls squarely on leadership for not permitting this bill to move forward, and there’s a price to pay for failing to lead.” ][



winners + losers from the 2015 Legislative Session

Free Fillin’ Even though it’s over, the new growler law still gets grumbles by mitch perry


ALTHOUGH CRAFT BEER enthusiasts are happy to finally live in a state where they can buy 64-ounce growlers, the legislation was always about more than the selling of a half-gallon size jug of suds. During the past few years, that size beer container became a political pawn in a fierce battle over the complex laws that have governed the manufacture, distribution and sale of beer since Prohibition. “I am proud to stand with Governor Scott today as he signs SB 186 making the growler legal in Florida,” Clearwater-based GOP state Sen. Jack Latvala said in a prepared statement that the governor’s office released May 14, the day Scott signed the bill. “Florida brewers should have every tool at their disposal to succeed, and this bill is a huge step in that direction. I am proud of our work, and we will continue to work with the governor to make sure every Florida business is thriving.” Latvala and Palm Harbor House Republican Chris Sprowls sponsored this year’s

version of the growler bill. Sprowls called it a great day for Florida craft brewers. “Growlers will create growth and expansion for the breweries in our state and give Floridians more choices at them,” he said. The craft brewing industry continues to grow in Florida and across the country. The Brewers Association reported that 2014 was the first time ever that craft brewers reached double-digit (11 percent) volume share of the marketplace. The two Pinellas legislators announced their legislation in December at a press conference inside Dunedin Brewery in Pinellas County. The language was simple and unambiguous: It’s time to free the 64-ounce growler. The bill would focus only on growlers, Josh Aubuchon from the Florida Brewers Guild, the state’s craft beer lobby, told The Associated Press. That was the intention, anyway, but with vested interests concerned about the further erosion of their fabled three-tier


House Republican Chris Sprowls (left) and Cigar City Brewing’s Joey Redner are satisfied with the “Growler” law now on the books in Florida.

Brewers at Nathan Stonecipher’s Green Bench Brewing Co. in St. Petersburg are already seeing increased sales.

system of manufacturing, distributing and selling alcohol in this country and in Florida, it’s no surprise it didn’t turn out to be so clean in the end. While a number of compromises went into producing the bill, craft brewery owners and their legislative advocates say the No. 1 thing that came out of the legislation was that it now allows the creation of retail licenses for manufacturers. That much-needed regulation was in jeopardy in January. A group of retail advocacy groups and wholesaler networks sued the state over the “tourist exception” that has allowed tasting rooms to be developed outside of the three-tier system. However, those groups withdrew the challenge when the state agreed to look at the matter. “I felt as a legislator, and frankly as a lawyer, that it was imperative that we clear up any ambiguity in the statute this year because the possibility that rule making thru DBPR (Department of Business and Professional Regulation) could result in something that could hurt craft breweries and hurt the existence of tasting rooms,” said Tampa GOP state Rep. Dana Young, who has championed the legislation for the past three years. Mike Halker, president of the Florida Brewers Guild, agreed. “If that bill wasn’t going to pass, there was a possibility that tasting rooms would have been taken away from the craft beer industry in Florida, and I would dare you try to find a brewer in the state of Florida

that wouldn’t tell you that their tasting room is either a very important part, or the most important part of their business,” he said. “If they had taken away our tasting rooms, the number of breweries would have been cut in half in maybe a year.” If a bill’s success is measured by how both sides say they didn’t get everything they wanted but can live with it, then that appears to be the case here. “The bill has nothing in it that could be considered I think, negative except for that limitation on the number of locations,” Young said. The bill limits breweries to eight vendors licenses. Opinions vary about that compromise. Young said she would have preferred no limitations on the number of locations because it “limits the ability potentially for small businesses to grow and thrive in our state, but that was what was required to get this bill passed.” Mitch Rubin with the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association said his group would have preferred breweries be limited to four to six vendor licenses. Joey Redner with Cigar City Brewing, though, said he can live with the limits, saying a limit of eight licenses for breweries is comparable to laws across the country. Few breweries in Florida have more than a couple right now anyway, he said. Redner reserved his objections to the bill provision limiting the amount of beer a company can transfer from one location to another. The law now allows a brewery to

transfer as much product as possible to another brewery throughout the state, without limitations, without having to pay a distributor to move their own product. A Florida Beer Wholesalers Association concern is that it could allow a company to create a “makeshift” or “faux” brewery that really isn’t a legitimate brew house, allowing them to continue to bypass distributors without creating the actual product. So now the law demands that if a brewery produces, say, 500 barrels a year at its Tampa facility, they are limited to sending only 500 barrels to a second facility in Tallahassee. Halker doesn’t buy the “slippery slope” argument that a major brewery could exploit that current loophole in the law and blow it open. “That has never happened anywhere in the country before,” he insisted. A third change in the law appears to be a win-win for everyone: It will now allow certain retail stores such as Publix and Total Wine to offer free tasting of beer products. Somewhat amazingly, state law allows those retailers to offer such tastings for wine and hard liquor, but not for beer. The new law changes that. The new law also calls for limiting tasting room staff from delivering beer off site. After July 1, event planners have to come and pick up the product. “We can live with the bill,” Rubin said. It’s certainly a lot more craft brewer friendly than some provisions floated during the 2014 legislative session, when brewers objected particularly to Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel’s bill. One version would have allowed for the sales of 64-ounce growlers, but also require microbreweries to sell through distributors if its sales were high enough. “This is a protectionist bill,” Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.’s Bob Sylvester complained when testifying against that Stargel bill. Latvala colorfully described it thus: “If we’re going to have to pay this tariff, if we’re going to pay this sort of protection like to Vinny in New York, they ought to at least move the goods.” “It was much more civilized,” Rubin said of the tone of the 2015 debate in Tallahassee. So is the war over craft beer over now in Tallahassee? Craft beer supporters say they hope to tweak bill language in 2016, that they can make the case that some of the limitations imposed on them will stifle the growth of the industry. But distributors’ concerns about the erosion of the three-tier market will be something to continue to watch, observers say. ][




Florida’s Political Hot Spot PETER SCHORSCH outlines the lay of the political landscape in Miami: Florida’s—and the nation’s— multicultural epicenter of political influence — Ben Pollara, Ashley Walker, Jesse Manzano-Plaza and Brian May talk strategy with Florida Politics’ MITCH PERRY SUMMER 2015 INFLUENCE | 79

Florida’s Political Hot Spot



Miami rises from South Florida’s viridian and emerald waters like America’s Oz—an aptly named Magic City and Gateway to Latin America that’s caffeinated by Cuban coffee, transacted in Spanish, inflected with Creole and Portuguese, and teeming with get-the-money hustle. This is Florida’s megalopolis of power and influence, simultaneously the state’s most recognizable metropolis and one that does its best to differentiate itself from the peninsula, if not the nation. Business leaders and government officials from South America—Chile, Argentina, Venezuela—can fly in for a day, do business in their native tongue and never hear a word of English in between or after. That’s fine here. Just bring the money. Lots of it. Money breeds political power and influence. Political power attracts money. Add it all together, throw in palm trees and white beaches, and it’s little wonder that the Miami area is the only place in the United States that has two top-tier Republican presidential candidates—former Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio—who are neighbors, as well as the head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose district stretches from the Fort Lauderdale area to Miami Beach and its iconic, sun-splashed Art Deco architecture. With such instantly recognizable national powerhouses, it’s inevitable that Miami’s local politics have become inextricably intertwined with that of the nation—and the hemisphere. Were it not for the influence of Miami’s politically savvy Cuban exile community, for instance, there would simply be no embargo against Cuba today. Then there’s the business of politics—the consulting, the lobbying, the media management—that imbues the policies of local and state government. “In South Florida, the business of government looks more and more like the business of politics,” the Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei wrote presciently in 2015. “The new operatives roaming the halls of local South Florida governments come from political campaigns and public-relations firms, not from high-powered law firms that usually supply big-name lobbyists.” At the forefront of those efforts are groups such as Floridian Partners (established by political player and former Florida Wildlife Commissioner Rodney Barreto), LSN Partners (led by Hillary Clinton fundraiser Ben Pollara and former Bush staffer Jesse Manzano-Plaza)


COVER: FLORIDA’S POLITICAL HOT SPOT and Mercury Public Affairs (run locally by Ashley Walker, who led President Obama’s successful Florida campaigns). They are among a host of other local and national firms that are moving into Florida’s most-dynamic and most-populous county: Miami-Dade. Some lobbyists double as lawyers, the most ever-present of whom is Ron Book, known for spotting political talent at the local level early and getting in good with policy makers from Miami-Dade’s 34 municipalities, the School Board, County Hall and the Florida Legislature. Other Tallahassee-based lobby shops are moving in, like Southern Strategy Group, which recently hired former Rubio aide and current Miami-Dade GOP Chair Nelson Diaz away from Becker & Poliakoff.

“South Florida is arguably the most intriguing regional market in Florida for all the usual reasons: a huge population, a vibrant economy, and the geographic base for powerful politicians. Then you add the X factor: It’s the financial gateway to Latin America and beyond,” said

Southern Strategy founder Paul Bradshaw. “The allure of South Florida is commensurate with the skill required to navigate the subtle cultural differences and often hidden generational political alliances. It can be a gold mine to the skilled lobbyist and a minefield to the uninitiated lobbyist.” Like Florida’s own Hatfields and McCoys, Southern Strategy’s rival Ballard Partners is now warring with it in the Miami market as well as in Tallahassee. “I fought going to Miami for the longest time and now I’m late to the dance,” said Brian Ballard, who pointed out that Miami’s political culture allows for more “business-to-business relationships for those representing government institutions.” Javi Correoso, a political operative and consultant who specializes in Spanish-language outreach, said Miami’s reach is going global. “With the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the expansion of the Panama Canal and the dredging of the Port of Miami to allow for the new cargo traffic, we’re looking at more business with Asia as well as Latin America,” he said, referencing the new megaships that each can carry 13,000 cargo containers. Miami International Airport boasts of handling about 84 percent of all air imports from and 81 percent of all exports to the Latin America and the Caribbean region. Though you can’t smell the roses from the terminal, 85 percent of all flowers flown into the United States arrive at MIA first. And Miami’s real-estate market also operates as a global investment bank of sorts.

For years, U.S. investors and foreign investors from Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, China and Russia have parked their money, and their vacationing selves, in the South Florida housing market, especially condominiums along Brickell Avenue. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale market has frequently led the nation for cash-only real-estate deals—accounting for more than 64 percent of all metro-area home sales in 2014. Campaign cash abounds in Miami, Miami Beach and Coral Gables as well. For state and national Democrats, it’s a muststop to fundraise from trial lawyers (Ira Leesfield and Ralph Patino); public-sector unions; pro-Israel donors, and gay-rights donors (DNC treasurer Andy Tobias and mortgage broker Joe Falk); former insurance wiz Chris Findlater; heiress Barbara Stiefel; former ambassadors Steven J. Green and Paul Cejas and Ambassador Kirk Wagar; Clinton friends/donors (Chris Korge, Ira Leesfield, Philip Levine, real-estate developer Jorge Perez); and entertainment figures (Gloria Estefan and basketball players Alonzo Mourning, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have all done events). Republicans routinely mine Miami for campaign money from Cuban and Venezuelan exiles; import/export business owners; pro-Israel donors; billionaire car dealer (and former Philadelphia Eagles owner) Norman Braman; healthcare tycoon Mike Fernandez; and businessman H. Wayne Huizenga (former Miami Dolphins and Florida Marlins owner). “In GOP circles, there are places that are known as target-rich to raise money —think New York City or San Francisco— but not votes for the GOP. And there are those that are target-rich for votes for the GOP—think exurban or rural counties— but not fundraising,” said Tony Fabrizio, one of the nation’s top Republican pollsters who lives in Fort Lauderdale, where he moved after a brief time in South Beach.

“South Florida is unique in that it is not only the nexus of both of those crucial political resources,” he said, but it is also the historical capital of Hispanic voters in the state and home to one of the most reliable GOP voting blocs, Cuban-Americans.

Exit polls indicate Cuban-Americans are becoming less Republican, but those who vote consistently are reliable. Miami-Dade, which has 1.2 million registered voters, is the only county in the country where a majority of the GOP is Hispanic, about 73 percent. Nearly all are Cuban. Still, the GOP is losing political market share. Today, independent voters slightly

outnumber Republicans, who trail Democrats 42 – 28 percent in voter registration. Newer Cuban arrivals and second-generation Cuban-Americans are less Republican than their predecessors. Meanwhile, non-Cuban Hispanics from Latin America are changing the political complexion of the county, making it more liberal than before. The Haitian-American community continues to grow so large that Democratic U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (she of the rhinestone-studded colorful Stetson hats and matching outfits) represents the largest Haitian-American district in Congress. President Obama’s team helped register more Democrats and liberal-leaning Hispanics over the years, a feat that helped him beat Mitt Romney in 2012 by 208,459 votes in Miami-Dade County. The astonishing margin allowed Obama to barely carry Florida by 74,309 votes overall.

Obama’s win terrifies Republican consultants. In the chessboard of the nation’s Electoral College system, Republicans can’t afford to lose Florida and expect to win the White House. So as Miami-Dade grows more liberal-leaning, it poses a bigger and bigger problem for Republicans nationwide. Yet despite the Democratic drift in Miami-Dade, Republicans narrowly control the County Commission and the Mayor’s Office but still dominate the state legislative delegation. The mix of voters shows in the area’s politics—and its lobbying. “This is a very big city. But when it comes to politics, it’s a very small town, so having two Republicans running for president from this town means that you basically run into friends and colleagues that are taking sides, and it’s just the reality ... I think that we’re going to be living with this reality,” said Jesse Manzano-Plaza of LSN. “Some people tend to be a little more gracious and collegial about it, and there are others that have very thin skin and you just have to know whom you’re dealing with and try to deal with it. Certainly I have great friends that are supporting Marco Rubio, but unfortunately I feel a little bad for them because Gov. Bush is going to receive the nomination, so we’ll be here to console them.” Hearing that, his Democratic partner Ben Pollara laughed: “It’s all right because Hillary’s going to win Miami-Dade County by like a 250,000 [vote] margin, so it’s neither here nor there.” But the money, power and influence-brokering? That will remain, regardless of who’s in office.

Read on for a discussion on politics in Miami with its political elite. >>


Brian May

Floridian Partners

Close-Up and Politics-Personal Ben Pollara, Ashley Walker, Jesse Manzano-Plaza and Brian May talk strategy with Florida Politics’ MITCH PERRY >>

Ben Pollara LSN Partners

Ashley Walker Mercury LLC

Jesse Manzano-Plaza LSN Partners

COVER: FLORIDA’S POLITICAL HOT SPOT MITCH PERRY: Is the lobbying culture different in South Florida from Tallahassee or Washington, D.C.? How so?


Ben Pollara: The great thing about South Florida—whether you’re a lobbyist or a political consultant—it’s one of the few places in the country outside of Washington, D.C., where you can be really involved in politics and make a good living doing it. And really, with the exception of Los Angeles, it’s the only place in the country where you can do that and have a beautiful climate 365 days a year, so it’s a great place to be in this business, and I think it’s different, particularly in Miami, than in Tallahassee or D.C. in that we don’t see a whole lot of the partisan gridlock that you see in D.C. or that you recently saw in Tallahassee with internecine partisan gridlock. Miami’s a place where everybody pretty much gets along and works together, and so that’s how you’ve got myself, who’s a big Democrat, and Jesse, who’s a big Republican (together). Our firm, just like Floridian Partners, consists of a lot of Democrats and a lot of Republicans. There’s much more of a collegial political and lobbying culture down here in South Florida than in most other places. Jesse Manzano-Plaza: I’m registered to lobby in Tallahassee and down here. The main difference that I’ve encountered is really this concept of partisanship. If you’re trying to lobby the Legislature, you’re going to have to walk through this construct of Republicans and Democrats. And issues will be defined by those two concepts. So if you’re a Republican, technically you have a majority; so the way you get to a number to get an amendment filed or a bill passed should be as simple as getting the Republicans on one side, but the reality is obviously you need to get some Democrats on board as well, because some Republicans may not agree with this. But when you bring it down to Miami-Dade County, here in Miami (all the local offices) are nonpartisan, the dynamic is a little different. And you have the ability to engage in a wider audience at the county level or at the city level, engage all the players, and not be limited by these labels when you’re trying to advocate on behalf of an issue or a client, which I find to be much more productive and effective at the end of the day.

MP: Palm Beach and Broward are considered heavily Democratic precincts, versus what you have in Miami. Does that affect how you lobby? Ashley Walker: Well, my business is predominantly in the world of public affairs, excluding lobbying, but I think that the environment in which lobbying takes place in here Broward County, and I would probably say the same for Palm Beach, is a little slightly different. But I think overall when you’re trying to work on issues and get things done, I think that just in general at the municipal and county level that it’s a much more collegial atmosphere, as Ben mentioned. But I do think that Miami is a much bigger mixture of Democrats and Republicans and independents all coming together, whereas when you get into Broward and Palm Beach it’s a little bit more skewed Democratic, so a lot of your lobbyists, your consultants and the folks who operate in those environments tend to look more like the commissions that they’re lobbying. Ben: The business of local government really isn’t and shouldn’t be partisan. Ashley: Right. Ben: We’re not dealing with divisive social issues here. We’re dealing with making the trains run on time. And sometimes that stuff gets caught up in partisanship. But by and large in South Florida it doesn’t, and people may be fighting tooth and nail in the state Capitol, but once they get home it’s pretty collegial. Ashley: There’s nothing partisan about transportation and about county services and a lot of the things that affect people’s everyday lives, and so at the local level you do see a lot more of folks coming together to follow some of those major issues affecting those communities. MP: Everyone here at the round table comes from a background working on political campaigns. Is this becoming more the case in lobbying, versus the traditional legal and/ or government background? Ashley: When I’m meeting with corporate clients and business folks I talk about my toolbox that I take to work in. And the toolbox that you use in public affairs is very similar to the toolbox that you would use in campaigns. I mean, we’re in the business of influencing external environments to help to get results and outcomes for our clients.

And while it’s different in nature in some ways, a lot of the different things that we do—you know, we utilize earned media, you utilize digital media, you sometimes go as far as to use direct mail and TV communication in helping influence not just elected officials. But in this day and age with the 24-hour news cycle and the emerging presence of online news through blogs and Facebook and social media, that becomes more important to not only convince the nine county commissioners that you’re trying to persuade, but to talk with the general public and to ensure that your client’s narrative is something that’s being communicated to a larger audience. And so I do think that you are seeing a trend with political campaign folks that are transitioning out of that and there are certain career paths that folks can go on, and I would say that public affairs is one. And the second piece that I would just note is that when you’re working on a political campaign, you’re dealing with a 24hour news cycle, and it’s a constant volley back and forth between your campaign and your opposition, and that real world experience of dealing with a crisis, especially on a statewide and national campaign, that really gives you some real experience which just quite honestly is hard to get, especially a lot of times in more corporate environments. The best way to get experience in dealing with crises, is to have that experience of going through those crises with tackling different issues and trying different tactics. And so I think that on political campaigns you get a lot of folks who get that experience, but it’s just hard to get that volume of experience in other professions. There are certainly people that do it, but I think you’re seeing a lot of political consultants that once they reach a certain level in politics, are making that move. Ben: I want to echo what Ashley said. The shift from the traditional lawyers and former government employees to more folks like us from the political world has a lot to do with the 24-hour news cycle and the fact that we are trained and prepared to be reactive all the time. I think Ashley said there’s not a whole lot of people who have that experience, and it’s true. Maybe those in high finance, where you’re living and dying on the markets that are opening and closing all over the world 24 hours a day, but I think Jesse and I see everyday working with more traditional PR firms and corporations, they don’t have the sense of urgency that we live and breathe in the campaign world. You’re always reacting to something. Everything is right >>


COVER: FLORIDA’S POLITICAL HOT SPOT now, and that’s just a culture you come up with on political campaigns. And it’s not the culture in a lot of aspects of business or industry. The other thing is political campaigns are very dynamic technologically, right? You go to a lot of government websites and they look like they could have been designed back in the days when Alta Vista was the premier search engine. Whereas campaigns are always at the cutting edge of technology, and so that’s a major tool that we now employ in the business of influencing government, and that’s why Ashley keeps on saying that “I’m not really a lobbyist,” and that’s true in the sense that she’s not registered to lobby, but what she does and what Jesse and I do — public relations and public affairs — is now a big piece of this business. It’s not just walking into a county commissioner’s office and shaking their hand and asking for a vote: It’s imploring the public writ large to get behind your client’s position rather than just counting the seven or eight votes that you need in the government chamber. Jesse: The only facet that I would like to add to this conversation is that in addition to what both Ashley and Ben highlighted about the value of the political background in the world of public affairs and lobbying today, is that when you get to a place like Miami-Dade County, then you have to do all of those things in sometimes two or three cultural frames of reference, because of the diversity of what we deal with down here. And with all due respect to my lawyer friends, I don’t think that law school prepares you for that. Political campaigns when you’re on the ground in places like Miami-Dade County and places like Broward, which are very diverse, are the ones that really open your eyes to this new reality of what South Florida has become and I like to say, political campaigns are like boot camps for life. MP: All three counties of the big counties in South Florida, Palm, Broward and Miami-Dade have so many municipalities. Does that play a factor in how you conduct your business? Brian May: It certainly does influence the way we do our business, because each of the cities has its unique political culture in terms of elected officials and political protocols. And each city has its own set of municipal elections, and so, yeah, it does influence how we do our business in a pretty significant way. For instance, if you do work an issue in Miami Beach, in both


the lobbying and public affairs perspective, you have to be careful of the tone you take in terms of communicating with people and with residents of the community, whereas in other jurisdictions, you certainly have a lot of more leeway and flexibility and can take a harder edge if need be. But in some jurisdictions it’s not politically acceptable to take a harder edge or a harder tone. So yeah, it does influence a great deal in terms of how we do our business in terms of … what municipality, what county the issue sits before. Ben: One of the things that we do at LSN Partners is manage our clients’ national government affairs presence, and we help identify, hire and manage lobbyists all over the country. And so if a client comes to me and says I need a lobbyist in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and I have to go find one, chances are there’s not a lot of lobbyists in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I’m hiring a state capital lobbyist who happens to know the mayor who happens to be from there and knows the elected officials. Whereas down here, Brian uses the example in Miami Beach, there are lobbyists and political consultants who make their entire living doing nothing but Miami Beach, and there are folks who make their entire living doing nothing but North Miami, and I think that’s pretty unique in the annals of what I’ve experienced in terms of lobbying culture across the country. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County have gigantic budgets, bigger than a lot of states, and cities (here) have substantial budgets, too, so you see individual lobbying cultures pop up in individual municipalities, which makes every city a unique challenge. MP: How are South Florida politics different from the rest of the state? Brian: It’s just much more diverse. When you go to Miami-Dade and then work north, I think the most diverse place in the state is Miami-Dade. It’s a very cosmopolitan place now. In our schools there’s 135 languages spoken by the kids who actually attend. The county is, it’s just something that is, it’s just something that is really diverse, whereas the further north you move, you get more into what I would call traditional Southern politics in the northern regions of the state. And in the more urban metropolitan areas, it’s certainly more diverse in Orlando and Tampa, but I don’t think it’s as diverse or as developed from a public advocacy standpoint as Miami-Dade, Broward, or even Palm Beach County.

Ben: Brian makes an informative point with the fact on 135 languages being spoken in the schools down here, right? That’s demonstrative of the fact that Miami-Dade is as diverse a population in the U.S. but it’s a diverse population all over the world. This is really in many respects the financial capital of Latin America. So when you’re in the business of politics in Miami-Dade County, you’re in the business of international politics. I had coffee with the counsel general of the United Kingdom. All of the counsel offices from all over the country are all based in Miami, mostly on Brickell (Avenue), so a big piece of our business at least here at LSN is helping foreign companies navigate the complexities of U.S. government and politics. So it’s really an international political community, not just a diverse political community. Brian: That’s a good point. There are a lot of international companies that do business with Miami-Dade for instance. It’s the largest municipal government in the Southeast, I think it’s the fourth or fifth largest in the country, so there’s a lot of international interest and that’s really grown over the last decade to 15 years. It’s got a gigantic airport here, which is an economic driver all over the world, a gigantic seaport. This is really an international business hub. MP: When you run a statewide campaign, is there one strategy for Miami and the rest of South Florida, and another strategy for the rest of the state? Ashley: No, I really think that when you’re putting together a statewide campaign, just like if you were doing a political campaign, that you really have to put into consideration the particular client and what their goals are, as well as the audience that they’re trying to reach and the different geographies across the state. And so I would take it a step forward and say that what you really need is a customized strategy for each of the areas that you’re trying to communicate in in any type of public affairs campaign that you’re doing. Just as you would do if you’re running a statewide campaign for governor or president. As Brian and Jesse and Ben have all outlined, the state is so diverse, and that goes for if you’re trying to communicate with voters in a political campaign, or you’re trying to communicate with essential customers for a business or a company. And so, I would say that you really have to look at the goals that each client is trying to achieve, and develop a customized


All eyes focused on South Florida: (L to R) Presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio; Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz


COVER: FLORIDA’S POLITICAL HOT SPOT strategy that is unique for that client and their goals and what they’re trying to achieve, and many times that means that you’re running several small regional campaigns rather than one big statewide campaign. Obviously the messaging and the overarching goals are similar and you need a larger brand, a larger message that you’re communicating but many times the way that you communicate that and the nuances of it, is going to be different based on your audience and where you’re trying to communicate it. Jesse: To follow up what Ashley just mentioned, even within this group that is referred to as Hispanics here in Miami where we have found that more and more we need to be even more attuned to the different communities within that large group of voters or population. There was a time when you could get away with running an ad on Cuban radio or on Spanish TV with a narrator who had a Cuban voice and Cuban accent, and that was fine, but what we found out over the last two or three cycles is that we need to get a little more sophisticated about that as well because we have a large number of Colombians and Venezuelans who can pick up the difference and if you are trying to appeal to them, then the voices have to be different, the accents need to be reflective of those so it requires a little level of nuance as you look into these things down here. Ashley: To expand on that, even the translations that you’re using. A lot of times if you’re doing something in Central Florida and in South Florida targeting the Hispanic community, oftentimes the translations are slightly tweaked, because the nuances of the language are different based on the country of origin for who you’re targeting. MP: What differentiates PR firms like Mercury and LSN Communications from traditional PR firms like Hill & Knowlton or in Miami, Schwartz Media? Brian: I think the biggest differentiator is what we would call in the business a “political antenna.” Some of your more traditional PR firms are just not as attuned and sensitive to the electoral politics that really drives the sort of issue advocacy in these jurisdictions like a Miami-Dade. So they may have the raw skills, but it’s not married up with the depth of political experience or sophisticated political tactics to sort of maximize from an issue advocacy standpoint, especially from the local and state government perspectives. A lot


of those traditional firms have attempted to wade into the political side of communications, but I think time and time again, we’ve seen that they haven’t done that really successful. And the real difference is, an Ashley Walker, a Ben Pollara, a Jesse Manzano-Plaza. These folks have a serious political antenna that’s just been developed over a depth of knowledge and understanding that they’ve developed over the years. And that’s really more of the approach that is required when it comes to issue advocacy before elected bodies, because elected bodies are always thinking about one thing, and what are my actions today, how do they impact the people who elect me and the people who can potentially vote in my next election? So it’s a big difference. Ashley: The other thing that I would raise to say how firms like LSN and Mercury set themselves apart from traditional public relations firms, and I think that Jesse and Ben would probably agree: Mercury doesn’t consider themselves a public relations firm. We’re a public affairs firm. We do some public relations, but for a lot of our clients, we come in with a much more comprehensive approach. We not only look at tactics that utilize traditional public relations tactics like earned media, utilizing press, utilizing digital, our clients sometimes need a grassroots approach, and we need to go and develop a field component where we’re taking our message directly door to door for clients. Other times we may need to do a more kind of traditional paid media approach, but I think that’s one significant difference between firms like LSN and Mercury Florida and some of your traditional PR firms. We’re not coming to the table with “Here’s an approach to your public relations issue.” We’re coming to the table with “This is a public affairs plan that looks at all of the different ranges of options from many different disciplines and we’re preparing a unique plan and strategy to help all of your problems that you’re experiencing.” Ben: I really like the distinction that Ashley makes between public affairs and public relations. I think it goes back to one of the themes of this conversation, which is coming from a campaign background versus coming from virtually any other background. I think that all of us look at every problem like it’s an election, whether it’s a vote at the county commission or a regulatory action or a zoning hearing. Whatever your clients endgame is Election Day and we strive to put together a plan that

includes public affairs and grassroots and public relations and traditional lobbying, all moving towards that goal of Election Day. It’s also the campaign mentality of the 24-hour news cycle, the everything must be done an hour ago mentality that you have working on political campaigns, and then the other thing is to the extent that we do engage in more traditional public relations and media relations aspect of this. I think me and Ashley and Jesse and Brian when speaking to the press are able to do so in a different way than a traditional PR flack from a big corporate PR firm right, because we’re able to connect with them on a political level and gossip about what’s going on in the political winds versus just calling and saying, “Hey, my client’s opening a new mall and here’s the nice brochure and press release and will you show up tomorrow?” It’s a different relationship we’re able to have with the press corps than your traditional PR folks. MP: Any emerging trends shaping up in terms of what you do for a living? Ashley: I would say that one of the trends that you’re seeing is that more companies are seeing the value in this new, emerging public affairs field rather than—they’re still hiring their lobbyists, there’s still a function for that, but when you look at this on a national scale as well, that more of these companies are footing their budget between your traditional lobbyists and public affairs. And you’re seeing a lot of these lobbying shops across the country pop up with partnerships and with public affairs firms because they’re seeing it within their own industries as well. The day of going into an elected official’s office and talking about your issue and asking for their vote and working behind closed doors on some of those issues that 20 years ago would have been sufficient is, quite frankly, that’s no longer sufficient, and with everybody having a smartphone and having kids with computers everybody has access to more information, and everybody is able to disseminate information at a much more rapid pace and because of that I think you’re seeing a much bigger need in the business world for these companies and corporate interests to not only have lobbyists on hand but to have a more external approach to how they’re communicating their issue to the public at large. Ben: This is something that’s been developing out there for awhile, but to their credit I think it definitely sent out ripples throughout the lobbying community in

COVER: FLORIDA’S POLITICAL HOT SPOT Florida when Floridian announced their partnership with Mercury and brought Ashley on board, and really sent the message across the state that these are two pieces of the business that go hand in hand. When we first opened LSN partners in 2010, we were constantly pitching our clients on a lot of what we’ve been discussing. Grassroots public affairs campaigns and for the most part they just wanted to hire the traditional lobbyists to go and knock on elected officials’ doors, and now they’re coming to us and asking for votes or just asking for the public affairs piece, and not the traditional lobbying piece, so the dynamic has really changed here nationally but particularly in Florida in the past couple of years. Brian: I would echo that … the trend is certainly that on the issues for sure that are a little more controversial and have a public element to them. It’s really almost a required tool in their toolbox that you have to have as part of your approach to be able to do more of a public affairs campaign and issue campaign. Whether that’s boots on the ground or a more grassroots campaign or “grass top” campaign or something that’s more of a communications campaign, all three of those things in one way shape or another are coming into the picture in terms of traditional lobbying, more and more. Ashley and I just finished one that was not a huge issue but it was development/ historic preservation issue in Bay Harbor Island. It was a quasi-judicial matter; it wasn’t a traditional lobbying manner. It turned into a grassroots-grass tops campaign, that was run over a three-week period, really to provide the public air cover for commissioners to support an appeal of a building that would have set a tremendous precedent going forward for preservation efforts in Bay Harbor island, and the client could not have been successful without the public affairs campaign. It just would have fallen flat, no question. So that is definitely the trend. Ben: And not even knowing the specifics of the project that Brian is talking about, it’s a familiar story. You go into an elected official with a project or an idea that is the right thing to do, but may not necessarily be the proper thing to do and then it’s incumbent upon you to insulate that elected official from the winds of public opinions by creating that public opinion, influencing that public opinion, to make the right thing to do also the popular thing to do. As opposed to just allowing political backlash

Miami-Dade is as diverse a population in the U.S. but it’s a diverse population all over the world. This is really in many respects the financial capital of Latin America. So when you’re in the business of politics in Miami-Dade County, you’re in the business of international politics. —BEN POLLARA

to happen and potentially have your stakeholder or decision maker change their mind in the light of that. Brian: There’s a lot of issues where there’s a hyper-vocal minority, right? Of interested parties that drive the conversation and drive the decision meeting of elected officials, because they’re the only voices that are being heard, and the case in point that we heard yesterday, we just widened the audience and educated the public and the residents of Bay Harbor Island to write a different perspective than what the vocal minority had put out there and it worked because commissioners actually looked up and, wow, there’s a lot of people who support an appeal of this, you know? An appeal of a historic preservation. It was an overwhelming majority of folks who showed up, who got engaged and who commissioners knew that on the merits was the right thing to do, but when you hear from a vocal minority and they’re loud, they can influence an elected officials vote very easily on that because it can be a little intimidating when activist types get really engaged and push really hard. But when you wake up the public at large and they show up and they’re real people and they share the perspective that your

client has, the elected official look up and go, hey, what I’m about to do seems to be the right thing to do with the majority of folks who are interested in this. Ben: What Brian says about vocal minorities is particularly true in South Florida especially in these coastal communities like Bay Harbor Island and Miami Beach, and one elected official here who will remain nameless who describes these vocal minority as “cave people” – Citizens Against Virtually Everything. Every little town has these people, they show up at every public meeting. Brian: The same six or seven. Ben: You look at the minutes of any particular city (council meeting) and you’ll see the same four or five people speaking at every single meeting and when you’re an elected official the politics is largely anecdotal. You hear from one person and you think you’re hearing it from everywhere. And so what Brian said to hear from the broader community than just those cave people you see every week is really helpful in helping elected officials do the right thing knowing it’s also the popular thing. Even though if they just listened to what was said in city commissioners chambers they would think is largely unpopular because the folks who come in speak there are against virtually everything. MP: How is the Jeb vs. Marco situation playing in Miami and the rest of South Florida? Jesse: Listen, this is a very big city but when it comes to politics, it’s a very small town, so having two Republicans running for president from this town means that you basically run into friends and colleagues that are taking sides, and it’s just the reality. I think that we’re going to be living with this, we’re going to be living with this reality. Some people tend to be a little more gracious and collegial about it, and there are others that have very thin skin and you just have to know whom you’re dealing with and try to deal with it. Certainly I have great friends that are supporting Marco Rubio, but unfortunately I feel a little bad for them because Gov. Bush is going to receive the nomination, so we’ll be hear to console them. (All laugh). Ben: It’s all right because Hillary’s going to win Miami-Dade County by like a 250,000 margin so it’s neither here nor there. ][


About that cover photo … I have a horrible confession to make. Before this year, I really had never been to Miami. As a native-born Floridian, that’s embarrassing. Oh, sure, I’ve driven through Miami on my way to Key West. And I’ve stopped over in the airport, but I’ve never spent any real time there. A desire to learn more about the hottest city in the country is at the genesis of this edition of INFLUENCE. But where to start, especially when I don’t speak a lick of Spanish. Well, according to almost all of the politicos I spoke to and interviewed for this edition, the historic Biltmore Hotel is the center of the universe in South Florida. After scouting the Mediterranean-styled resort, I knew—like the countless brides who have dreamt of being married on the property—that we had to shoot the cover at the Biltmore.


COVER: FLORIDA’S POLITICAL HOT SPOT As contemporary and tropical as the hotel is, the resort also reminded me of classic Hollywood and that’s when the idea for a play on the famous panoramic Vanity Fair covers came to mind. Instead of George Clooney and Julia Roberts, we’d have Tony Fabrizio and Fatima Perez—stars of the political world. That’s the vision I shared with our world-class photographer, Mary Beth Tyson, who pulled off an amazing shot despite two massive pillars blocking her complete view of The Biltmore Bar. Somehow she captured the alpha-personalities of some of the best and brightest in Florida politics (Fabrizio and Ben Pollara behind the bar is my favorite part.) Regrettably, I was only able to spend the day in Miami. But after what I saw in those brief hours, I can’t wait to get back. —PETER SCHORSCH


P.S.: See the front cover foldout for a visual map of who’s who on the cover shot below.


Expanding Opportunity The Central Florida Expressway Authority is responsible for the construction, maintenance and operation of a 109-mile limited-access expressway system. It serves more than 2.2 million residents in four counties and includes six major roadway systems: State Road 408 (Spessard Lindsay Holland East-West Expressway), State Road 528 (Martin B. Andersen Beachline Expressway), State Road 417 (Central Florida GreeneWay), State Road 429 (Daniel Webster Western Beltway), State Road 414 (John Land Apopka Expressway) and State Road 451.

An Express View of the First Year 4 The Governing Board named Laura Kelley as CFX’s first Executive Director

4 The adoption of nearly a $1.2 billion, five-year work plan that includes the I-4/SR 408 interchange contributions to FDOT and Wekiva Parkway construction

4 Secured a $194 million US DOT TIFIA loan at a historically low interest rate of 1.23%, accelerating CFX’s Wekiva Parkway construction schedule as

4 New mission to consider multimodal opportunities 4 Launched visioning and 2040 Master Plan initiative 4 Reduced amount of pre-paid tolls required to open a new E-PASS account to $15 (from $25)

4 Adopted a commuter relief E-PASS program for the Beltway (SR 414, SR 417 and SR 429), which combined with the volume discounts will return nearly $16 million annually to customers

much as 18 months

Learn more at CFXway.com

Driving Progress 2015 CFX Governing Board The Central Florida Expressway Authority’s new jurisdiction includes Orange, Lake, Osceola, and Seminole counties. The governing board is made up of the mayors of Orlando and Orange county, local elected officials from each county, and three governor appointees. The Executive Director of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise serves as a non-voting advisor.

Laura Kelley Executive Director

Welton Cadwell Chairman, Lake County Commissioner

Scott Boyd Vice-Chairman, Orange County Commissioner

Brenda Carey Secretary/Treasurer, Seminole County Commissioner

Buddy Dyer Board Member, Orlando Mayor

Fred Hawkins, Jr. Board Member, Osceola County Commissioner

Teresa Jacobs Board Member, Orange County Mayor

Walter A. Ketcham, Jr. Board Member

Jay Madara Board Member

S. Michael Scheeringa Board Member

Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti Non-Voting Advisor, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise

Downtown Fort Lauderdale

Power to the Players Power brokers pull strings for Broward County’s future BY BUDDY NEVINS



Proposed Galleria Redevelopment

The future of Fort Lauderdale won’t be fashioned in city hall. It won’t spring from blueprints drafted by government planners. Nor will it be birthed by politicians.



ort Lauderdale’s proposed new downtown—a 42-acre, $750 million high-rise reincarnation of the 70-year-old Galleria Mall inspired by mall owner Keystone-Florida Properties—is being sold by a collection of influential, unelected powers players. The heart of Broward County, Fort Lauderdale is an urbanized wedge between Miami and West Palm Beach. Political power in Florida’s second-biggest county is practiced no differently than many other communities. The business community, political strategists, lobbyists and others who have never appeared on a ballot often determine important decisions. At the Galleria Mall revamping,

consultant Ashley Walker’s role in the project is hidden but key to its success. Stephen Tilbrook, a long-time Broward development lobbyist and lawyer, is responsible for selling the project to the politicians. Walker’s job is piecing together community support. Walker, one of Fort Lauderdale’s new wave of insiders who arrived a dozen years ago, moved here right out of Florida State University. At 36, she’s already a seasoned political operative. She led President Barack Obama to victory in Florida in 2012 and she is using skills forged in that campaign to sway the skeptical Fort Lauderdale community on the project. “In campaigns, you have to work with communities to get support,” she said.

“When I work with developers, it is very similar. I take the same toolbox to work.” The tools include inviting residents, businesses owners and community leaders to briefings at the mall. In a room full of renderings of the new shopping-housing-office complex and a table-top model, they can question everyone from traffic engineers to landscape architects about the project. Many of the 8,500 invited to various briefings have left as supporters, said Walker, managing director in Florida of the international public strategy firm Mercury. Seasoned Broward power player and attorney Edward Pozzuoli notes that it’s not unusual for unelected officials to take the lead in planning and execution of such >>



The government relations professionals at The Fiorentino Group have decades of experience navigating Tallahassee’s complex regulatory and political environment.

Jacksonville • Tallahassee

904.358.2757 www.TheFiorentinoGroup.com



O-1034 Florida Trend Ad 6.indd 1

Like the rest of the state, Broward County is changing fast demographically. The fastest growth in the county is among minorities. From 2000 to 2013, the black share of the population climbed from 21 to 29 percent, while the Hispanics’ increased from 18 to 27 percent. a project. Influence over Broward’s future direction, including the direction of government, is often forged in the private sector, said Pozzuoli, managing partner of the Tripp Scott law firm. Pozzuoli has partnered with Jim Scott, a respected lobbyist and Florida Senate president in 1995  –  96, and Stephanie Toothaker, a special counsel to former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and a go-to person for Broward land-use approvals. One of their tactics is persuading their clients to make generous campaign donations to influential politicians. Lawyer David Di Pietro parlayed political work for Republican candidates to an appointment on the governing board of the public Broward Health hospitals, a group that controls over $1 billion in spending but gets little attention. The appointment further enhanced Di Pietro’s political muscle. Physicians and others in the medical community are only too happy to let Di Pietro “suggest” which candidates to support. He recently helped engineer a judicial appointment from Gov. Rick Scott for his lawyer wife, Nina Di Pietro, to the Broward County Court. Di Pietro once worked for the law office of William Scherer, who built decades of chumminess with office holders, campaign contribution bundling and the willingness to sue government into unparalleled influence. Scherer and veteran Fort Lauderdale-based lobbyist William “Billy” Rubin are among Broward’s most sought-after power brokers because of their association with Governor Scott, which stretches back to when they represented his hospital business in Tallahassee and in court. Two other members of the Broward business community with numerous Tallahassee contacts are Belinda Keiser, vice

4/24/15 2:26 PM

chancellor of multimillion dollar for-profit school Keiser University, and Jon Hage, CEO and founder of 70-campus Charter Schools USA, pioneers in shaping the nation’s charter school movement. Old-timers who remain immensely influential include H. Wayne Huizenga, 77, a serial entrepreneur (Blockbuster, Auto Nation, Waste Management and three Miami professional sports teams); and Ronald Bergeron, a multimillionaire businessman and political player since the 1970s. Bergeron raises tens of thousands of dollars for candidates and charities at a private Western-themed freestanding tavern he built for fundraising at his sprawling Weston ranch. Owning everything from rock pits to road builders to thousands of acres of real estate, Bergeron has used his political prowess to help create today’s Broward County. At 71, he hasn’t slowed down, muscling his way into the multimillion-dollar waste business during the past five years. He snatched about 30 percent of the county’s waste processing from huge Waste Management, which had a near-monopoly. Bergeron dragged politicians into a new era of handling trash where competition cut the costs in half. Like the rest of the state, Broward County is changing fast demographically. The fastest growth in the county is among minorities. From 2000 to 2013, the black share of the population climbed from 21 to 29 percent, while the Hispanics share increased from 18 to 27 percent. Lobbyist and political strategist Judy Stern is arguably the veteran insider most attuned to those changes. Stern has gone out of her way to cultivate contacts among the new, growing demographic groups, handling minority candidates such as African-American state

Belinda Keiser

H. Wayen Huizenga

Some of the


Ashley Walker

John Hage Stephen Tilbrook

Judy Stern (L)

Ronald Bergeron



PHOTOS: Bergeron – FWC Photo by Jorge Pino; Hage – Charter Schools USA; Huizenga – Nova.edu; Keiser – Keiser University; Stern – Taimy Alvarez; Tilbrook – Gray Robinson, P.A.; Walker – Mercury LLC.

Influence over Broward’s future direction —including the direction of government— is often forged in the private sector. — EDWARD POZZUOLI Rep. Joseph Gibbons, a Hallandale Beach Democrat. With two black Broward County commissioners and many city halls sprinkled with Caribbean emigres, Stern insists that her lobbying clients include minority businesses as part of any procurement effort. Another successful insider who represents the new Broward is Alain Jean, a Haitian-American who has built a thriving lobbying and campaign management business. Seth Platt, the publisher of three online news sites, has a lengthy list of lobbying clients because he can offer them something that didn’t exist in local lobbying a decade ago: an Internet presence. Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Mary Fertig, a 64-year-old mother of six with a huge Rolodex of contacts, has been showing up on Broward issues for three decades. The consummate community activist, Fertig fought in court for equal resources for black and white students, worked numerous political campaigns and helped write Fort Lauderdale’s laws for mega-developments. Fertig is dead set against Galleria 2.0, which means a fight looms fight between community organizer Walker and community advocate Fertig. And like so many political battles, insiders like Walker and Fertig who are not elected politicians will go a long way to determining the outcome. ][




www.solarisconsult.com 850.391.0268 SUMMER 2015 INFLUENCE | 95


American Dreamer Informed decision-making and cross-aisle relationships are likely to define Jose Oliva as Speaker of the House STORY BY CHRISTINE JORDAN SEXTON PHOTOS BY MARY BETH TYSON


he smell of cigars is lingering heavily in the air. It infuses the red, 1950s-style brick home-away-from-home for Jose Oliva, a first-generation American who is on the path to becoming one of the most powerful people in state government. The Hialeah Republican told Puff.com in an interview in 2005 that he smokes different cigars throughout the day, starting with a light cigar in the morning and winding his way up to a more robust cigar by the end of the day. He’s not smoking right now in this house located blocks away from the state Capitol that he shares with three other state legislators, including high school friend Frank Artiles, who refers to the house as the “safe haven,” where legislators can mingle after session instead of being “stuck at a bar where lobbyists can pull you in every direction.” A window unit hums loudly, underscoring its futile efforts to cool the room from the sticky, sweltering heat that envelopes Tallahassee just before a summertime thunderstorm. Despite the oppressive veil of heat, though, Oliva sits in his chair, impeccably dressed in a navy suit and a freshly pressed shirt. Always a freshly pressed shirt. >>


FEATURE: JOSE OLIVA It’s another reminder of Oliva’s forceful presence that is already shaking up state government ahead of his expected ascension to House Speaker in 2019. A member of a family that fled Cuba, Oliva has a no-holds-barred philosophy when it comes to government, policy and the economy. “I have a strong belief in the effects of economic policies on society, freedom and individual liberty,” Oliva says when he begins discussing what he hopes will be his agenda when becomes the leader in the House. Oliva’s passion was evident when he took to the House floor and Twitter to wage war on Florida’s well-organized hospital industry by routinely tweeting stories about fraudulent health care or excessive billing with the follow up #hospitalindustrialcomplex. Already, the business community is giddy about the prospect of a speaker who understands the issues impacting business after Oliva along with his brothers in 1993 turned their father (a tobacco consultant who traveled the world) onto Nicaraguan grown tobacco and started hand-rolling cigars they sold to distributors out of a three cylinder Ford Festiva. After two years with success they returned to South Florida to grow the company, which is the second largest grower of Cuban-seed tobacco in Nicaragua. The Festiva is parked in the parking lot of his office, a daily reminder of where he came from. “You pray for someone like him” to become speaker, Tallahassee lobbyist David Ramba told INFLUENCE Magazine. “When you bring your CEO in to meet him, they’re talking CEO to CEO,” said Ramba, whose lengthy client list includes Florida Power & Light, Florida Automobile Dealers Association, AT&T and the Florida Optometric Association, among many others. Oliva’s path to power began when he was elected to the Legislature in 2011 in a special election, edging out Marco Rubio’s former aide Ralph Perez in the primary. He belonged to neither the freshman class of 2010, nor the class of 2012. Yet both groups embraced the 42-yearold father of three. The 2010 class “kind of adopted me because I had no class at the time,” Oliva recalls. “They were getting together and talking about big bold ideas and fighting against status quo.” Leading the 2010 class and influencing an awestruck Oliva was Richard Corcoran. Corcoran, a top aide to former House speaker and now presidential candidate Marco Rubio, is in line to become speaker 98 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2015

after Steve Crisafulli steps down. “I developed a very good relationship with him early on,” he said “The greatest effect I think he has had on me is showing me you can absolutely pursue what you believe is right and you can get it done.” The class also includes Artiles, a friend from high school. Oliva says Corcoran’s leadership style has affected the class of 2012, which he describes as having a “culture of strength.” “His leadership has permeated down to my class. What you have now is a lot of people who are committed to a culture of strength and pursuing those things we came to pursue. A lot of that is (Corcoran’s) influence.” While influenced by Corcoran, they have their differences. While Corcoran is mercurial, Oliva is steady and reserved. Corcoran hectors into a microphone, Oliva is soft-spoken. He has an unassuming style says Rep. Alan Williams, who has been friendly with him since Oliva was first elected to represent Hialeah, the city with the highest percentage of Cuban and Cuban-Americans in the state. The two greet each other with a “What’s going on, my brotha?” when they cross paths. Although they are different political parties, Williams considers Oliva his brethren because, he said, they both represent “communities of color.” Williams was the ranking minority member on the House Economic Affairs committee. At the last scheduled meeting of the 2015 session Oliva turned the gavel over to him and allowed him to run the meeting. It’s “fitting to have our ranking member who has been a great partner in this process chair our final meeting,” Oliva said. After 2.5 hours of testimony, amendments and debate Williams turned the committee back over to Oliva thanking him for his “friendship and professionalism.” “Obviously, I can see why your class and others have put a lot of faith in you,” Williams told him. It’s not an everyday event where a Republican Committee chairman would turn the reins over to a Democrat to steer, but it’s not surprising given the source. Oliva prides himself as being one who wants to find common ground and working in a bipartisan way. He proudly told members of the panel that the “committee is the most bipartisan committee in the House having heard 40 percent of all Democrat bills that came before it.” Oliva said when he and his committee vice chair MaryLynn Magar discussed

which bills to consider they reviewed the topic and effect of the proposed legislation and not the legislator’s political party. “I think we set a good precedent along those lines,” he said. Williams is term limited out of office and won’t be in the House when Oliva will serve as speaker. But Williams predicted that “this approach will serve him well.” That may be needed because Oliva’s philosophy could put him on a collision course with Democrats and maybe even other Republicans. Ticking through a list of issues he wants to deal with Oliva cites controlling health care costs, increasing school choice options, and reducing regulations that could impede entrepreneurship. Despite ongoing legal battles, Oliva says that he would increase vouchers “to whatever degree we could. If we could achieve full vouchers, I certainly would do everything I could to move in that direction.” He’d also like to reduce what he calls bureaucratic challenges charter schools face in opening. School testing is gaining traction as an issue in the Legislature. The state needs to have measures to ensure there is accountability for the money, Oliva said, but he added that, “there’s a great argument for the degree to which we are testing and how that inhibits the ability for student learning. I don’t know if we are doing the best testing we can. We are doing a lot of testing. It is possible to over test.” But it is in the health care arena that Oliva is becoming more and more engaged. He says he wants make health care more affordable so, he says, more people can buy it. Oliva maintains the more people can buy it on their own then there will be less of a need to shift costs to cover the uninsured and less of a need for government to subsidize the care. To that end, Oliva is a believer in expanding the scope of practice so people have access to more health care providers. Attempts by organized medicine and others to prevent health care providers are just protectionist positions that prevent people from obtaining affordable access. But it’s hospitals that have been in Oliva’s line of fire recently. “They have become the great robber barons of the modern era,” he said. He finds it telling that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is administratively housed in the skyscraper built by U.S. Steel, which went from the largest steel producer and corporation in the world in the early 1900s, to being removed from the S&P in 2014 for its declining capitalization. The company lost market share

“I have a strong belief in the

effects of economic policies on society, freedom and individual liberty.”

“If you really look at what has happened with hospitals (for-profit or notfor-profit facility) across the country, because of its slow reaction to changing markets and its inefficient ways. University Pittsburgh Medical Center has more than 20 academic, community and specialty hospitals, more than 500 doctors offices and outpatient sites and employs more than 3,500 physicians, according to its website. “If you really look at what has happened with hospitals across the country, they are swallowing up other hospitals, other diagnostic centers,” Oliva said, noting he doesn’t care if it’s a for-profit or a not-for-profit facility. “You will realize the source of the problem (of high health care costs) is they have regulated themselves into a beautiful spot.” Ramba, whose health care clients include nursing homes, chiropractors and optometrists, said Oliva has “grabbed onto it.” Ramba said that Oliva likes to talk to “real people” and that when lobbying him on an issue Oliva has asked Ramba to bring in health care providers, such as nurses, that he can talk to. And he was specific, Ramba said, noting that he asked to speak to one nurse with hospital experience, another in a small doctors office and another in a larger practice.

“No matter what the issue, he wants more than just the talking points. He wants details. He wants examples,” Ramba said adding that Oliva could even be considered a policy wonk. “You’ll never see him have to turn to staff (for answers). There’s not that many people that take that upon themselves as seriously as Jose does,” Ramba says. If he takes himself seriously, it’s because he was reminded as a young boy growing up in Hialeah of the opportunities he had been given when his parents fled Cuba. First cousins of his, Oliva was routinely reminded, didn’t have the advantages that he was given. “They never failed to remind me of the opportunities in this country,’’ said Oliva. “And they never failed to instill what so many parents instill in their children, which is, in this country, anything is possible. And when you really, truly believe that as a child, later on it comes as no surprise to you when you achieve something because you believed it. “It also places upon you the certain responsibility of becoming something because the opportunity is here.” Artiles said his longtime friend is one

they are swallowing up other hospitals, other diagnostic centers. You will realize the source of the problem (of high health care costs) is they have regulated themselves into a beautiful spot.”

of the most beloved and well-received members of the House. “He is the American Dream. He is what any first or second generation that is born in this country strives for, which is to build something out of nothing. He wasn’t delivered; he wasn’t handed. He did not acquire it; he did not buy it. He earned it through blood, sweat and tears and hard work.” ][ SUMMER 2015 INFLUENCE | 99

“People fascinate and repel me at the same time. Journalism fulfills both of those perceptions.” —Marc Caputo


A Page Out of

CAPUTO’S P L AY B O O K Known for his tenacity and astute perception of Florida politics, reporter Marc Caputo—now at POLITICO—may have the best job in Florida journalism. ——— STORY BY JAMES CALL PHOTOS BY MARY BETH TYSON

Van Poole and Sandy D’Alemberte look back at the gentlemen-days of the Florida Legislature. by Florence Snyder | photos by Mary Beth Tyson


Marc Caputo,

Politico’s Florida writer, is making the rounds of the beat he walked for eight years as member of the Miami Herald’s Capitol bureau. It’s the morning the Florida House would blow up the 2015 Regular Session by adjourning three days early and leaving town without writing a state budget. Caputo writes from Miami and had returned to Tallahassee for the final hours of what had become a nine-week debate on health care. The fight made the state Capitol ground zero for the nation’s most contentious public policy debate, ObamaCare.


He strolled into the Senate press room and received a muted reception from a handful of the members of the Capitol Press Corps. A Legislative Session is like a graduate school seminar taught by Machiavelli; near its end most everyone is mentally exhausted and a bit confused while preparing for a final exam. Their task is trying to understand what’s in the state budget. So no one paused banging away at keyboards or staring intently at laptop monitors when Caputo walked in. Mumbled hellos and a “hey” are heard as he surveyed the room. “Now everybody get back to work so that I can steal your stuff,” he announced, and quickly left the room. Caputo now writes for political junkies. “Florida Playbook,” a morning briefing he


PHOTOS COURTESY (Above left) State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/14384, David Bujak; (Above right) CBS4 MIAMI

Left: Marc Caputo (far right) covers a press conference by Florida Division of Emergency Management Director W. Craig Fugate during an annual hurricane briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee, circa 2005; Right: Eliot Rodriguez of CBS4 Miami talks with Caputo in 2012 about Newt Gingrich’s presidential chances in South Florida.

compiles of “what’s hot, crazy or shady about politics in the Sunshine State,” debuted in February with 9,000 subscribers. “I get some of the most positive feedback from readers across the spectrum who love the email,” Caputo said. “And that’s because again, I am providing a service to them: Here’s a synopsis of what they wrote and here’s the link if you want to see more.” He’s an experienced guide to Florida’s political landscape. The 42-year old Caputo mined the statehouse for the Herald from 2003 to 2011 before transferring back to the home office as the paper’s political writer. Now, for Politico, he drops in on the Capitol frequently enough; frequently enough that he still has a seat on the bus. At a bank of elevators off of the Capitol rotunda, Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell stops Caputo. The two talk Miami gossip like coworkers back at the office after a holiday retreat. Once they part, he expressed surprise that Campbell would give him the time of day. Caputo had written harsh words about her when she was ensnared in a Medicaid fraud investigation. “The Capitol reminds me of the communal nature of Key West. Which is much more face to face, kind of like Cheers; everyone knows your name,” said Caputo, who grew up in the Keys. “So, despite some of the hostilities that you see in the Capitol, coming back has some of that old home week feel.” Caputo has been writing about Florida politicians for nearly 20 years, first as the city hall reporter for the Key West Citizen and now as an online reporter whose beat

The career start of one of Florida’s more accomplished political journalists was nothing more than a quirk of fate.

is the state, if not the nation. He writes about what Florida politicos talk about. “Marshall McLuhan talked about the global village,” Caputo said. “That’s what the Internet has allowed in media to a degree never seen before; you can publish products that fill certain niches.” Caputo emerged from the University of Miami in 1995 with a general studies degree—he said he only took classes he found interesting—and few job prospects. His undergraduate thesis was a dissection of mysticism in the 10th chapter of Finnegans Wake. A James Joyce fan, Caputo thought about pursuing a career as a literature professor, but home was the Keys and he got distracted on his way to academia. He

dodged a flock of wild roosters that gaggled around the front door of the offices of a weekly newspaper and landed a gig writing a walking guide for tourists. “The person who had the contract wanted to do it independently and kind of keep all the ad revenue, so they hired me basically to write and steal it,” Caputo said. “Now I’ve come full circle, and I’m essentially aggregating again, obviously at a different level.” Caputo said his journalism training consisted of one article he wrote for UM’s student newspaper, a review of a remake of Getaway. His father, Phil Caputo, reported for the Chicago Tribune and was on that last helicopter flight out of Saigon before it fell. Marc was born in Rome while his dad covered the Middle East. He said he didn’t intend to follow in his father’s footsteps, but writing a tour guide was more interesting than being a roofer and unlike school he was being paid to write. It’s something he enjoys doing. Thus, the career start of one of Florida’s more accomplished political journalists was a quirk of fate. The tour guide led to the city hall/crime beat for the Key West Citizen. “You know, people fascinate and repel me at the same time. Journalism fulfills both of those perceptions,” Caputo said. After the Citizen, Caputo moved on to the Naples Daily News, the East Valley Tribune in Arizona, and The Palm Beach Post brought him back to Florida in 2000. He joined the Herald in 2003 and then Politico this year. “What I like about reporting is that you >> SUMMER 2015 INFLUENCE | 103


“Crist understood how TV worked ... so I purposely set out to make TV packages of a guy not answering questions.”




get to see a different side of people than you otherwise would. You are able to be a voyeur into people’s lives; people sometimes invite you into their heads,” Caputo said. The invitations have enabled Caputo to make his mark. Mike Vasilinda is one of the “deans” of the Capitol Press Corps. He was covering the Florida Legislature before Caputo was born. “Out of the hundreds of reporters who have come through here, Marc ranks in the top 10 percent, for sure,” Vasilinda said. “No doubt about it. He’s smart, he’s intelligent, he’s incisive and witty at the same time.” Add innovative to the list. Caputo successfully transitioned from a hard-copy newspaper reporter to digital journalist. The Herald stopped circulating in Tallahassee during the Charlie Crist administration, turning its Capitol bureau into online reporters for a significant number of readers. At the same time Caputo unveiled the Caputo Cam: He made video recordings of politicians’ encounters with reporters for the paper’s website. The series of two- to five-minute segments of Caputo’s encounters with politicians stood out. It wasn’t newspaper writing and it wasn’t television news. It was storytelling. He said former Gov. Charlie Crist inspired the experiment with Internet video reporting, because Crist was quite adept at “providing answers on point enough to be responsive but obtuse enough to be meaningless.” “Crist understood how TV worked and his answers were kind of made more for TV so I purposely set out to make TV packages of a guy not answering questions,” Caputo said. “I thought it was an important way to add to the dialogue.” In March 2009 Caputo posted an exchange with Crist over the governor’s characterization of the stimulus package. Caputo questioned whether Crist’s statements were misleading. Caputo: “You’ve been saying its $13 billion for the stimulus package is available.” Crist: “Actually it’s $13.4, as I understand it.” Caputo: “But, uh, it’s over three years, I guess, and in addition only 3 and half billion will probably be available this year to plug the deficit hole. Is it kind of misleading to say that $13 billion is available for the budget when in reality it is only 3 and half billion for the next fiscal year?” Crist: “I think it’s accurate to say

Marc Caputo provides his insight into Florida politics on a broadcast of PBS News Hour.

that we are expecting $13.4 billion in stimulus money.” Caputo: “But when you talk about the budge ... But when you talk about the budget deficit you are coupling the two. Not all can be used for the budget deficit.” Crist: “That’s right.” Caputo: “Are you confusing the two issues?” Crist: “I’m not.” Caputo: “Others are?” Crist: “Not that I’m aware of.” The national GOP had opposed the stimulus package and in a later exchange Caputo mentioned to Crist that for the state to spend the money he would need to get the Republican-controlled Legislature to write and pass appropriation bills. “We may,” Crist told him. “Are you going to ask them to do that?” Caputo asked. “We’ll see,” Crist responded. “His fellow Republicans would say, ‘Why are you letting him off the hook?’ and I’d say, ‘Look we’re not letting him off the hook, the guy is a master at slipping punches,’” Caputo said of video blogging with Crist. The Caputo cam deflated a Rick Scott attack during the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. Caputo had written about a sealed deposition of Scott’s in a case involving Solantic Urgent Care. Attorney General Bill McCollum used the article to question Scott’s trustworthiness and to paint him as obsessed with secrecy. Scott held a Tallahassee news conference that Caputo captured in five minutes.

Candidate Scott denounced his rival as a career politician. He accused McCollum of engaging in a smear campaign “that would impress Obama and the Chicago political machine.” Scott said McCollum was called “the Tonya Harding of Florida politics.” After a five-minute rant Scott invited questions. Caputo was first. “When will you release the deposition,” asked Caputo. “That’s a private matter, and I will not release the deposition,” Scott said. End of video. “As they say, it’s all in the editing,” said Caputo. The day after the House left the Capitol, effectively ending the 2015 Session, Caputo stood in the third-floor rotunda looking down on the Great Seal of the State of Florida on the first floor. The entrance to the Capitol was empty except for security guards. “I can’t believe the House did that,” Caputo said with a laugh. “The world is a stage and we’re actors in it; the theatrical nature of the House Speaker banging the gavel down ending the session unexpectedly. And seeing all the bewildered lobbyists and bewildered press corps and Senate! This is ready-made work here.” Whatever the next story arc Florida politicians launch or twist, or plot development they execute in their long-running Tallahassee production, Marc Caputo will be there to document it. And if you like, he’ll explain it to you in an email, every morning at about 6:30. ][ SUMMER 2015 INFLUENCE | 105


GIANT A Tallahassee tiger, at home FP&L aims to please By Peter Schorsch




n Tallahassee, the state’s big power companies can be easy punching bags for politicians aspiring to out-populist one another in the eyes of the horse-race Capitol press, who are happy to oblige. They frame any debate about energy policy in a partisan-like, us-versus-them narrative that pits utilities against “ratepayers,” a term that subconsciously conveys an inherently subordinate position.

Behind the scenes, multibillion-dollar commercial and industrial “ratepayers,” ranging

from phosphate producers to retail giants, rarely miss an opportunity to shiv the utility Few industries face the kind of heat year after year that utilities do. At times, the slams are well-deserved: Duke Energy’s nuclear debacle and billing blunders come to mind. But black eyes like those also act as a lasting life force for two of Tallahassee’s most annoying creatures: pileon politicians and plug-and-play reporters. The symbiosis of those species spawns from a common willingness to ignore conflicting information, no matter how factual, in their constant pursuit of the next blog post. Side note: For all the insider grumbling about the sway of the big four electric utilities, the state Capitol actually isn’t powered by Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Tampa Electric or Gulf Power. The electricity in the halls of power comes from the “Your Own Utilities”—the oddly Orwellian brand of the city-owned monopoly that controls not only electricity but also water, gas and sewer service in Tallahassee. A few hundred miles away, Tallahassee animals may be surprised (or disappointed) to see the groundbreaking, envelope-pushing work being done in South Florida by the dominant electricity provider, Florida Power & Light. FPL, which some say constitutes about 500 pounds of the 800-pound gorilla known as the utility lobby, has been one of the biggest players in South Florida for almost a century. Not unlike Henry Flagler, Julia Tuttle and other founders of modern-day South Florida, FPL is part of the region’s DNA. In the 1920s, Florida was home to slightly more than 1 million people, ranking a middling 32nd in population compared with the other 47 U.S. states at the time. Fast-forward to today: Florida is nearly 20 million strong and ranks as the 108 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2015

third most-populated state in the nation, larger than all but about 60 countries. It’s safe to say Florida wouldn’t be what it is today without the advent of air conditioning, a luxury in some parts of the country but downright essential to modern life in the Sunshine State for everything from the tourism industry to the average Floridian’s sanity in September. FPL started in 1925 with fewer than 100,000 customer accounts. Ninety years later, the utility services nearly 4.8 million homes and businesses. Double that figure to estimate the number of people powered by FPL, and you’re talking about a company that touches half the state … whether they like it or not. Few things irk the American utility customer more than the feeling that their utility is operating with a monopoly mentality, lazily taking their patronage for granted. FPL is certainly not immune to criticism, having faced serious blowback, for example, in the wake of the brutal string of hurricanes that battered Florida in 2004 and 2005. Since those dark days, though, FPL has made leaps and bounds to improve its service and image. Hunkering down and dedicating extensive resources to strengthen thousands of poles and power lines, the company reduced customer outages by 20 percent in just a few years. It built the state’s first solar power plant and the world’s first solar-natural gas hybrid plant. During the great recession, it introduced reduced rates for businesses, creating jobs. It embarked on a series of power plant “modernizations”: literally blowing up 1960s-era plants and replacing them with 21st-century technology. In Tallahassee, FPL has a reputation for rolling opponents. But in South Florida, especially during the past decade, the >>


industry in the political prison shower.

In Tallahassee, Florida Power & Light has a reputation for rolling opponents. But in South Florida ... the company has become known for its relentless—almost obsessive—drive to improve.


“We have an incredibly smart, hard-working team of experts who are dedicated to being the best energy company we can be for our customers and our state.” — MARK BUBRISKI, FPL PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER

Previous page: On July 16, 2013, FPL demolished its 1960s-era Port Everglades Power Plant to build a new natural gas facility. This page: At the firstof-its-kind “hybrid” solar facility in Martin County, FPL combines solar energy with natural gas.





company has become known for its relentless, almost obsessive drive to improve. “We take pride in helping Florida compete in a challenging global economy. In a world that is ever changing, we work hard to deliver electricity to millions of Floridians around the clock through all kinds of weather. We invest continuously in the future to make sure we can continue to provide our customers with electric service that’s more affordable, more reliable and far cleaner than the average utility,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy says. These investments, according to public filings, amount to billions of dollars of advancements in Florida’s electric grid during the past decade. Nationally, the company has taken a leading role in implementing smart grid technology, earning a spot on Grid Edge’s list of 20 companies that are transforming the electrical power sector. A smarter grid means fewer outages and more control for customers, the company says. FPL has made strides in fuel efficiency as well. In addition to rolling out hybrid bucket trucks and promoting electric vehicles, the company’s power plants are markedly more efficient. At the Florida Energy Summit in 2013, FPL senior director Michael DeBock, a combat veteran who was an attack helicopter pilot in the Army, spoke about one of the company’s crowning achievements. “In 2001, we used 40 million barrels of foreign oil [to generate electricity],” DeBock told the crowd. But thanks to systematic investments in high-efficiency natural gas generation, shutting down old power plants and building new ones, “I’m happy to report to you that, in 2012, we used less than 1 million barrels.”

Cue raucous applause. There’s more to the story. Combine that 99 percent reduction in fuel consumption with the rock-bottom prices of the American natural gas bonanza, and FPL customers are laughing all the way to the bank. The company’s rates have dropped significantly, down more than 10 percent versus 2006, nearly a decade ago. If you factor in inflation, FPL ratepayers pay little more than half what their bills were 30 years ago. “Because power is so cheap from FPL, we’re spoiled,” Scott Moss, president of construction company Moss & Associates, told the Sun Sentinel in April. Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Moss & Associates is one of the largest contractors in the southeastern U.S. FPL is quick to point out that its low prices have not come at the expense of cleanliness. FPL executives bristle at comparisons with dirtier, coal-heavy utilities. “Since 2001, the effectiveness of our investments has saved our customers more than $7.5 billion on fuel and also prevented more than 85 million tons of carbon emissions,” says Mark Bubriski, the company’s Tallahassee-based public affairs director. “Our highly efficient system keeps our customer bills low and also helps us rank among the cleanest utilities in the country. Compared with the national averages, our rates are 30 percent cheaper and our carbon-emissions rate is 38 percent cleaner.” FPL has also prioritized its relationships with its customers. Its customer service department has won countless national awards, rating among the best not only in the energy industry but among all companies. In 2014, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported: “There’s a bright spotlight shining on Florida Power & Light. The investor-owned utility company ranked No.1 for the nation’s most trusted electric utility and has highest overall brand trust score of any utility, says a study from Cogent Reports, a division of Market Strategies International that measures customer engagement and electric engagement with electric and natural gas utilities.” Taking service a step further, FPL branched out to share its expertise with South Florida students, setting up a satellite call center on the campus of Florida International University in Miami where FPL employees train students in the art of meeting customers’ needs. Of course, in addition to advanced engineers and customer service pros, FPL’s power lies at least partly in its politically savvy people. “We have an incredibly smart,

hard-working team of experts who are dedicated to being the best energy company we can be for our customers and our state,” said Bubriski, who was Barack Obama’s top communications strategist in Florida when his campaign won the state in 2008. FPL government affairs vice president, Mike Sole, is the highly regarded former secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection who led the state’s response to the BP oil spill. Fellow executive Pamela Rauch is beloved among her Leadership Florida colleagues and now chairs the influential Florida Chamber Foundation. Other notables include Juliet Roulhac, the first African-American woman on the University of Florida’s board of trustees; former state agency and congressional chiefs of staff Thomas Bean, John Holley and Donald Kiselewski; and many others. The company’s community connections are wide and deep. In June, FPL and FIU announced a new research effort that will include the installation of 5,700 solar panels at FIU’s engineering school. This partnership even got a mention on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. “It was recently announced that FPL, which is already the largest generator of solar energy in Florida, is expected to triple its presence in the business by 2016. Such an undertaking is only possible with talented and capable students, and I’m glad to see FPL is helping train a new generation of engineers that will create fresh solutions for our energy needs,” U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo said. Curbelo is not alone. The company has earned praise and respect from a diverse range of public officials, including President Obama, Gov. Rick Scott, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, CFO Jeff Atwater, Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, and more. Even the state’s appointed consumer advocate, J.R. Kelly, who customarily opposes FPL and other utilities in regulatory debates, has positive things to say. “They are a good strong company,” Kelly told The Palm Beach Post. “We take great pride in the fact that our strategy of making smart investments in affordable, clean energy infrastructure is paying off for our customers with enhanced service reliability, cleaner power and lower rates,” Silagy says. “There’s no simple, silver-bullet solution to the complex challenge of planning to cost-effectively and reliably meet future energy needs. Energy issues involve long-term, fact-based planning and decision-making.” ][



Needle in a Haystack YOLANDA CASH JACKSON is an ideological sphinx in an increasingly polarized political dynamic By Ryan Ray | Photos by Mary Beth Tyson


espite a few superficial differences, Becker & Poliakoff’s Yolanda Cash Jackson is your typical high-powered Tallahassee lobbyist. Except more so. The 1992 redistricting that gave rise to so-called “minority-access” districts, Hurricane Andrew and its aftermath, the dawn of GOP dominance in the statehouse and governor’s mansion, the 2000 Bush v. Gore recount, the advent of the term limits era … Jackson’s life in the Florida Capitol is made up of the same basic cloth as most senior consultants and influencers who have navigated the process from the ’90s until today. But “YCJ,” as she’s known to many colleagues and lawmakers, has monogrammed her own experiences into that fabric. She’s woven into it her unique experience as a black woman in a mostly white milieu, a South Floridian in the semi-rural Panhandle, and an ideological sphinx in an increasingly polarized political dynamic. And no one rocks the ensemble quite like she does. Jackson has built a reputation as a charming and charismatic presence on Adams Street and in the Capitol, as well as a variegated—and growing—governmental relations practice very much her own. “She’s done a fantastic job of it. If you look at her career and the respect that she has among the general lobbying corps population and elected officials, both Republicans and Democrats, it’s remarkable,” says attorney and lobbyist Bernie Friedman, Becker’s governmental affairs practice chairman. “She’s never been pigeonholed in a particular ideology or party. Yolanda will talk and schmooze with anyone at any time—which is a skill, and she is incredible at it.” Jackson is a one-woman culture-jamming force whose life and work resist all stereotypes, replete with seeming paradoxes that she resolves, and leverages, with ease. >>


She’s an insider’s insider, evidenced in the stodgy of people of color



while also reflecting a story not always halls of state power: the growing power in Florida government. A double Gator, she received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Florida and a law degree from the school’s Levin College of Law. UF’s elite Blue Key society counts her as a member, a group that’s tapped the likes of Bill Nelson, Adam Putnam and Marco Rubio, part of the classic early résumé of a Capitol up-and-comer. Equally instructive to understanding Jackson is that she’s the daughter of the leader of an African-American congregation and his wife from Liberty City and a proud—OK, very proud—member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, one of the original “Divine Nine” historically black Greek organizations. In other words, she is an insider’s insider while also reflecting a story not always evidenced in the stodgy halls of state power: the growing power of people of color in Florida government. That story is one Jackson knows well. After all, she’s been at the forefront of it. Speaking about her earliest experiences volunteering on a campaign, Jackson waxes reverentially. “We got the first African-American member of Congress [from Florida] elected since Reconstruction in Carrie Meek. I don’t think—in fact I know—I wouldn’t have gotten as deeply involved in politics if it wasn’t for her,” Jackson said. Jackson managed the state Senate campaign of then-future U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek after striking up a friendship with his mother while working as a litigator; an endeavor she says she loved, but did not feel was her calling. “After Kendrick’s campaign, my practice started to change simultaneously as my interests changed. I was doing litigation and people started approaching me at meetings with elected officials and doing bid protests in Miami-Dade County, where a couple of commissioners I had known all my life were sitting at the time,” Jackson said, including local legend Barbara Carey-Shuler.

Again, well-connected, but in a way that diverges from the “good old boy” network that once ran the show in Tallahassee and still carries considerable sway. From there, Jackson said, it was just a matter of time before she settled into a role where she would fully immerse herself in the bedeviling—and to her, bewitching— nuts and bolts of Florida public policy. “My first job dealing with policy was as a researcher during the ’92 redistricting, just kind of studying those apportionment and line-drawing issues. Then after getting involved with relief efforts after Hurricane Andrew, there was no turning back.” As she was inspired by Meek—she also cites lobbyists Pamela Burch Fort and reporter/media consultant Gail Andrews as early influences—she has made believers out of her peers. “When I first met Yolanda, I instinctively knew she could be a great lobbyist,” said Friedman, who in part made the decision to initially hire Jackson. “She had the disposition, the discipline, the passion and the drive you really need to do what we do. “Stewarding funding for a historically black college’s nursing program or to construct a new center for excellence; or in Opa-Locka when she helps secure a new emergency command center, or additional public safety funding for the local [Miami-Dade] school board in the special programs budget—I think you can feel good about that. And I feel Yolanda takes great satisfaction in what she does. “She had that drive and that passion to figure out how she could make it in the community and be someone who’s really advancing public policy in a meaningful way. As a lobbyist, I think you really can do that,” Friedman said. “She can work with anyone, but at the same time, she’s a rock star in the African-American community. She has developed a balanced practice in which she’s able to advocate for clients and needs in her own community which she is passionate about by using her very proficient

Tallahassee-centric skills and her intimate knowledge with the corridors of state government.” Since 2012, Jackson has lobbied pro bono for organizations oriented toward the public interest including the Parramore Kidz Zone in Orlando and Children of Inmates, an organization that provides services and counseling to youngsters with incarcerated parents. Those efforts once took her to yet another space you’d think foreign to Florida politics: to Harlem with then-Speaker Marco Rubio to study the original “kid’s zone” model. The two worked to regain lost state funding for the fledgling Miami Children’s Initiative and established best practices back in Liberty City, where it took off on its way to becoming a statewide program. Jackson describes it this way: “You lobby for companies and sometimes it’s a food fight, sometimes it’s white hat and sometimes it’s black hat, and I love that. I enjoy it tremendously. At the same time, what I tried to do is bring my expertise to the community that I grew up in.” Rubio, who once worked at Becker & Polikaoff and mentions co-founder Alan Becker in his book An American Son, remains a friend of Jackson’s. “I got my selfie,” she jokes. Just as few saw Rubio’s rise to the U.S. Senate and the rare air of a viable White House candidacy coming, most probably would have discounted the chances of a girl from Liberty City working with a Republican House speaker to achieve effective change for the disadvantaged. As Washington Post columnist Craig Pittman might say, “Oh, Florida.” But in our fair state, not only are exceptions the rule—exceptions often help make the rules. Just ask Yolanda Jackson. ][


Ramba Consulting Group, LLC, is a governmental consulting firm based in Tallahassee, Florida, with extensive professional and political experience in Florida's state and local government. CONTACT US: David Ramba: david@rambaconsulting.com Allison Carvajal: allison@rambaconsulting.com Keith Hetrick: keith@rambalaw.com Rachel Kruse: rachel@rambaconsulting.com

120 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301 O: (850)727-7087 | F: (850)807-2502 WWW.RAMBACONSULTING.COM

The Long Game Open communication and determination define Juan Flores’ political strategy for AT&T STORY BY JAMES CALL PHOTOS BY MARY BETH TYSON


uan C. Flores takes a seat near a window in the Florida Capitol’s 10th-floor coffee shop and explains how he’s trying to salvage a communications tax cut in the frenzy of a Special Session focused on the state budget. Flores is vice president of governmental affairs for AT&T, and the telecommunications giant has been trying to reduce the levy on cell phone and cable television services since 2012. Gov. Rick Scott proposed a 3.6 percent cut but lawmakers balked when they realized they faced a billion-dollar shortfall in the healthcare budget. A stalemate over how to deal with it forced the June Special Session and put the tax cut in jeopardy. Providers say the 16.5 percent tax rate is far too high, the highest in the nation, but local governments argue that they need the money. AT&T supported Scott’s proposal, which would have cost the state about $470 million in taxes and reduced

consumers’ cable and cellphone bills by $3.60 a month. Lawmakers scaled it back to 1.9 percent, a less than $2 a month savings on a $100 charge for services. But at the halfway mark of the Special Session, with a quick glance at the gold dome of the Historic Old Capitol, Flores said even that cut was in doubt. “Politically there is less of an appetite for that because it is not significant enough savings for consumers,” Flores said. “The question lawmakers need to ask themselves is it better to cut a little in steps or is it better to cut a big chunk at once? Either way, we want to reduce our customers’ cost,” said Flores, who manages a team of lobbyists with the aim of helping legislators find that sweet spot: a tax cut substantial enough for consumers to notice and one that government can afford. A couple of days later the Senate Appropriations Committee accepted a House plan, an immediate 1.73 >>


percent reduction. It was a win, win and win: It would reduce costs to consumers, protect local governments’ revenue, and make providers’ rates more competitive. No lobbyists spoke at the committee meeting, but their fingerprints were evident on the proposal’s language, which gave something to all stakeholders. Earlier this year Flores assumed control of one of the largest lobbying efforts at the state Capitol. AT&T contacts lawmakers on their home turf and then follows up when lawmakers are in Tallahassee for committee meetings and sessions. Flores’ team includes 26 different firms, 11 regional directors and one state director. His job is to keep the company’s priorities front and center in the eyes of his lobbying corps and of the lawmakers who make decisions. “We are not the only thing at the table: There are hundreds, thousands of different issues competing to grab the attention of influential members,” Flores said. He goes about his work by maintaining open lines of communication with the players: those on his team and the lawmakers who make the decisions. The effort to promote and protect AT&T’s priorities begins by identifying language in bills that it reasons will have either a positive or negative effect on the company’s bottom line. Given Florida has a part-time Legislature and the complexity of telecommunication, AT&T has found it is in its interest to share company expertise with policymakers, especially when a proposal works against its interests. “We sit down with a member and


explain what that impact is and most of the time it’s an unintended consequence that they weren’t aware about, and most of the time they will work to fix those issues,” Flores said. “Most of the time it is something we can talk through and the member is open to amending the bill.” The past three years AT&T has spent millions lobbying the Florida Legislature. It distributed more than $1.5 million among Adams Street firms during each of the 2012 and 2014 sessions, and more than $340,000 in 2013, according to state quarterly reports. “Probably the best climate for our company in the United States is in Florida because Florida has become deregulated—in our world,” Flores said. “In order to help ensure that free-market atmosphere continues, a lot of that (money) deals with having a strong team that helps ensure that that stays that way. That is what the investment is all about.” Flores, 34, was a Cuban orphan whose father landed in Florida as part of the Peter Pan airlift in the early 1960s. Flores learned his trade in the rough-and-tumble of Miami politics, as an aide to former House Speaker and current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, as communications director for former Miami-Dade Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, as an organizer in the recall effort of Mayor Carlos Alvarez, and then as a manager of Gimenez’s subsequent victorious mayoral campaign. Flores earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Florida International University. His background shapes how he

approaches managing his team in lobbying the Legislature. He compares a Legislative Session to a 60-day campaign. Open communication, he says, is the path to success. “A lot of my life has been in the campaign world and campaign management, and successful campaigns all have one thing in common: a clear message that dominates from Day One to the election,” Flores said. “The only way you can keep that message intact is having everyone singing from the same hymnbook. And the only way you can do that is to make sure everyone from the top down understands where you are and where you are headed. That is what has always worked for me.” When a campaign gets off message, he said, a lot of time is wasted by “putting out fires that have nothing to do with you and your priorities.” Much of his work in Tallahassee, like the Gimenez for Mayor effort in Miami-Dade, are long-term efforts. Lobbying to reduce the communications services tax has been a six-year affair. Another multiyear effort focuses on blocking the effect of a court ruling that AT&T considers an expansion of right-of-way law. Cape Coral had widened a road into an easement where utilities had laid infrastructure. The companies then had to pay to move their lines and other equipment providing telephone and cable services. AT&T has taken the fight to Tallahassee. “It changed our world, especially in platted communities. We can’t have someone kick us out whenever they want,” Flores said. “We need some sort of protection-guarantee. The quid pro quo here

is they give us an easement and we will build our infrastructure at no cost to the developer.” A proposal addressing that concern got lost in the confusion of the 2015 budget stalemate, but Flores’ team will continue working the issue during offseason leading up to next year’s session. AT&T scored victories in 2015 in eliminating a permitting requirement for wireless alarm systems and by opening up the bidding process for law enforcement radio systems. The state is upgrading communications to a digital system, enabling compatible service across agencies and locals even when different vendors using various platforms are used. An open bidding process creates opportunity for AT&T. “We don’t do radio but we would like to bid for the infrastructure, the connectivity between the radios,” Flores said. The opportunity comes in an $800,000 appropriation to the Department of Management Services to conduct a competitive procurement process for a new communication system. The appropriation is a rounding error in a nearly $80 billion state budget, but it could be worth millions to AT&T if it submits a successful bid. It’s how the game is played in Tallahassee. “My job essentially is to know the company’s priorities year-to-year, sit down with members to talk and fix language (that) impacts us negatively,” Flores said. He batted two for three in 2015, but he intends to take another swing at that infrastructure court ruling in 2016. ][

“When a campaign

gets off message, a lot of time is wasted by putting out fires that have nothing to do with you and your priorities.”





Tailor of

Adams Street How making clothes made this man BY JAMES CALL PHOTOS BY MARY BETH TYSON

ARRON GOBER greets a visitor with a smile as wide as his Midwestern roots and quickly begins a conversation with the familiarity of a neighbor chatting over a backyard white picket fence. “I call that the land of peacocks,” Gober said with a soft laugh and a gesture toward the hill where Florida’s state Capitol sits. Gober is the fashion designer behind Arron’s Fine Custom Clothing. His store, Your Personal Tailor, is about a mile from the Capitol. It’s a block south from a hamburger joint where aides to Gov. Charlie Crist interviewed George LeMieux for a U.S. Senate appointment and a block east from where an ice cream shop once stood where teetotalers Gov. Reuben Askew and House Speaker Terrell Sessums sent for takeout to celebrate a deal sparing Lt. Gov. Thomas Adams an impeachment hearing. “I work with a lot of politicians, but I don’t give the names,” Gober said. “I love lobbyists. They all like to dress nice, and they like to compete against each other as to who looks best. They rely on me for color and direction.” Gober’s client list and the ease of how he connects with people could give the wrong impression. He may be the establishment’s tailor but at heart Arron Gober is an anarchist, a regular Kanye West of fabric. “I tell everyone, ‘Look, if you are not a little uncomfortable with what you just bought from me, then I didn’t do my job,’” said Gober, who likes “to push the envelope.” “There are no rules anymore,” he said. “We use to have preset standards like (you

find) reading Dressing in the Dark, or any of those books where you see that plaids don’t go with stripes, but we’re breaking all those rules now.” He said a revolution occurred in men’s fashion about four years ago when designers turned away from pleated pants and oversized suits to highly tailored flat pants and small lapels. High fashion for men tends to be conservative, something Gober learned during more than 30 years of tailoring. “In men’s industry we make very small changes over a long period of time and we did all that in less than two years. It was the biggest change in my entire career of being in clothing,” Gober said. That’s a bit of an overstatement when one considers Gober went from selling blue jeans in Panama City as a teenager to designing suits for the rich and powerful from Tallahassee to Miami as well as Atlanta to Los Angeles and into Canada. When his family moved from Minnesota to the Panhandle in 1977, Gober landed a sales job at a Sir PantsALot store. The storeowners also had an upscale clothing store and one day asked Gober to fill in. He made a few sales and hasn’t sold a tie-dyed T-shirt since. College brought him to Tallahassee where he landed a position with Nic’s Toggery. That job started him on a road that led him to becoming the personal tailor for three Florida governors, two U.S. senators, scores of politicians in Tallahassee and Atlanta, and a handful of celebrities including NFL players and anchors for the NFL Network.

Gober is an artist. He paints with color, fabric and personality, that is, the personality of his clients. “The more vibrant the personality the more they want to wear brighter, dressier clothes,” said Gober, who sees his job as image consultant as well as tailor. Across the room from where Gober sits hangs a suit jacket he’s making for a lobbyist. The color looks familiar and uncommon at the same time. “Let me show you something,” Gober said in a humorously conspiratorial tone while moving toward the jacket. “What I like about this is it’s a new shade of blue, a little brighter and I love the salmon in the windowpane (pattern). It gives a uniqueness: You are not going to walk into a store and see that,” Gober said. “That has to be custom-made.” Gober is a fashion disruptor. “Arron is great about getting you out of your comfort zone and helping you develop an individual style and try new things,” lobbyist Nick Iarossi said. “He is great about pushing the style envelope but keeping it classic and elegant with a modern twist.” Many of his clients have been with him nearly 30 years and some place complete confidence in his ability to weave suits and ensembles to create a “look others aspire to.” Part of his job, Gober said, is to mold his customers “into the person you need to be.” “Arron has a real unique ability to tailor his clothing to the personality,” said Chris Dudley, who has been a customer since the 1990s. “I’m a simple guy, blue and gray suits with blue and white shirts but even for me, >>


Compliments about Gober-made clothing is a conversation starter because ... He’s mastered working in a traditional format while being original.


Arron can add some custom flourishes that I like, such as fun lining in the jacket and functional buttons on the sleeves.” Gober developed a sizable client list while working at Nic’s, but saw a limited future working for a family-owned store. When he and his wife were expecting their first child 22 years ago he had an idea: What if he could offer custom-made clothing at off-the-rack prices? And, the customer could have their name on the suit, credited as the designer. “I had to resell them on a new concept,” Gober said of his clients. “I had put their outfits together for years, and I told them, ‘I don’t want you for a one-time sale, I want you for the next 20 years and then we both can retire.’” The idea worked. Your Personal Tailor has offices in 10 cities: Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Charleston and Calgary. Gober said if someone buys a suit from him then most likely they both have found a new friend. It appears to be a good business model. It’s how his operation has grown from midtown Tallahassee to the Great White North and coast to coast. Pick a city other than Tallahassee and it is basically the same story, over and over again. A customer receives a compliment about a suit or shirt and mentions Arron’s fine clothing. Now, if you meet Gober then you walk away with a story. Compliments about Gober-made clothing are a conversation starter because, like many artists, he’s not derivative: He’s mastered working in a traditional format while being original. When a Gober client moves to a new city, it’s usually not long before Gober is invited to town for a meet-andgreet, and then he opens a satellite branch. It’s happened nine times in 22 years. In Calgary it was a friend who became the head of a megachurch. He liked the fancy collars and cuffs on Gober-made shirts and pleaded with Gober to do business in Alberta. “But it’s a long way to go,” Gober said. “I gave him an inflated figure of how much business would be worthwhile and he said he could match it.” Among the church members Gober met was a member of the board of directors of Murphy Oil Co. The Murphy board invited Gober to town for a second visit. “So, I went and met with these executives and they were just huge, huge sales,” Gober said. “I always wanted a city I could go to in the summer and Calgary is just beautiful, it is gorgeous, and it’s a lot cooler in the summer than it is here in Florida.” A Tallahassee customer opened the door to the NFL for him. The client moved to Miami and prevailed on Gober to make


Ken Atwater Allen Boyd Allan Bense Scott Hanson Dr. R.B. Holmes Nick Iarossi Clemon Johnson George LeMieux Ron Sachs

“I tell everyone, ‘Look, if you are not a little uncomfortable with what you just bought from me, then I didn’t do my job.’” a business trip. He has that type of relationship with his customers. “Arron comes to your home and recommends the fabrics and styles to complement you and what you need,” Dudley said. “He’s a one-stop shop of high-quality materials and goods that accommodates your schedule.” While in Miami he crossed paths with an NFL executive who introduced him to a player. The player moved to Los Angeles and Gober now has a growing business on the West Coast. “I just picked up Scott Hansen, who does the NFL RedZone,” said Gober, who indicated he sees possibilities with TV personalities. “I would love to get Kirk Herbstriet. Kirk dresses well, he dresses real well,” he said, admiring the ESPN College GameDay host’s fashion sense. Style, according to Gober, starts with fabric: Elegance and class depend on design and the cloth that is used. A half dozen fabric books from Italian and British weavers were spread out on a table in his Tallahassee office. While talking he handed three of the books to a customer to take away and review for an appointment scheduled later in the week.

“Italians are phenomenal with wool. Their weaves are just incredibly good; of all the great fabric houses about half are in Italy,” Gober said. He knows fabric, colors and his clients’ businesses. Politicians, he said, need to be discreet about certain things, and he has earned their trust by not being a name-dropper. Gober is a charmer, though, able to quickly establish a familiarity with a stranger. And he’s proud of his work, an artist who enjoys showing and explaining his creations. He was working on a sports jacket when he stopped for an interview. He used it to explain a point about stitching, and on the inside lining was the name of the designer—the client—who is a prominent Florida politician. He immediately swears the viewer to secrecy but immediately recognizes how his request disappointed his visitor. Gober, a Midwestern rebel at heart, found a loophole in his rule—a little one that allowed him to talk about a retired politician, an old friend from Panama City. “Take Allan Bense: He has a great attire for beach shorts and T-shirts, and that’s exactly what he should be wearing when he is in Panama City,” Gober said.

“But when he comes to Tallahassee or he goes to D.C., he needs to look the part. Looking the part is whom you work with and work around, but does his constituency need to see him wearing $1,200 suits? No, no, no, that’s rubbing it in their face.” Understanding the different worlds politicians move in has earned Gober their trust. He says working with him can entail risk because he enjoys cajoling his clients into trusting his sense of elegance and class while breaking the rules. He recalled a time he thought he might have gone too far and almost had second thoughts about a suit he had designed. Almost. “It was bright blue, brighter than anything I have right now. I hesitated to deliver it because I thought, ‘Boy, this is really a bright blue … I’m not sure he’s going to like it or not,’” Gober said. “But I knew it would look good on him and I made him step out of his comfort zone,” while he excitedly searched his phone for a text message about the suit. We tracked down Jon Johnson to confirm the story. The lobbyist was standing outside Senate chambers in the Capitol when a question about a blue suit surprised him. Johnson, like most men, begged off a request for a fashion interview but he clearly liked the suit. “The day I wore it here I got 11 compliments,” Johnson said with a laugh. Such stories are how legends are made. It’ll be interesting to see what happens once Arron Gober meets Kirk Herbstriet. ][


Lions 124 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2015


eep into their sixth decade in public life, Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte, 81, and Van Poole, 80, still dazzle. D’Alemberte, a lawyer and liberal Democrat, quarterbacks high-stakes litigation. Lobbyist Poole, a conservative Republican, strategizes big-ticket legislative battles. D’Alemberte and Poole served together in the House of Representatives in the 1970s, a time when it had not yet occurred to the political class that people who disagreed with you were enemy combatants to be demonized and destroyed. The two old friends took time out from their 18-hour days to reminisce with INFLUENCE Magazine. >>



Van Poole and Sandy D’Alemberte look back at the gentlemanly-days of the Florida Legislature. by Florence Snyder | photos by Mary Beth Tyson



INFLUENCE: People in “the process” talk all the time about “relationships” but a lot of them will cross the street to avoid eye contact with anyone who disagrees with them about anything. D’Alemberte: Van and I were fighting rural Democrats, not each other. We put together the first urban coalition. Poole: They don’t socialize today. They are in their corners. We had legislative trail rides. We had weekend trips to Cedar Key and Pensacola and Sarasota, all of us, and our families. It made a big difference. INFLUENCE: Who paid for that? Poole: Chambers of Commerce. It drew a different kind of crowd than what we have now at the Capitol for “Broward Days.” A real cross-section of the community would come out. Teachers. Small business people. D’Alemberte: I knew the Panhandle where I grew up, and I knew South Florida where I was practicing law, but I didn’t know much in between.

“I can’t imagine what it would be like to come into office knowing from Day One who the speaker will be during my last term in office.” ­— Van Poole

Poole: When I got elected, I didn’t know where Tallahassee was. These weekends gave everyone an education about places we’d never seen. INFLUENCE: So ... junkets paid for by special interests? Did you take heat from the press? Poole: It was all out in the open. INFLUENCE: All?

INFLUENCE: A lot of your class died of cirrhosis of the liver. D’Alemberte: Not everybody. Some went to prison. INFLUENCE: Jeff Gautier? D’Alemberte: There was a cocktail party every night. Jeff brought a date, and a spare date. The Holiday Inn. Howard Johnson’s. The Red Door, to dance. The citrus folks had Old Florida rum. It was awful. But there was other stuff at their bar. Poole: The press was around, without their notebooks. It was an unwritten rule that “it’s after hours.” D’Alemberte: During the day, all our doors were open and reporters were free to walk in. We might change the subject while they were there.

Top: Van Poole, third from left in top photo, is among others sworn into the Florida Legislature on Opening Day, bottom photo, of the 1970 Session. 126 | INFLUENCE SUMMER 2015

INFLUENCE: Tell us about the Florida Mobile Home and Recreational Vehicle Association, headquartered at “the trailers.” When she was reporting for the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Jill Chamberlin likened the trailers to Sodom and Gomorrah. Can you confirm that?

PHOTOS: (Top): State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/20992; State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/21978

D’Alemberte: Lou Wolfson kept a bar upstairs with direct access to the Chamber. He drank Campari all day long.

Left: Don Reed, House Minority Leader, circa 1970.

Poole: We didn’t think about campaigning until right before the filing deadline. D’Alemberte: My biggest expenses were bumper stickers, car tops and some billboards. The first week we posted billboards with the word “Remember.” And we worked up to the campaign slogan, “Remember the name that’s hard to remember.” INFLUENCE: An idea you ripped off from the old Burma Shave advertising? D’Alemberte: We didn’t have high-paid consultants. Poole: They didn’t exist.

close the door. You leave everything in the Chamber. INFLUENCE: Pettigrew’s name comes up a lot. Don Reed, too.

PHOTOS: (Clockwise from top): State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/166217 (Fountain, David); State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/21747 (Dughi, Donn(Donald Gregory); State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/126382 (Florida Division of Tourism)

Top: D’Alemberte during the 1970 Legislative session; Bottom: Claude Kirk visiting a local attraction in Marion County, around 1970.

D’Alemberte: You didn’t want to look too closely at the trailers. Poole: Open bar. Very good cooked-to-order steaks. D’Alemberte: Their lobbyist, Bill Olson, was crippled from parachuting into Belgium with the 101st Airborne in World War II. He was never not in pain. Poole: It was lobbying in the context of the times. D’Alemberte: After I left the Legislature, I was up here a lot to work on the Administrative Procedures Act. Associated Industries was still having its daily free breakfasts in a hotel lobby. Poole: There was a Caucus Club off the side entrance to what is now Shula’s restaurant in the Hotel Duval, It was a private club, but any member of the Legislature could walk in. D’Alemberte: There were people like Dick Pettigrew and Buddy MacKay who just worked all the damn time, and they were brilliantly effective. But I really believe Van and I would not have been as effective if we had not connected outside of “legislative hours.” Poole: I totally agree. You fight all day. You

D’Alemberte: They were such a wonderful pair. They knew how the pieces fit together. They went to law school together and they were great friends. Don did not spend any time at home studying. He was a very quick study and he understood the ramifications of legislation and he could debate anything. Poole: As minority leader, Reed knew how important the rules were. He made all of us read them and study them and know how to use them. By the time Claude Kirk was governor, Reed controlled Republicans so closely that when he’d vote green, all would follow, and then he’d switch to red at the last second, just to show that he could make everyone scramble to change their vote to follow his. D’Alemberte: You didn’t have to file amendments ahead of time. We’d have a stack of them in our desk and start pulling them out and making a train out of them. Poole: Everything is so scripted now. INFLUENCE: It’s depressing to see people reading things they can’t pronounce and don’t understand. Would you encourage young people to run for office today? Poole: You have to be committed, and for the right reasons. You have to be willing to go door-to-door in your district. That’s the only way to learn what people really think. I lost 35 pounds (getting elected). I looked like a prisoner of war. But you’ll get that vote, if you ask for it. D’Alemberte (tongue deep in cheek): Dade County is a big place, so my campaign was expensive … $12,000.

D’Alemberte: We were our own experts. If you had a problem about juvenile justice, you went to Louis de la Parte, Democrat or Republican. Poole: Ralph Turlington understood K–12. And Marshall Harris was damn good. I was on a committee he chaired, and I’ll never forget the first hearing where I could not get a straight answer about anything. Marshall called me over and told me what was really going on. I will always remember that. INFLUENCE: Can it ever be that much fun again? D’Alemberte: No. Poole: The money. Term limits. D’Alemberte: The gift ban was a mistake. INFLUENCE: There seems to be an emerging consensus that terms limits are the root of all evil and that the gift ban was just plain stupid. Poole: I can’t imagine what it would be like to come into office knowing from Day One who the speaker will be during my last term in office. There’s talk about extending term limits to 12 years. That’s pretty much how long legislators were around in the days before term limits. There were some who were around much longer, like Dempsey Barron, but mostly, they went back home (to their professional practices and businesses). ••• It was dinnertime, but D’Alemberte and Poole would not be going home. D’Alemberte, who doesn’t carry a cell phone, looked at his watch and excused himself to join John Thrasher for dinner. “It’s my Republican night,” he said to Poole. Poole picked up his smartphone. It was time for him, too, to get back to work. ][ SUMMER 2015 INFLUENCE | 127

What I’ve Learned ...

Bob Lotane 56, Tallahassee West Nile Virus survivor, communications adviser Interviewed by Christine Jordan Sexton

They were kind of in stunned silence, so by default I was the point man in defending those companies for a while. Granted, insurance companies screw up, but if you take a look at the complaint levels, those companies do a pretty damn good job. They take care of their people. My much-published quote was “These are the companies that largely rebuilt this state after 2004 and 2005 and now they have become political punching bags.” It was the truth. I left FAIFA just before Robin passed away. Thank God I was working with them during her 15-month struggle. They couldn’t have been more supportive. Life is cruel. There wasn’t a better person in the world. Robin was an unbelievable prosecutor, particularly against child molesters. When she passed away she was General Counsel at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles but she had devoted much of her life to charity, particularly the Red Cross. To see her get

The politics of insurance; it’s a tough environment here. The Florida Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (FAIFA) wanted to increase its presence in the debate, and they hired me in 2008 to develop a communications office. I was there when Governor Crist launched a jihad on the property insurers—State Farm and Allstate in particular—when he basically said he’d be glad if they left Florida.

After Robin died, I thought I was dealing with it well. I didn’t realize how angry I was: People were telling me they we were really worried about me. One of the sweetest things I ever heard was from a lobbyist friend who told me that there are “married” people in this downtown environment, but not like Robin and me. That meant a lot. Eventually I struck gold again. It’s amazing. I pretty much had come to terms with

knows every damn thing that’s going on this state.”


cancer, put up such a brave fight, and die at such a young age tore me apart.

“If I’m ever going to get married again, I am going to have to settle, I am going to have to overlook things.” And along came Alissa. I love her in a completely different way than Robin, but I struck gold again. Some people go through their entire life and never get what I have had twice. Healthwise, I have been unlucky. But relationship-wise, it took me awhile, but I got it right later on in life. My most rewarding work has been with the Capital Area Red Cross. In my six years of the board, including being chairman last year, I have donated and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Much of that came from the Red Cross Hurricane Run which Robin and I created, and was renamed in her honor after she passed away. I was in pretty good shape, worked out five or six days a week. Then this thing hit me (West Nile Virus), and I had no idea what was going on. For a few days, I’d get night fevers and sweats in bed. Then one night, I was standing in front of the TV and tried to balance on one foot, and I just couldn’t do it.

Literally, I went from doing one-legged squats on a flipped-over Bosu to one week later crashing into walls. I couldn’t stand up and had to be rushed to the emergency room. I was at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital for four days. 
They thought I had Guillain-Barré syndrome, what former House Speaker Allan Bense had. But then I got an MRI >>



obody knows how lucky we were to have (Chief Financial Officer Tom) Gallagher and (Insurance Commissioner Kevin) McCarty during the 2004 – 05 hurricane seasons. Gallagher was working closely with Kevin in coming up with ways of dealing with the situation having both been in the breach during (Hurricane) Andrew. The large insurance companies were for all intents and purposes bankrupt in Florida, I mean technically we would have had to shut them down—and the smaller companies, some which had barely started—never anticipated having to deal with something like this. It was unprecedented; still is. I remember Kevin and I would go down to the Emergency Operations Center for hurricane briefings. He would go into the agency head meeting with Governor (Jeb) Bush and I’d wait for him. He would come out of those meetings shaking his head saying, “Jeb’s the smartest son of a bitch. He

“West Nile takes over and sucks your respiratory system out. It starts to suck your muscular system out and it left me with transverse myelitis. That basically destroys the protective covering of your nervous system and then the nervous system dies.�


“So I learned even when everything sucks, there is someone who’s got it worse off than you.” —Bob Lotane and it showed a serpent-like lesion twisting around the thoracic region of my spine from T2 to T12. That was when they packed me in a helicopter and sent me to Shands Hospital at UF. They were treating me for everything at Shands. They had me on so many IVs and antibiotics. They took spinal fluid and “cooked it,” that’s what they call it. Ten days later, they said I had dengue fever, which a lot of times presents as a false positive. A day later, it came back positive for West Nile Virus, the worst possible outcome of the three diagnosis. At this point I was pretty much delirious. The paralysis had gone from my right leg to my left leg to my right arm to my left arm and then up to my neck. At this point, the lesion that was snaking around my spine has now gone to the base of my brain. That’s when they told Alissa she might want to start making final arrangements. And if I didn’t die, I probably was not going to be all there whenever this thing ended. Fortunately, God willing, it stopped at the base of my brain and didn’t go any farther. That saved my life. At that point, I was completely paralyzed and could not lift my head off the pillow. One of my doctors said very matter-of-factly there are two ways to deal with this. You can either be depressed, stay in bed the rest of your life, get bed sores, and stare at the TV. Or, you can attack it. At that very second, I pledged to attack it. I started demanding physical therapy. She was an incredible doctor and knew how to press my buttons. Thank God Alissa has been here through this whole thing. I don’t know what I would have done without her. I decided I wanted to do my rehabilitation at Shepherd Center, in Atlanta, which is where Allan Bense went. With a full medical team, they put me on a jet and flew me up to Atlanta and I spent over two months there; three months total in hospitals. Speaking of Allan Bense, nobody could have been better. He was constantly texting Alissa. She always knew what to expect. In fact, I was at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital a couple of months ago for an intense rehab thing and he stopped by to see us. If there is a more graceful, classy guy in this world I haven’t met him yet.


For someone as healthy as I was at the time, to get it like this, the odds are so ridiculously low you couldn’t even measure them. West Nile takes over and sucks your respiratory system out. It starts to suck your muscular system out and it left me with transverse myelitis. That basically destroys the protective covering of your nervous system and then the nervous system dies. I had a pretty good muscular system from a ton of effort; it was literally gone in a matter of weeks. Over time I’ll find out how much damage has been done and what’s going to come back and what’s not going to come back. In one third of the cases you get no recovery. In another third of the cases you’ll get partial recovery; I am already there. In the final third of the cases you’ll get almost everything back. I’ve gotten my arms and much of my upper body back. Hands are tough because there are so many little nerves in there. But I am getting back to where I can pick things up now which I couldn’t do two months ago. And I am getting a good amount of recovery in my core. I can actually push a manual wheelchair which would’ve been a dream back in September. Make no mistake, this recovery is incredibly tough.

They told me to take a year off, but I was doing some work out of the house within about three and a half months. It

was like that after Robin died: My lawyer told me to just go screw around in Europe for a year. Fortunately, I don’t need the money but I feel the need to produce something. I love vacation but I love work too. 
I am doing some work for Hill + Knowlton Strategies as a senior consultant and also with the Florida Association of Health Plans. Fortunately, what little brain I have stayed intact, and those two organizations have been incredibly supportive. Here’s the lesson and it goes back through Robin’s battle with cancer. As stupid as this sounds, we were lucky. Robin spent 15 months battling cancer, and at the outset I told her she wouldn’t have to spend a minute of it alone. And I was able to do that because of my work, because we had the resources to live part time near Moffitt Cancer Center, and because we had good medical insurance. At Moffitt, we would see people getting

chemo all alone. They had to drive themselves there and drive themselves home. You could tell many of them didn’t have any money and their family likely couldn’t take time off to be with them during that utterly depressing exercise. It was heartbreaking the desperation in people’s eyes just from what they are facing healthwise. And some of these people likely did not have health insurance, either. As

unlucky as we were, we would always say how lucky we were.

So I learned even when everything sucks, there is someone who’s got it worse off than you. Granted, I was completely paralyzed, driving my wheelchair by blowing into a tube because they wouldn’t push it for you. But as bad as I was, I saw kids in their 20s who had complete tears of their upper spine. They have no hope of getting anything back. That’s it; they’re done. 
If my life ends tomorrow, I had a damn good run and a lot of fun. I’ve always supported some kind of national health care plan. Knowing what I know about insurance, I knew Obamacare wasn’t the best way to do this, but now that we have something on the books we can fix it. This is the greatest country in the history of the Earth; we can do this. Seeing some of the people I met and the desperation in their eyes, people should not have to go through that. I sometimes bitch that I worked my ass off to get into that kind of shape and what a freaking waste of time it was. But my neighbor said, “No. You know what it takes to get to that level. When you are in pain, you know what it takes to go further.” I am working out every day when I can. That knowledge has helped me a lot. I can only imagine if you are a person who is relatively sedate, to get hit with something like this. Now you have to learn how to work out and start getting into shape. That would be ridiculously hard. I always thought that throwaway line “at least you have your health” was kind of silly. Usually I would just ignore it. Don’t

ignore it; if you or your family have your health, you are incredibly rich. Trust me on that one.

Oh, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t tell your readers: Use your bug spray—those mosquitoes can get you. ][

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Profile for Extensive Enterprises Media

Influence Magazine — Summer 2015  

More pages, more sections in the newest issue of Florida's political magazine

Influence Magazine — Summer 2015  

More pages, more sections in the newest issue of Florida's political magazine

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