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What’s in a Name? Everything. Ranked Florida’s


Influential Association

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

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, our people. Lead by former Speaker of the Florida House and Congressman Tom Feeney, along with the most talented lobby team in Florida, AIF can help your company achieve the level of success in the State Capitol that you have been looking for. Tools of AIF: • State & Federal Legislative Advocacy • Pre-Legislative Session Issue Briefing • Issue Advocacy Campaigns; Statewide & Local • Industry Centric Council Advocacy • Issue & Campaign Related Polling; Statewide & Local • Political Candidate Interviews • Issue Oriented Focus Groups • Business Centric Publications • Issue Based Statewide Conferences To become a member or for more information, please contact Brewster Bevis, Senior Vice President–State and Federal Affairs at 850.224.7173 or bbevis@aif.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.


@ SaintPetersBlog

Like our list or hate it ... The buck stops here The inaugural INFLUENCE 100 list makes its debut.


I’m prepared to live with that. The INFLUENCE 100 list of the most influential people in Florida politics does not include any elected officials. Instead it includes all of the other masters of the universe: The Players, The Thought Leaders, The Lobbyists, The Titans, The Counselors, The Media, The Industry Leaders, The Advocates, The Academics and Wonks and The Legends. I readily admit that the inspiration for the INFLUENCE 100 is Time magazine’s list of the most influential people in the world, which, rather than rank those on the list, breaks the list down into sectors. My two favorite aspects about the INFLUENCE 100—beyond the obvious parlor games it will inspire—are the superb photographs that accompany so many of the profiles and that these bios themselves are written by the honorees’ peers, competitors and admirers. After all, who knows the 100 better? So CFO Jeff Atwater writes about the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Mark Wilson. Current Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli pays homage to one of his distinguished predecessors, Allan Bense. Former Senate President Don Gaetz explains why Lewis Bear is so important. And so on. As with any list, there had to be a cutoff point. At first, I considered a INFLUENCE 250. There really are at least that many people with a hand in The Process. But

that magazine would have run about 300 pages, so I settled on the more accessible INFLUENCE 100. It’s my goal that in a few years, Florida politicos will be as excited to make it onto this list as billionaires are to read their names in Fortune. Meanwhile, though, I just hope that you are psyched about reading the inaugural list. If not, you know who to blame.

Peter Schorsch Publisher


PHOTO: Benjamin Todd


efore you scan through this issue to see who made the inaugural INFLUENCE 100 list, please let me make something very clear. It’s my list. I’m responsible for the facepalming, out-of-left-field choices, as well as the glaring sins of omission. I’m the one who decided not to rank the list (at least not this year). I’m the one who moved so-and-so from the “100” section to the honorable mentions. I’m the crazy one who—clearly with not enough to do—decided to compile a list as ambitious as the INFLUENCE 100. Like it, love it, or hate it—the buck stops here. At first, I thought of inviting a blue-ribbon selection committee to help me sift through the avalanche of nominations. I attempted to set a firm criteria for winnowing the list. I spent countless hours on the phone, picking the brains of much smarter people than myself, including the legendary Lucy Morgan (profiled on page 144). She used to put together her own list of the 100 most important people in Florida politics for the St. Petersburg Times. Finally at the end of the day, I realized it had to be my list. People won’t discuss the list and say, “The selection committee decided … .” This is not March Madness. No, what people will say is, “That S.O.B. Schorsch left me off his stupid list because … .”

INFLUENCE MAGAZINE A FloridaPolitics.com Publication



Peter Schorsch Phil Ammann


Tisha Keller


Rich Bard Bill Prescott


Florence Snyder


Fred Piccolo

CONTRIBUTORS Phil Amman Rosanne Dunkelberger Tisha Keller Gina Melton Buddy Nevins STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS



Mitch Perry Ryan Ray James Rosica Melissa Ross Florence Snyder

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 November 2015, Extensive Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited.


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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.








Some Corrections Are in Order








A story in the previous edition of INFLUENCE incorrectly stated that Florida Justice Association’s Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Paul Jess approved a controversial electioneering mailer in a 2009 special election. In fact, he played no role in its approval and did not work for the committee that produced it. We regret the error.


We asked contributors to this edition for who they think belongs on the INFLUENCE 100, but probably did not crack the list. As you might expect, the answers are quite creative.

Influence, by definition, is the capacity to have an effect on someone or something. For that reason alone, I nominate WTSP investigative journalist NOAH PRANSKY for inclusion in the INFLUENCE 100 (and more) list of influential Floridians. From his work on the state’s divisive red-light-camera controversy to the investigation into “gatekeeper” Beth Leytham, ripple effects from Pransky’s reporting will be felt far beyond the Tampa Bay area. Few people are as dogged in coverage of hot-button local issues than he is. Viewers, both inside and outside politics, are better off with Pransky on the air—speaking truth to power for the benefit of all of us.

Ask any influential person what started them on the path to success and I’ll bet their mother is a key part of the story. She’s our first cheerleader—or perhaps taskmaster, insisting on hard work and persistence. As one of 11 children in an immigrant family, my mother didn’t go to college. But she went back to work for 12 years to pay for four children’s college educations, allowing us to graduate debt free. I’m so very grateful for all the efforts she made on my behalf—and I know others feel the same way about their moms.

Politics are not my thing. In fact, they are pretty damn scary in many ways. Therefore, I can appreciate a guy who makes the entire process seem like a well-oiled machine. CHRIS DUDLEY must carry a crystal ball in his pocket (or at least, a Magic 8 Ball), because he never seems fazed by the temperamental winds at the Capitol. Always with a smile and a handshake, quietly confident and well-connected to those in the right places, Chris is definitely an omission to the 100 worth mentioning.

The most obvious example of where BILL CARLSON showed some influence was when he and some of his cohorts worked for years to get Tampa International Airport to try to attract more international flights. That effort ultimately contributed to a changing of the guard at TIA, where Joe Lopano has now come to be seen as one of the most dynamic leaders in the Tampa Bay area. Carlson has also become involved with Café con Tampa, the weekly Friday morning breakfast meetings in Hyde Park that bring in influential people to talk to the locals.

They are the thin line between state politics and publicly funded chaos. To me, the process of taking an idea from a lawmaker’s spitball session and transmuting it into language that governs our part of the world is a form of workhorse-produced alchemy. There is no “committee substitute” for their diligence—or their quiet influence.

I nominate the UNSUNG STATE WORKER, who doesn’t get enough credit. And I say that not just because I’m married to one. (Jim’s wife Erin works for the Division of Licensing under Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.) State government doesn’t accomplish anything without the rank-and-file employees who get the job done every day. Many of them also make enforcement decisions that can affect the lives of millions of Floridians. They may not have “power,” but they do have influence.

With a résumé that includes stints as political columnist and mayoral spokesman, he’s not your typical bank president. Playing a behind-thescenes role, Iberia Bank’s ABEL HARDING is skilled at connecting candidates and donors, navigating comfortably between Jacksonville’s business-minded Chamber of Commerce crowd and the area’s growing base of progressive activists. First hired as spokesman by former Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown, he was then appointed to the city’s Planning Commission by Lenny Curry, the Republican who defeated Brown. A Baptist minister’s son who led on the push to update the city’s human rights ordinance, look for Harding to run for office.

In the story “Power to the Players,” author Buddy Nevins identifies Keiser University as a “for-profit” school. The school ceased as a for-profit institution as of Jan. 10, 2011. Keiser is a private nonprofit institution owned by a Florida Not for Profit Corporation. Keiser University General Counsel James Waldman says neither Belinda Keiser nor the Keiser family have ownership interest in the corporation or KU. Belinda Keiser is one of several vice chancellors, with a specific title of Vice Chancellor of Community Relations and Student Advancement. Keiser is a member of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF). We apologize for the error.





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FA L L 2 0 1 5


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


76 The Downtown that Lobbying Built Lobbyists are reshaping the downtown Tallahassee skyline with projects filling up the “Golden Block” near the state Capitol. BY ROSANNE DUNKELBERGER

86 Paul Hawkes Goes On the Record The infamous 1st District Court of Appeals building in Tallahassee is no albatross around Hawkes’ neck— and he sets the record straight. BY JIM ROSICA

91 The 100 Most Influential People in Florida Politics (Not in Office) PLAYERS 94 THOUGHT LEADERS 103 LOBBYISTS 106 TITANS 112 BEHIND THE THRONE 119 MEDIA 123 INDUSTRY LEADERS 127 ADVOCATES 132 ACADEMICS 134 LEGENDS 137



29 49



42 Fourth Floor Files

Insider’s Advice

Ashley Kalifeh, Jonathan Kilman and Alan Suskey answer the pressing—and personal—questions about life in the political lane.

49 Polling Effect Steven Vancore explains how politics are influenced by the very instruments used to gauge them.

73 Advocate Profile Holland & Knight is a law firm at the crossroads of litigation and public policy. BY PETER SCHORSCH

148 On Point Platt’s Rules of Lobbying is a must-read for anyone in the thick of politics.


51 Web of Spies Blake Dowling uncovers how illicit websites can threaten data security.

On the Move Policial Aficionado’s Guide


Briefings from the Rotunda


What Lucy Morgan Learned 144

53 The PC Takeover Brecht Heuchan breaks down Florida politics by the dollar signss.

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.

Aficionado’s  Guide to ...

the Political BEST STUFF


GOOD READS Conscious Cause

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BIG SCREEN Working hard begs playing hard— and nothing beats treating yourself to a luxury or two. These products inspire you to not only enjoy your work, but to appreciate the textures and experiences of everyday life. Find something for your holiday wish list, or treat someone special with one of these new products. BY TISHA KELLER

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The Misfit Shine emits a halo of lights that shows your progress towards your daily activity goal while looking fashionable. Shine tracks running, walking, cycling, swimming (up to 50 meters deep) and other activities. Dress it up or dress it down, you pick. The range of sleek accessories includes a sports band, leather bands, necklaces and clips designed for comfort, versatility and style. Starting at $69.99, www.store.misfit.com FALL 2015 INFLUENCE | 21

Hang Tough Created for athletes, by athletes, WODies™ are specifically designed to prevent hand tearing while adding crucial wrist support during those killer Crossfit WODs. Handmade in the USA from high-quality, hypo-allergenic latex-free woven elastic, these patented powerful palm protectors are slightly padded, washable and breathable. $39.95, https://jerkfit.com

Effortless Invite With Hobnob, hosts can create an instantly stunning custom invite that looks amazing on your phone, and send it from your device in less than 60 seconds. Invites are sent via text message and guests can respond with a simple Y or N—no downloads or social logins required. Hobnob centralizes all the information about an event, including integrations with maps for directions, calendars, photos and guest chat. iOS and Android (early 2016); Free AppStore download. https://hobnob.io

A Splash of Buttery Sophistication: Barrow’s Intense is a delicious new way to make craft cocktails. With more than 200 pounds of fresh ginger in every batch and no artificial anything, this liqueur is the perfect gift for people who love to create cocktails at home, cook, bake or just give a unique gift. $29.99, www.barrowsintense.com


Planning Strategy This easy-to-create gift calendar is updated on a rolling 12-month basis. No need to wait until January to enjoy it—just order today and start using it next month. Wooden clipboards are handcrafted using beetle pine reclaimed from our Colorado forests. $29.99 www.artifactuprising.com

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Alls Well that Ends Well Good night nerves, good night brain, good night muscles. This nightcap tranquilizes blood flow, promotes natural melatonin release and stabilizes REM. As you sleep deeply and soundly, your pancreas and liver are gently led to a nocturnal detox. Add 1 teaspoon to 8 ounes of any hot or cold liquid. Delicious with nut milk, water or tea. $55 for 25 servings, www.moonjuiceshop.com


Like dreamers, we imagined spotting Ponce’s landing from atop the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Like admirers, we gazed across the bay at the glittering history of Nights of Lights. Like royalty, we sauntered back to St. George Street for vittles and drinks. And like lovers, we rode off in the starry night to a seaside inn. Through time we traversed. Across ages past. In a place where history is not the same old story.

Nights of Lights ignites the Old City from Nov. 21, 2015, to Jan. 31, 2016. Book your stay with lodging rates from FloridasHistoricCoast.com $79–$399 at FloridasHistoricCoast.com.

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... BIG SCREEN

Cinema Aimed at Gold The fall is traditionally the time when the Hollywood studios release their classier, potentially Oscar-worthy productions. This


holiday season, it seems there are more films based on real people and events than ever. Let’s take a look at some films that may be worth leaving home to see. BY MITCH PERRY

THE 33 – Let’s be honest, after the 33 Chilean miners in 2010 survived 69 days of the claustrophobic horror of being trapped underground, it screamed motion picture material. Any doubts about it being made were erased when U.S.-based journalist Hector Tobar published his fascinating book, “Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine,” last year. This film is probably not suited for those who experience claustrophobia.

Redmayne, coming off his Oscar award-winning performance playing Stephen Hawking last year in “The Theory of Everything.” Alicia Vikander, who turned heads earlier this year in “Ex Machina,” plays the challenging role of Einar’s lover, Gerda. Tom Hooper, whose 2010 “The King’s Speech” took home the Oscar for Best Picture, directs. A bit stuffy for this reviewer’s taste, but it’s undoubtedly geared to attract similar Academy love.

THE DANISH GIRL – 2015 has been the year that transsexuals have more or less gone mainstream, although it’s still not easy to make such a public transition. That makes this English drama about one of the first documented cases of sex reassignment surgery in history back in the 1930s all the more timely and fascinating. The picture depicts the true story of the artists Einar and Gerda Wegener, who met as students in Copenhagen, married in 1904 and were still together in 1930 when Einar transitioned, becoming Lili Elbe. The film stars Eddie

YOUTH – Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, whose “The Great Beauty” was Italy’s Oscar foreign language entry this year, the film follows two longtime friends played by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. Rachel Weisz plays Caine’s daughter, and the story is said to be about the men reflecting on their past and finding that some of the most important experiences in life can come near the end of it. THE BIG SHORT – In the financial disaster genre depicting the 2008 meltdown, we’ve had at least two mainstream releases with the

economic collapse front and center in their narratives: “Margin Call” and “Wall Street Two: Money Never Sleeps.” Now comes “The Big Short,” the film adaptation of the Michael Lewis’ 2010 New York Times best-selling account about the build-up of the housing and credit bubble during the aughts. The rocking cast consists of Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Steve Carell, and the trailer is excellent: Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” plays while various Wall Street types freak out. IN THE HEART OF THE SEA — If you’ve seen the trailer, you know this looks like a major epic journey at sea. The Ron Howard-directed film is based on a true story and adapted from the book written by Nathaniel Philbrick. The whale tale is said to have inspired by Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” It’s an old-fashioned disaster flick in a sense, with a crew dealing with a mammoth whale that ultimately leads them to being shipwrecked for more than 90 days. Stars Chris Hemsworth (“Rush”). >>


THE HATEFUL EIGHT — Like “Django Unchained,” Quentin Tarantino’s latest opus hits theaters on Christmas Day. And like “Django” and “Inglorious Bastards,” it’s a period


piece about bounty hunters, this time set in post-Civil War America. What else do you need to know? It’s Tarantino. You’re either going to see it or you’re not. The stellar cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern and Michael Madsen.

The Internet helpfully provides the intel that Lawrence’s character is partly inspired by Joy Mangano, a designer, inventor and entrepreneur whose best-sellers have included space-saving clothes hangers and a mop that can be wrung without getting anyone’s hands wet. Will Russell’s hot streak end this time around?

JOY — Director David O. Russell is as hot as they come in terms of merging commercial and artistic success in Hollywood these days. In the past five years, he’s directed “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and 2013’s “American Hustle,” all of which got major love from the Oscars. This time around he’s got a film called Joy, and like his previous two films, stars Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro and Bradley Cooper, though you can bet it’s Lawrence who will dominate. If you’ve seen the trailer you have to be intrigued, without really having a clue what it’s about.

THE REVENENT — Alejandro G. Iñárritu follows up his Best Direction Oscar win for “Birdman” with this action-adventure starring Leonardo DiCaprio. He plays an American hunter left for dead in the wilderness but who fights to survive and to get even with the man (Tom Hardy) who did it to him. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS — You may start hearing about this come Thanksgiving. One can only hope it’s better than the last sequence of sequels to the original three classics.


CONCUSSION — Although the NFL now fully embraces the reality of how serious concussions are (the protocol for such players has never been more extensive), it was only about five years ago when there was serious denial about the ramifications in the game this country loves. “Concussion” tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), the Nigerian-born forensic neuropathologist who first identified chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., among football players and wrestlers. The New York Times has reported that parts of this story have been “softened” over concerns that the NFL has expressed, but writer/director Peter Landesman has pushed back strongly over that report, accusing the Gray Lady of “working for the NFL.”

the Political

Aficionado’s  Guide to ... GOOD READS

The 2016 Campaign Books, Explained BY MELISSA ROSS


How many dead trees does it take to elect a president? This election cycle, the 2016 candidates seeking the highest office in the land are not only competing for the best consultants, the most prominent airtime on TV, and the most spacious debate greenrooms, they also want to make sure THEIR red-white-and-blue tome of Deep Policy Thoughts is sitting at the top of the pile on your nightstand. The campaign book is a time-honored tactic, of course. Ever since JFK published the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Profiles in Courage” (which most historians now concede he did not actually quite write), most politicians with national ambitions have figured out they need a smart literary agent on speed dial. A campaign book does three very important things: It establishes gravitas for a Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul or a Hillary Clinton or Carly Fiorina or Marco Rubio, whether real or faked. It introduces a candidate’s ideas to a national audience. And it gets them on TV. I know. In 1995, I was an anchor at CLTV News in Chicago. I did a morning show in those days and interviewed authors every week. Most of them wrote books that were laughably forgettable. Then one day, yet another book came in the mail called “Dreams From My Father.” The press release folded inside the flyleaf said it was written by the “first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review.” “OK,” the morning show producer said. “That sounds decent. Book it.” >>



as a framework to discuss current events and hot-button issues. In fact, the former neurosurgeon is such a whiz at writing bestsellers that although he’s a GOP frontrunner, he’s starting to draw increasing criticism that he’s more interested in selling books than actually winning his party’s nomination. The technocratic Jeb Bush’s “Reply All” was released as an eBook this year. It includes all of the emails from his time in the Florida governor’s mansion. (“Low energy,” you can almost hear The Donald sneering.) Bush’s 2013 release, ”Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution,” sold fewer than 4,600 copies that, by the way, might have helped spark the focus in a paperless offering this time around. Speaking of Donald Trump—he too has a book, naturally. “Time to Get Tough: Make America Great Again!” is actually something of a classy upgrade from Trump’s 2011 book, “Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again,” which featured a “Celebrity Apprentice”-era scowling Trump on the cover. The 2015 version is literally the same book, but it depicts a smiling “you’re-hired” Trump instead. Hey, it’s all about branding. Carly Fiorina’s “Rising to the Challenge“ is a slim volume light on policy prescriptions but with lots of revealing anecdotes about the former CEO’s time at Hewlett-Packard and her struggle with breast cancer. It’s campaign-book-as-PR-tool. For a candidate who has an agenda that is perhaps something other than actually being president—Veep? FOX News slot? Cabinet post?—it’s a book that tells a compelling personal story, a great way to build a stronger relationship with the electorate.

It must also be said that Mike Huckabee’s “Gods, Guns, Grits and Gravy” basically accomplishes the same goal with his evangelical base. Of all the Republicans in the 2016 field, Marco Rubio’s “American Dreams” is the campaign book that is considered the most serious, policywise. With chapters on the middle class, education, taxes and regulations, etc., Rubio’s effort is clearly aiming for whatever street cred exists in the candidate lit genre. And let’s not forget the Democrats. It was hard not to notice Hillary Clinton reminding the Republicans grilling her during that 11hour Benghazi hearing that they could refer back to the particulars of what went down at the embassy “in my book, ‘Hard Choices’!” And yes, Bernie Sanders has a book, “Outsider in the White House.” It’s currently outselling “Hard Choices” on Amazon. What that says about the nominating contest, I don’t know. There are some more. Oh yes, there are more! If you’re crazy about Ted Cruz, you can always pick up “A Time for Truth, Reigniting the Promise of America,” or perhaps Bobby Jindal’s “American Will: The Forgotten Choices that Changed Our Republic” sounds utterly riveting to you. No? Or you could just stick with the tried-andtrue, gold standard of books written about a presidential campaign, instead of reading something that may or may not have been written by the candidate themselves, and treat yourself to Hunter Thompson’s 1973 classic: “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72.” Enjoy, political junkies.


The next week, a very tall, unassuming, skinny black guy came into the studio alone, sat down next to me on the set, and did three minutes on local TV telling me about his book that no one had ever heard of. I had to lean over and double check with him right before we went on the air to make sure I pronounced his first name right. “Sorry to ask you this… umm.. but is it ‘Ba-rock?’ or ‘Bare-uk?’” That’s how much of an unknown author he was. I think we all know what happened after that. That is the power of a campaign book. Every so often, lightning does strike. After “Dreams,” Barack Obama was elected the following year to the Illinois State Senate, then the U.S. Senate, and on to the presidency in 13 short years (with another campaign book sandwiched in). That’s why virtually every candidate in the 2016 race has one. So let’s review. “Profiles” was published way back in 1956, setting the tone for the modern-day campaign book era. But then Obama dialed it up, way up, with “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope”—which earned millions in royalties. Now let’s look at the lay of the land for 2016. Political junkies could literally spend most of the next year reading the stuff these candidates are hawking on the stump (not that I’d actually recommend that). Some of them, like Ben Carson, have practically turned their presidential campaigns into book tours with a campaign component on the side. Carson’s latest, “A More Perfect Union,” is co-written by his wife, Candy, and focuses on the U.S. Constitution

R E P U B L I C A N N AT I O N A L CO N V E N T I O N 2 0 1 6 : : P R E V I E W

Dreaming of Summer ... In

Cleveland says its GE Chandelier in downtown’s Playhouse Square is the world’s largest, permanent outdoor chandelier.

The buckle of the Rust Belt gets a polish as Cleveland prepares for the 2016 Republican National Convention. PHOTO: Courtesy of ThisisCleveland.com




W H E N W E W O R K TO G E T H E R Every day you run your business, and every day politicians and bureaucrats make decisions that impact your business. The majority of the laws and regulations affecting Florida businesses come from Tallahassee, not Washington. And those laws end up on the expense side of your PNL statement. Do you believe politicians understand your business? That’s why business leaders like you created the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The Florida Chamber fights for a business climate that keeps you competitive. We advocate policy, deliver results and hold policy makers accountable. When it comes to improving education, creating jobs, streamlining government, growing wisely and promoting the quality of life that makes Florida the best place to live, work and do business – we can’t do it alone. Join the fight.

Together We’ll Lead the Way www.FloridaChamber.com/WorkTogether

R E P U B L I C A N N AT I O N A L CO N V E N T I O N 2 0 1 6 : : P R E V I E W

The rotunda of the Garfield Memorial soars high above in Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery. President James A Garfield and his wife are buried in the crypt below.

PHOTO: Bigstock 97772816


he last time a political party hosted its convention in Cleveland was in 1936. A lot has happened since then: There was the 1969 incident where the Cuyahoga River, a major tributary into Lake Erie, was so polluted that it caught fire. A slow decline of the city’s industrial base diminished the city’s tax base to the point of bankruptcy in 1978, causing mass urban flight. In 1995, then-Cleveland Browns’ owner Art Modell essentially snuck the team out of the city in the middle of the night to relocate his NFL franchise to Baltimore. It all contributed to most of the world relegating the “mistake on the lake” to persona non grata. However, because of a successful NBA team led by league MVP LeBron James, the careful redevelopment of Cleveland’s waterfront, a focus on growing the city’s biotech medical sector and sheer grit and determination, Cleveland, like many of the GOP candidates vying for the presidential nomination, is getting ready for the national stage, poised to show its best side at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. Young professionals are a large part of

Cleveland’s renaissance. Decrepit downtown buildings have been converted into 2,000 hip apartments and lofts. Instead of streets emptying at 5 p.m., the city is a buzz of activity as people run errands downtown to places like Heinen’s Fine Foods—where a $10 million rehabilitation of the Cleveland Trust Building, designed by the architect of the New York Stock Exchange, transformed the rotunda into a 27,000-squarefoot supermarket with a breathtaking Tiffany stained-glass dome. And there is more green space being planned for these residents and conventioneers, with a new $32 million Public Square Park in the works, designed by James Corner, the visionary landscape architect behind New York City’s High Line. When professionals stay, the good food follows. RNC Convention attendees will benefit from a Cleveland restaurant scene that has steadily been producing higher-profile restaurants, popping its blue collar for James Beard awards and Best New Chef recognition from Food & Wine magazine. “The Chew” host Michael Symon (Lola, B Spot Burgers) and Jonathan Sawyer (Greenhouse Tavern, Trentina, Noodlecat) are the most noted local

gastro-heroes, but long-time restaurateur Zach Bruell (L’Albatros, Chinato, Parallax) and newbies like Eddie Tancredi (Adega) and Dante Boccuzzi (Dante) round out a diverse and esteemed group. But that doesn’t mean that Eastern European comfort food and brew won’t be a draw to the Forest City. The iconic Sokolowski’s University Inn in trendy Tremont still cooks up some of the best Polish food in the country and Sterle’s Country House has been serving ethnic Eastern European eats, polka and beer to Clevelanders since 1954. Newer establishments like Butcher and the Brewer, a downtown beer hall where “old world” cuts of meat are king, pay homage to Cleveland classics, with dishes like the Pierogi Flatbread and Salt-Roasted Beets with whipped goat cheese and pistachios. The award-winning Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Ohio City will offer convention-0goers several locally styledbeers and ales, including the much-lauded Dort-munder Gold, while the nearby McNulty’s Bier Markt serves more than 100 beers and 30 rotating drafts 365 days a year. Is Cleveland ready to for the influx


Top to bottom: A world of comestibles awaits at Cleveland’s famed West Side Market. Natural beauty can be found along the majestic Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Back downtown, Cleveland’s landmark Terminal Tower and other office buildings form the city’s skyline as seen from a bridge over the Cuyahoga River.


PHOTOS (top–bottom): Bigstock 34464197; 107619914 (Michael Shake); 38033227

of the projected 50,000 delegates and >> media expected to participate in the RNC? Destination Cleveland, the city’s newly minted tourism bureau, estimates that Cleveland will have 19 hotels with nearly 5,000 rooms within a 15-minute walk from Quicken Loans Arena and the Convention Center—the epicenters of activity during the Convention. The rest of the participants will be housed within a 40-mile radius of downtown in upscale suburbs like Beachwood to the east, and Westlake and Avon to the west. The $272 million Hilton Convention Center Hotel, funded by a Cuyahoga County bond initiative, is on track to be finished in time for the RNC. Joining other established brands like Westin, Renaissance and Ritz Carlton is a Klimpton Hotel, an upscale brand based in San Francisco that promises modern amenities in an adaptive reuse of a historic building near the Quicken Loans Arena. The already-opened Aloft Downtown is part of a $500 million mixeduse development project in the Flats, the area that winds along the Cuyahoga River. Both Aloft and Metropolitan at the 9, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, will provide a boutique experience to conventiongoers in the heart of the festivities. Financial forecasters expect that the RNC will inject $200 million to $250 million of direct spending into the Cleveland economy, the majority of which will be spent by the state delegations and caucuses holding 1,200 smaller events with local vendors throughout the city. This is a considerable bounce for a city that has already pulled itself up by its bootstraps. ][


Briefings from the Rotunda

Lobbying audits find mistakes big and small Firms call them “accidents,” “accounting errors.”


he results of the first-ever audits of lobbyists’ compensation forms are in, with auditors finding a number of firms either underreporting or overreporting the money they made in 2014. In another case, auditors couldn’t tell who had paid a particular bill. The reports were released by the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee in September. It was the first time under a 2005 state law that lobbying firms were subject to audits. In February, committee staff randomly picked 26 lobbying firms to be audited. Four accounting firms were hired to do the work: Carroll and Co.; Carr, Riggs & Ingram (CRI); Grant Thornton; and Warren Averett. Some firms, such as Paladino Public Affairs, got clean reports. For others, some discrepancies were bigger than others, the audit reports found. For instance, Carroll and Co. auditors looking into the Rutledge Ecenia firm found a string of underreported income. Here are a few: For the second quarter of 2014 (AprilJune), the firm received $20,000 – $29,999 from the city of Miami Beach but reported only $10,000  –  $19,999, and got $10,000 – $19,999 from Community Advocacy Network but reported just $1 – $9,999, the report said. (The law requires quarterly reports but only mandates disclosure of general ranges of how much was made.) In the third quarter (July-September), Rutledge Ecenia took in $10,000 – $19,999 from HCA Healthcare but instead reported 34 | INFLUENCE FALL 2015

$1 – $9,999. For all of 2014, “legislative branch lobbying compensation from Miami-Dade County was in the range from $30,000 – $39,999,” but “compensation from this principal (was) reported as $10,000 – $19,999.” For the second and third quarters each, auditors tallied that “legislative branch lobbying compensation was in the range from $250,000  –  $499,999.” The actual amounts were less, in the lower range of $100,000 – $249,999. Amended reports correcting all those errors, however, were later submitted. Firm shareholder and namesake Gary Rutledge explained that the firm, as the lead contractor, acted as a pass-through and took in money it eventually paid to other lobbyists working on the same accounts. In other words, Rutledge Ecenia only reported what the firm itself kept as payment. “We tried to do the right thing and we very reluctantly amended those reports,” Rutledge said. “We were very transparent.” Carroll and Co. auditors also found that lobbyist Nicholas Millar received $27,590.25 from client AMIkids—a Tallahassee nonprofit that helps troubled kids —in the third quarter of 2014. However, he reported earning a range of only $1 – $9,999. The audit notes that Millar caught the mistake and filed an amended report. “It was just an accident,” he said. “I got more than the usual amount from that

client for that particular quarter.” Lobbyist Louis Rotundo erroneously reported what he took in from the Florida Defense Contractors Association, another report shows. “Compensation for the fourth quarter of 2014 was understated for Florida Defense Contractors Association,” the CRI audit report said. It “should have been reported with a compensation range of $1 – $9,999 instead of $0.” That said, the audit also noted an “amended 4th quarter report was filed.” “I’m the one who found the error,” Rotundo said. “I fixed it.” On the other hand, CRI auditors saw that Karen MacFarland erred in the other direction and overstated by $30,000 her “amounts reported for both legislative and executive branch lobbying for 2014.” “It’s an accounting error … no big deal,” she said. “I’d be more concerned about those that underreport” their revenue. And Warren Averett’s auditors reported that paperwork was lacking from lobbyist Matt Lettelleir for his Tampa-based client, Global Procurement Associates. “The payment schedule calls for payment of $2,000 for four months of services,” the report said. “Five separate payments of $400 each were received by the lobbying firm. One of those payments lacked sufficient documentation that did not enable us to determine who the payment was from.” Lettelleir declined comment when reached.

RFB FAPL’s 11th Annual Conference Focuses on Ethics, Issues in “The Process”


ore than 100 of Florida’s most influential lobbyists gathered recently noting a discussion with the Seminole Tribe of Florida would have to take place in Tampa to learn, network with colleagues, and mingle with legislabefore any final decision can be made. tors at the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists’ (FAPL) 11th Andrew Wiggins, senior director of campaigns and elections with the Annual Conference. Florida Chamber of Commerce, discussed the status of the 2016 elections and The program began with “What You Need to Know to Stay Out of Trouwhere he expected the chips to fall when Nov. 8 rolls around. ble,” an ethics education program focused on the laws and rules regulating the Sachs Media Group’s new media guru, Ryan Cohn, talked about “New Diginteraction of lobbyists, legislators and staff. Presented by former Florida Public ital Media Strategies in Advocacy,” a subject of interest to all advocates who Service Commission Chairman Matt Carter and House of Representatives Genwant to move their clients’ issues forward. eral Counsel Dan Nordby, both attorneys, the three-hour session was well reIn a session designed to scare attendees and raise their online awareness, ceived by participants and many commented it gave them food for thought in Sri Sridharan, director of the Florida Center for Cybersecurity at the Universihow to approach and interact with members and staff. Among those spotted in ty of South Florida, presented “How to Keep Your Data and Yourself Safe Onthe audience were AT&T’s Casey Reed, Price Point Strategies’ Trey Price, Liberty line.” He described a “pineapple,” a device used to gather signals in locations Partner’s Thomas Hobbs, Health First’s Kim Agee, and the with public Wi-Fi networks. Sridharan noted the device Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ recently would operate using a name similar to the location’s Winamed director of government affairs, Justin Thames. Fi name and would, typically, offer a stronger signal with The Florida Association FAPL’s raison d’etre is to enhance the ethical underbandwidth, thus enabling the pineapple to gather of Professional Lobbyists’ more standing of lobbyists and ensure that its members adhere keystrokes of the users who thought they were logged on to an explicit standard of conduct in dealing with public purpose is to enhance the to the businesses’ public network. Byers-Crow Consulting officials, clients, and other members of the lobby corps. Services’ Sharon Crow remarked how she would be more ethical understanding of The association’s guiding principles are centered on honcognizant in the future after hearing Sridharan’s session. lobbyists and ensure that esty, integrity, and respect for the political process. FAPL’s In another session, a panel of political beat reporters mission focuses on education and the ethical conduct including Tia Mitchell, Florida Times Union; Gray Rohrer, its members adhere to an Orlando Sentinel; Matt Dixon, Politico; and Gary Fineout of that fosters a lobby corps that is both knowledgeable and explicit standard of professional. The Associated Press talked about the big issues of 2016 A “Hawaiian Shirt Contest and Wacky Wednesday and what they see even further around the corner. conduct in dealing with Reception” officially began the conference. The Hawaiian The FAPL Educational Foundation was the beneficiary public officials, clients, shirt contestants paraded for those assembled and Barof a Silent Auction during Thursday evening’s reception. ney Bishop was acclaimed winner for his blood-red sunset Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group managed the and other members version of a Guy Harvey-like design. event, which raised more than $4,000, a third again as of the lobby corps. More than three dozen legislators attended, including much as was raised last year. The FAPL Educational Founstate Sens. Jeff Brandes, Wilton Simpson, and Charlie Dean, dation was set up to provide educational opportunities for along with two candidates, state Reps. Jimmie Smith and lobbyists, those interested in entering the profession and Dennis Baxley, who look to succeed Dean, who is termed out in 2016. The crowd others who want to participate in FAPL activities. was in full mingle mode. At Thursday evening’s dinner a live auction was held that raised another Spotted talking in a small group were AT&T’s Casey Reed, Tsoumatales $1,500 for the Foundation. Also, outgoing Executive Director Mark Landreth was Strategies’ Amy Bisceglia and state Sen. Jeff Brandes. In another group were recognized for his service to the profession and presented with several tokens of state Rep. Dana Young and a gaggle of lobbyists along with Politico’s Matt the board’s appreciation for his dedication. Dixon. Still another group included current FAPL Executive Director Amanda At breakfast Friday morning, the Republican Party of Florida chairman, Bowen, state Rep. Jimmie Smith, Bruce Kershner, and former FAPL Executive state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, reported on his activities since taking office in the Director Mark Landreth. House and at the RPOF. Also at the reception were state Rep. Doug Broxson, who traveled from An interesting comparison of “new media” vs. the old business model was Pensacola on business and was able to attend; state Reps. Neil Combee, John the topic of discussion when Allison Neilson of online-only Sunshine State Cortes, Janet Cruz, Dwight Dudley, Shawn Harrison, Mike LaRosa, Chris LatNews, Matt Dixon of Politico, and moderator Peter Schorsch of Extensive Envala, Amanda Murphy and her husband, Neil, along with state Reps. Ed Narain, terprises talked about what it’s like to work in the media these days and how Kathleen Peters, and Darryl Rouson. the 24/7 news cycle affects operations. Thursday’s breakfast featured former state Rep. Joe Gibbons in his role as A unique view of the legislative process was provided in “The Chiefs of Staff, a first vice chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, discussing Democratic Their Role in the Chamber.” Former state Rep. Paul Hawkes, who served Speakplans for 2016. He talked about the ongoing redistricting lawsuits and how the er Tom Feeney, and attorney Craig Meyer, who served Democratic Speaker results would likely play out to the benefit of his side and how they were buildPeter Rudy Wallace as well as Republican Senate President Mike Haridopolos, ing a solid bench of candidates who could prevail. regaled the audience with some of the inside baseball that only a presiding offiBarney Bishop and Ben Pollara squared off over the medical marijuana iscer or their direct reports would know. sue and finally agreed to disagree on what needs to be done vis-à-vis the issue. The final session saw state Sen. Alan Hays and state Rep. Matt Caldwell talk Florida’s chief procurement officer, Roz Ingram, talked about the procureabout water policy and what Florida needs to do in order to protect our most ment process and how vendors need to proceed in order to ensure they are critical natural resource. included on the state’s preferred vendor list, a must before doing business with Wrapping up the conference, FAPL Chairman Dave Mica talked about the the state. organization’s future and recognized nearly two dozen lobbyists who earned State Rep. Dana Young provided the status of gaming legislation in Florida, their Designated Professional Lobbyist (DPL) appellation.



Briefings from the Rotunda

Colleagues mourn loss of Fred Leonhardt, lobbyist, civic leader 36 | INFLUENCE FALL 2015

On behalf of the GrayRobinson law firm, written by Chris Carmody and Robert Stuart, Fred’s long-time colleagues.

PHOTO: Courtesy FloridaPolitics.com


red Leonhardt was a man of high integrity, strong intellect, and deep faith with a heart of great compassion and humility. He loved unconditionally, and was loved by his wonderful family, by his countless friends, and by our firm. The man truly never met a stranger and was a tremendous asset to our firm, to our community, and to our state. We cannot begin to describe how much he will be missed. Since he joined GrayRobinson in 1992, he has in many ways been the most publicly visible member of our firm throughout the state. Whether it was serving on countless nonprofit boards, in gubernatorial appointments, leading economic development initiatives, or actively participating in the political process, Fred was (in a word) everywhere. His many clients, and anyone who had the pleasure of working alongside him knew of his tireless work ethic, his passion for their cause, and his unique ability to be “in the right place at the right time” and position himself for success on their behalf. It was an ability that was evident from the moment he joined our firm and one that we now must strive to recreate in his absence. He was so proud of our growth and expansion across the State and, perhaps more than any of us, took such great pride in proclaiming what we built together as “Florida’s Law Firm.” He was, beyond his immense talent and good instincts, the consummate cheerleader who kept us all motivated and engaged to do our best for our clients, and for our communities. In his seemingly never-ending volunteerism, his service changed the course of several organizations that today we may take for granted. From the Central Florida Sports Commission, to the Boy Scouts, the Central Florida Partnership, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise Florida and so many others, Fred invested his time and talents selflessly to ensure the long-term prosperity and development of nonprofits and civic groups that were lucky enough to have him. Fred loved his family in a way that we all hope we can. He and Vicki, his wife of more than 40 years, have two children who were the pride of his life, and his new granddaughter brought complete joy and fulfillment. But if you knew Fred, you know that we all were family. He would have done anything for anyone and lived out a faith in and commitment to his fellow man that will forever serve as an example to us all. Intuitively we know that time will not stop, and that life will go on. But today, that doesn’t seem possible. Central Florida, and we would argue our entire state, has lost a giant. We have lost a beloved colleague and friend, his family has lost a father and grandfather. Somehow we will endure and do what is right because, above all else, that is what Fred would have wanted. He was nothing if not in continuous motion. In his honor, and for his memory, we will endeavor to do the same. We love you, Fred. Rest easy.

RFB SSG again tops as lobbying firms report 2nd quarter compensation SOUTHERN STRATEGY GROUP has again led all firms in median compensation for lobbying the Florida Legislature during the second quarter of 2015, taking in a reported $2.29 million, according to records filed with the state. That was an increase from SSG’s first-quarter reported median of $2.25 million. Ballard Partners was second in Q2 compensation with $2.16 million, and Ron L. Book was third with $1.73 million, records show. Overall, registered lobbying firms reported median revenue of $34.83 million in the second quarter. Lobbying firms are required to report their income every quarter, but only in general ranges, starting with $1 – $9,999, then $10,000 – $19,999, continuing in similar increments. Exact dollar amounts are reported for individual clients that pay $50,000 or more. Rounding out the top six, all of whom reported more than $1 million each in median compensation, were Capital City Consulting ($1.29 million), Greenberg Traurig ($1.04 million) and Corcoran & Johnston ($1.01 million). In the next tier, reporting $500,000-under $1 million in median lobbying revenue, were Metz Husband & Daughton ($800,000), GrayRobinson ($790,000), Johnson & Blanton ($770,000), Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC ($746,000), The Rubin Group ($740,000), and Floridian Partners ($665,000). Reporting a median of less than $500,000 in the second quarter were Strategos Public Affairs ($489,000), Smith Bryan & Myers ($475,000), Capitol Insight ($430,000), The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners ($430,000), Colodny Fass ($410,000), Anfield Consulting ($405,000), The Mayernick Group ($395,000), Spearman Management ($370,000), The Fiorentino Group ($370,000), Gunster Yoakley & Stewart ($360,000), Becker & Poliakoff ($345,000), Holland & Knight ($335,000), Advantage Consulting Team ($330,000), Heffley & Associates ($320,000), Pittman Law Group ($295,000), PooleMcKinley ($290,000), Foley & Lardner ($260,000), and Rutledge Ecenia ($260,000). FALL 2015 INFLUENCE | 37



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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Husband, Michael. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. Help clients identify impediments and opportunities, analyze options for overcoming or achieving them, then design and execute a successful political and public policy strategy. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I believe in able-bodied individuals’ responsibility to use their God-given talents to meaningfully participate in our economy, as well as the obligation, as members of a compassionate society, to care for those who are unable to do so for themselves. If you have one, what is your motto? I don’t; I can’t get on board with bumper-sticker mentality. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? Outside of lobbying, I enjoy serving as a Guardian ad Litem for the 2nd Circuit. Three favorite charities. Catholic charities and some local foster-care-oriented groups. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Actually, no. But wine is a recurring theme. What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Hopefully passing some of the bills that were on third reading post April 28, 2015 @ 1:15 pm. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be ... Since that really is a mutual selection process, I believe that Capital City Consulting’s clients reflect our expertise, personalities, and the like … but being on a first-name basis with David Beckham would be cool.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? Keeping my head above water and feet on the ground in a very fast-paced and competitive business. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? That question leaves almost no room for a moderately stylish female’s answer. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? Depends :) Other than SaintPetersBlog.com, your reading list includes … Sayfie, New York Times, Tallahassee Democrat (I know, I know, but it’s our only local news option) What swear word do you use most often? It’s really context-specific. What is your most treasured possession? Chocolate lab, Shelby. Although she would resent being called a possession. The best hotel in Florida is … I really love the Gulf of Mexico beaches, so I have to go with Sandestin. 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? As of today, Trump, Fiorina, Carson, and Cruz. While I like some of them, I would want to discuss their general election strategies as well as my belief that failing to put a popular Ohioan and popular Floridian on the same ticket is a major missed opportunity. Favorite movie. Any movie that lasts less than 45 minutes. A short attention span and undiagnosed narcolepsy are to blame. When you pig out, what do you eat? Goat cheese and pepper jelly. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? I feel like today’s tenor and topics of political debate would make James Madison want to order a round of shots. Which could be fun.


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? Wife, Jessica Hoppe, four boys, one girl: Max, Isabel, Liev, Blake and Felix. Plus, I work with Jon Yapo. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. As a lawyer and lobbyist, I advocate for clients and help them find solutions whether government is their pathway to change or their biggest obstacle to success. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. I believe in a limited government that primarily both respects and relies upon the responsibility of the individual to his or her family, community and country. If you have one, what is your motto? Don’t have one, but since I am from New Jersey it might be: What’s a motto with me? Nothin’, what’s a motto with you? During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? I have enjoyed representing a variety of individual and nonprofit pro bono clients, but representing a family with a special needs child to help get the services she desperately needed stands out. Three favorite charities. Make-a-Wish, St. Jude, Guys with Ties. Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Don’t quit lobbying until it’s really, really over.

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

What are you most looking forward to during the Legislative Session? Looking forward to seeing how the focus on health care reforms shakes out, and whether Florida can develop solutions that are models for national reform. Our Foley team is advocating for a few health care reforms this year.

Jonathan Kilman


Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? There isn’t one client accomplishment of which I am most proud, but I am proud that my colleagues and I have maintained a tireless work ethic over the years. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? I don’t own Gucci loafers, but I have a pair of suede loafers that I break out on special occasions. Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corps reporter and why? I plead the fifth on singling out any member of the press. Nothing good can come of it. Other than SaintPetersBlog.com, your reading list includes … For politics, it’s Sayfie Review and Drudge Report, daily. Sunday New York Times over coffee with my wife, Jessica, is a tradition. What swear word do you use most often? So hard to choose; they all make life so much more colorful. What is your most treasured possession? It’s not a tangible thing, it’s time with my family. My wife would say it’s my iPhone. The best hotel in Florida is … Boca Beach Club has become a favorite because it’s quickly accessible for a weekend and has never let me down. Ocean Reef Club is nice for disconnecting. 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? I’d like to have Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist, Bill McCollum and Marco Rubio on all at once, so they could duke it out and argue why they’d be better at managing the state’s current challenges. Favorite movie. “The Godfather,” as if there were any other reasonable response. When you pig out, what do you eat? Pizza. Followed by ice cream. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Abraham Lincoln. Or Moses. For different reasons, obviously.


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FOURTH FLOOR>FILES Significant other? Children? Grandkids? Husband to Aelon, father to Reis. Striving every day to be better than I was yesterday at both. In 25 words or less, explain what you do. I am a voice for my clients in front of the legislative and executive branches, helping them develop and implement winning strategies. Without using the words Democrat, Independent or Republican, conservative or liberal, describe your political persuasion. My political persuasion has been molded by the people who have influenced my professional career the most—Congressman Bill Young, former Senate President Jim Scott (my uncle), and Congressman David Jolly. I like to say that I am a “Pinellas Republican.” If you have one, what is your motto? Psalm 144 has guided me through many phases of my life … from the military to present-day business pursuits. A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight. During your career, have you had a favorite pro bono client? I don’t know about calling them clients, but I have always tried to help connect deserving nonprofits with decision-makers that can help advance their cause. Three favorite charities. Aelon and I support Young Life, Seminole Boosters, and Kidz1stFund—these three probably most embody our passions of faith, Seminole football, and helping children.

Alan Suskey PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson


Any last-day-of-Session traditions? Watching the final moments of session, taking a short break, and then wondering when the next Special Session will start … What are you most looking forward to during the 2016 Legislative Session? I always look forward to the crowds and people being in town … policy issues come and go, but my true love for this job is the people in the process. If you could have another lobbyist’s client list, it would be … I wouldn’t say I “want” their clients because I love my clients and the relationships I have built with them. There are a number of people I respect in this process,

though. Nick Iarossi and what he has built at Capital City Consulting, Chris Dudley and his ability to be the most influential person in the room but still be the nicest guy in it at the same time, and David Ramba for being the guy that first taught me “keep it small, keep it all.” Professional accomplishment of which you are most proud? It’s a tie for me. Serving two tours in Iraq alongside the bravest men and women our country has to offer was something I will never forget. Also, having the opportunity to work for and learn from one of the greatest legislators, leaders, and men in Florida’s history, Congressman C.W. Bill Young. Lobbyists are often accused of wearing Gucci loafers; do you own a pair of Gucci loafers? If not, why not? No. My Santonis don’t like to share closet space ... Who is your favorite Florida Capitol Press Corp reporter and why? I have to go with [Marc] Caputo. His snark and wit are usually unmatched in social media and traditional reporting … and I forgive him for being a UM fan. Other than SaintPetersBlog.com, your reading list includes … Politico, St Pete Times (yes, I still call it that), Jackson County Floridan (hometown news), and the 500 LobbyTools emails I get every morning. What is your most treasured possession? When I moved into my new office, Reis gave me a little foam football that said “#1 Dad” and asked if he could put it in my office—it may be small, but it makes me smile every time I look at it and reminds of my No. 1 job in life. The best hotel in Florida is … The Vinoy in the ‘Burg, hands down. It is a Florida classic and close to all of the things I love most in St. Petersburg. Before the “gift ban,” what was your favorite restaurant in Tallahassee? What is your favorite today? I wasn’t lobbying in Tallahassee prior to the gift ban. Now, I am a Governor’s Club guy. The service is impeccable and the food is always spot-on. If you could have dinner with a historical figure no longer living, who would it be? Congressman Charlie Wilson and I would have Anthony Bourdain cook and provide refreshments.


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Polling Effect steven vancore explains why the very act of polling can be a powerful political force.


NFLUENCE Magazine’s list of the most influential Floridians does not include a single pollster. That’s a good thing. Pollsters should not be influential. Identifying a pollster as influential is akin to naming the home plate umpire the game MVP. But what about polls? Are they influential? Yes, beyond a shadow of a doubt valid and reliable polls can be very influential. As we see in the presidential race, if a poll shows a candidate doing well, there are immediate positive consequences: 1. More attention is paid to that candidate by the news media and the public. 2. Money begins to flow into campaign coffers, as donors want to support the person they like and think will win. 3.  The cycle repeats itself because increased coverage and campaign donations help separate the candidate from the pack. If a poll shows a candidate or the candidate’s message faring poorly, a down-

ward spiral can take hold. The media loses interest (after all, who wants to be on the bus with someone polling at 1 percent?) and donors will often follow. Poor polling results will often adversely affect candidates’ views of the race and consequently alter their behavior. Losing candidates often begin to engage in counterproductive practices and take extreme positions in the hope of catching fire with the electorate—usually to their own detriment. While the influence of polls is clearly evident in the current presidential melee, polls have a similar effect on down-ticket races. Donors, especially institutional donors like professional trade associations, have limited resources and depend on polls to help guide their decisions, as they too want to back winners. With literally dozens of races to choose from, dependable polls can help direct scarce dollars into winnable races and away from unwinnable long shots. We’ve seen it time and time again: Candidates’ confidence in their ability to win will almost always ebb and

flow with the feedback provided by a poll. But here’s the rub. Like a good umpire or referee, the call itself has to be trusted. The pollster must be seen as being a credible voice, with a product that can be counted on to be both reliable and valid. Pollsters who put a thumb on the scale rarely last long in this business. Pollsters who call it wrong one too many times are also cast off the island. And pollsters who use shaky techniques and unreliable or unproven methods also don’t last long. It’s a good thing that those who call balls and strikes are not on the Top 100 list—but perhaps there should instead be a slot reserved for the products they produce. 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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{ insiders’ ADVICE

Web of Spies blake dowling uncovers how illicit websites can threaten data security.


hat happens when a data breach occurs? We hear about it almost every day. Target was the victim of a massive client data theft in 2013, the U.S. government just had millions of employee data stolen in June. In July the Ashley Madison website was hit with an embarrassing hack. Ashley Madison is for married people to arrange “dates.” That’s really not a good idea, but if you do, keep it low tech! Back to the issue at hand. I saw a piece on “60 Minutes” recently where a guy files fake tax refunds to the tune of $100,000 or more a year in fraudulent proceeds. When asked where he got the Social Security numbers he said the Dark Web, where everything is for sale. Have you heard of the Dark Web? Most people haven’t, according to polls. The traditional Internet is where search engines like Google scan when you are looking for something. Then there’s the Dark Web, which is completely different. The Dark Web is a collection of thousands of websites that use anonymity tools such as Tor and I2P to hide their IP addresses. To access that world you need a Tor browser. It’s most famously been used for black market drug sales and pornography, but the Dark Web also enables

anonymous whistleblowing, selling hacked data and protecting users from surveillance and censorship. Criminals want to operate in such a space to make it harder for authorities to find them. This summer Ross Ulbricht, founder of Dark Web site Silk Road, was sentenced to life in prison. The judge handed down the maximum sentence allowed for the money laundering, computer hacking and conspiracy to traffic narcotics charges against him. Silk Road gave its customers online access to unregistered firearms, drugs, fake identification and any other illicit black market item someone might want. The easy access to drugs the site provided, and resulting fatal overdoses, led the judge to hand down such a harsh sentence. Silk Road’s servers were in Iceland and owned by fake identities that Ross created from his Austin, Texas headquarters. The multilayered digital deceptions kept authorities at bay for two years. From 2011 to 2013, Silk Road went global. Transactions made exclusively using Bitcoin—the hard-to-trace digital currency—provided another layer of deception. By the time of Ross’ arrest he had amassed a fortune of $18 million worth of bitcoins. Although most of what you’ll hear

about the Dark Web focuses on the criminal, it has its advocates. Those who want to legalize controlled substances contend that taking the drug trade off the street removes the violence from such activity, a worldwide problem. Also, other Dark Web advocates contend it provides a platform to speak freely and avoid digital government oversight. The National Security Agency watches most of what we do on the Internet. But with the Dark Web, if you were a corporate whistleblower you could post negative information without revealing your identity. And, of course, it’s a place where personal data is bought and sold. To that end, keep passwords long and complicated, keep an eye on credit reports and credit card statements, shop cautiously online, and shred all sensitive mail before throwing it away: There are people are out there hunting and looking to sell personal data of all kinds.

Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published in a variety of regional publications. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech. com or at www.aegisbiztech.com.


{ insiders’ ADVICE

The PC Takeover Advocates for Business Growth. Families for Lower Taxes. Council for Stronger Neighborhoods. Citizens for Responsible Leadership. The list goes on and on. It is becoming more difficult for the founders of new entities to manufacture original titles. In fact, there are hundreds of groups with benevolent, ambiguous-sounding names like these organized for the exclusive purpose of engaging in politics of one kind or another in Florida. With so many well-named and obviously altruistic groups looking out for regular folks, it is a wonder how anything in Florida could ever go wrong. These are the groups classified as the Political Committees (PC). Well-funded and highly organized political advocacy groups are not a particularly new spectacle in Florida. The new spectacle is the growing effect of the political committees and their tremendous influence on the Florida political environment. During the past four election cycles, political committee fundraising has been steadily on the rise. PC fundraising through quarter two of 2015 has more than doubled—217 percent—of what it was at quarter two of 2007. The PC share of all political fundraising is up too—14

brecht heuchan breaks down Florida politics by the (money) numbers.

percentage points since 2009—and now accounts for nearly two-thirds of all state political fundraising. At ContributionLink, we typically fo-

the PCs of Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. Of the total PC spending amount, most of it ($225 million) was spent on vendors and administrative expenses, in-

Thru Q2 2015

Thru Q2 2013

Thru Q2 2011

Thru Q2 2009

Thru Q2 2007

PC Fundraising






PC fundraising % of all fundraising






cus on where political money comes from; it tells a story, and that story helps our clients make better decisions. But when it comes to the emerging world of political committees, it is just as telling to analyze where the money goes. Until now, this article has centered on political committee fundraising; but going forward, I will be writing here about political committee spending. Who or what are these political committees, particularly those affiliated with elected officials, spending this money on? It is not what you might think. For context, since the start of the 2014 election cycle through July 31, 2015, $336.5 million was spent by Florida’s political committees, including spending by

cluding everything from minor bank fees to major media buys. The remaining $111 million of PC spending was in direct contributions to other candidates ($14 million) and committees ($97 million). Of the 1,000 plus political committees organized in Florida, none are more scrutinized than the 100 or so of those affiliated with politicians, the ones we call “Office Holder Affiliated” committees (OHAs). OHAs are used to advance the political objectives of the politicians who run them. And while these particular committees understandably get most of the media attention, they are mathematically much less relevant, making up a comparatively small part of the political


{ insiders’ ADVICE committee spending pie. Since the start of the 2014 election cycle, OHAs have accounted for 42 percent ($142 million) of all PC spending, but that total number drops radically to just 14 percent ($30.1 million) when controlling for the outlier committees of Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. Curious about the timing of OHA spending, we charted it too. Like the rest of the donor community, OHA spending has a cadence, which corresponds to the political and legislative calendar, showing modest upticks in spending as committee weeks and sessions approach, with then a big spending jump in the run-up to the election. Finally, we analyzed the biggest players in the OHA space, leaving out the Scott and Crist committees. The findings were not surprising. The House and Senate leadership, and those vying for it, dominated the top spots in each category. OHAs with highest contribution amounts to candidates: 1. F  lorida Roundtable (Richard Corcoran, $61,000) 2. F  lorida Innovation Fund (Seth McKeel, $55,500) 3. F  lorida Conservative Leadership Fund (Dana Young, $48,519) 4. G  rowing Florida’s Future (Steve Crisafulli, $46,000) 5. F  lorida Leadership Committee (Jack Latvala, $44,000) 6. T  reasure Coast Alliance (Joe Negron, $43,031) OHAs with highest contribution amounts to other candidates and committees: 1. F  lorida Leadership Committee (Jack Latvala, $1,096,000) 2. I nnovate Florida (Bill Galvano, $838,400) 3. P  rotect Our Liberty (J Negron, L Benacquisto, G Richter, D Simmons, A Flores, A Gardiner, R Garcia, W Simpson, $824,611) 4. T  reasure Coast Alliance (Joe Negron, $544,031) 5. F  lorida Conservative Majority (Joe Negron, Don Gaetz, Andy Gardiner, $519,227) OHAs receiving the most amounts of money from other OHAs: 1. T  reasure Coast Alliance (Joe Negron, $421,000) 2. F  lorida Grown PC (Adam Putnam, $419,616) 3. T  he Committee for a Better Florida, Inc. (Andy Gardiner, $412,500)


Since the start of the 2014 election cycle through July 31, 2015, $336.5 million was spent by Florida’s political committees, including spending by the PCs of Gov. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist.

{ insiders’ ADVICE

Like the rest of the donor community, OHA spending has a cadence, which corresponds to the political and legislative calendar. 4. P  rotect Our Liberty (J Negron, L Benacquisto, G Richter, D Simmons, A Flores, A Gardiner, R Garcia, W Simpson, $329,663) 5. S  pace Coast Liberty Caucus (Andy Gardiner, $280,000) Candidates receiving the most amounts of money from OHAs: 1. Ellyn Bogdanoff ($38,000) 2. Tom Lee ($30,918) 3. Chris Latvala ($25,000) 4. Jeff Brandes ($22,000) 5. Shawn Harrison ($22,000) 6. Kathleen Peters ($20,500) 7. Jeff Atwater ($19,500) 8. Adam Putnam ($19,500) 9. Rene Garcia ($19,000) 10. Daniel Leyva ($18,750) With the decentralization of State Party fundraising, a State Senate map in flux, leadership fights raging


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

in each chamber and an important election on the horizon, look for political committees to increasingly flex their muscle and make an even larger impact on the politics of Florida. Notes: • The term “Political Committees” includes Political Action Committees, Electioneering Communication Organizations, Independent Expenditure Organizations and Party Affiliated Committees, but excludes state political parties. • All statistics and finance figures, unless otherwise noted, account for data captured from 11/07/2012 (the day after the 2012 general election) through July 31, 2015. • All statistics and finance figures reflect state level data, not federal or local.

Brecht Heuchan is the founder of Contribution Link, a leading data, fundraising and political intelligence firm. www.contributionlink. com, info@contributionlink.com, @contlink.

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At the Crossroads of Litigation and Public Policy

PHOTO: Courtesy Holland & Knight

Holland & Knight: Steeped in history, always forward thinking Florida has long been a home for confident optimism. It’s more than just a state, but a state of mind. Few embody Florida’s sense of history and determination more than Holland & Knight, the powerhouse law practice with a stable of more than 355 lawyers in eight offices across the state. With deep roots in Florida politics, Holland & Knight has emerged as the second-largest law firm in the state and 46th largest in the nation. Holland & Knight was founded in 1968 with the merger of two law firms, each possessing established links to West and Central Florida commerce and industry. The firm’s namesakes were founding partners Peter O. Knight, the former Fort Myers mayor and state legislator, and Spessard Holland, Florida’s 28th governor who served in the U.S. Senate from 1946 to 1971. Benefiting from such a robust Florida pedigree, few can deny the strength of the Holland & Knight Florida Government Advocacy Practice. Its roster includes the state’s 40th governor, former members of the Florida Senate and House, and former senior staff for members of the Florida Legislature, Cabinet and other executive agencies. Led in Tampa by former Gov. Bob Martinez and by veteran attorney Mark Delegal in Tallahassee, the firm’s advocacy group has about 30 members statewide, 16 of them registered Florida lobbyists, most

based in the capital city. Another 15 attorneys and related professionals represent Florida clients before local governments and regulatory authorities in Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and South Florida, as well as Washington, D.C. The federal advocacy division includes former U.S. Reps. Jim Davis and Ron Klein. Local government teams focus on a broad range of community issues, working with developers, construction/engineering firms, and other types of companies doing business with municipalities. Holland & Knight associates offer legal expertise on topics such as land use, zoning, economic incentives, government contracts, bid protests and PPPs. One highly regarded case involved former state Rep. Miguel de Grandy, who assisted Aecom in securing a $1.6 billion Miami sewer project contract, guiding clients through a combative bid process. Martinez played a key advisory role in acquiring construction bids for the newly announced Tampa International Airport expansion project. Most lobbying firms struggle to develop such a deep city, state and national infrastructure—one Holland & Knight has cultivated for generations. For proof of the firm’s scope, one needs to look no further than the extensive Holland & Knight client list that includes Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, the Florida Chamber Of Commerce, pharmacy giant


Walgreens, State Farm Insurance, New York Life, Florida Phosphate, ARAMARK, Florida Press Association, Shands Teaching Hospital, Florida Brewers Guild, WaWa Inc., Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Osceola County and the City of West Palm Beach. While offering an unprecedented political and advocacy footprint in Florida, many fail to realize that Holland & Knight is also among the top Washington, D.C., lobbying firms, with a staff of nearly 100 specialists who supply litigation support and a substantial network of professional connections. When ranked by federal lobbying revenue, Holland & Knight places sixth in the nation. “We are proud to serve Florida businesses in all three levels of government and that is something that we do better than anyone else,” Martinez said. “The Washington, D.C., piece is something that really sets us apart from other Florida firms, and we find that our clients appreciate having a unified strategy.” When businesses and large organizations face the crossroads of litigation and changing public policy, Holland & Knight —fearless in tackling tough issues—emerges as a trusted partner providing skilled guidance and expert advice. A notable example was the team’s successful defense of energy utilities Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light Co. as they faced a class-action challenging the Florida law allowing customers to be billed in advance


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PHOTOS: Courtesy Holland & Knight


for construction costs of nuclear power plants. In that instance, Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of the action by a lower court. Holland & Knight represented Florida Education Foundation agencies in a lawsuit challenging the state’s Tax-Credit Scholarship programs. The firm also has been active on the contentious issue of tort reform, working closely with the Florida Justice Reform Institute. “There is a strategic advantage when our Florida business clients have respected lawyers involved from the get-go. We bring a long-term prospective that positions our clients well if litigation becomes necessary …,” Delegal said. In politics, Holland & Knight attorneys have earned a proud reputation for trustworthiness and effective representation before all branches of government, regardless of party. “The influence of some firms can fluctuate depending on who is in power,” Delegal said. “That has never been our strategy. We’ve maintained our reputation for effective government relations by having a tireless, talented team of advocates with strong relationships on both sides of the aisle.” With that in mind, several recent additions to the government affairs practice bring solid Republican credentials: Mark Delegal, who brings a 20-year record as one of Tallahassee’s most effective lobbyists, has worked tirelessly on a variety of Republican campaigns. He also was a member of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Finance Committee in 2014. Before joining Holland & Knight, Kimberly Case worked in senior staff roles for three Republican members of the Florida Cabinet, most recently as Pam Bondi’s director of legislative affairs. Former Governor Martinez joined the firm in 2007 based in Tampa, where he is chairman of the Florida Government Advocacy Team. Miguel de Grandy was in the Florida House of Representatives from 1989 to 1994, playing an active role in several matters, including redistricting. Mike Anway most recently was Health and Human Services (HHS) policy coordinator to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. He also was health care counsel for U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida and U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas. From issue advocacy and litigation to dispute resolution and government affairs, Holland & Knight has it all covered to give clients a unique combination of Florida history, innovation, and professionalism. ][





“The influence of some firms can fluctuate depending on who is in power. That has never been our strategy.” — ­ Mark Delegal





Downtown Renaissance Lobbyists reshape Tallahassee’s skyline with construction projects in the ‘Golden’ Block near Florida’s Capitol

PHOTO: Courtesy Lewis + Whitlock Architects, PA


The new Tallahassee headquarters for Ballard Partners fills the corner of Monroe Street and Park Avenue in this design by Lewis + Whitlock Architects. The firm took care to save the venerable David S. Walker Library at left.



PHOTO: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/264087

“I thank our lucky stars every day that a lot of lobbyists and lawyers and state associations came in here and bought up a lot of these historic buildings and renovated them and brought life back to them.” — Jay Revell


hen Paul Bradshaw came to town to attend Florida State University’s law school in 1981, he wasn’t impressed by the uphill view. “The whole downtown area was blighted. It was sketchy. There’d be empty buildings, smashed windows and stuff,” he recalls. “There were cinder-block shanties over where the federal court is (now).” Thirty-plus years later, the founder of Southern Strategy Group sits in an office building at the top of that hill, surrounded, he says, by a revivified city center—and lobbyists like him can take the credit for much of that improvement. His firm recently remodeled a midcentury vintage building on East College Avenue to house a new locally owned restaurant, offices and a pied–à–terre for out-of-town staff. Around the corner on South Monroe Street, the Metz Husband Daughton firm moved into a redesigned

“What you see is this bubble in downtown Tallahassee— that’s completely lobbyist-driven—has allowed the redevelopment to occur.” — Paul Bradshaw

Traffic in 1959 flows past the corner that will be occupied by Ballard Partners’ new building. Plans for the six-story structure include space for a fine-dining restaurant and five floors of leased office space. Ballard will occupy the top two floors.

space with a 21st century sensibility. Lobbyist/restaurateur Adam Corey just opened his most ambitious project yet in nearby Cascades Park: The Edison Restaurant. Adams Street Advocates created their own modern-style oasis in a small slice of prime real estate just steps from the Capitol. And lobbyist Brian Ballard unveiled plans for a completely new $15 million, six-story office building on one of Tallahassee’s choicest corners. “What you see is this bubble in downtown Tallahassee—that’s completely lobbyist-driven—that’s allowed that redevelopment to occur,” Bradshaw says. Jay Revell, executive director of Tallahassee Downtown, the city’s downtown improvement authority, gives the

community of lobbyists and their ilk credit for the area’s renaissance. “I kind of thank our lucky stars every day that a lot of lobbyists and lawyers and state associations came in here and bought up a lot of these historic buildings and renovated them and brought life back to them. If that first wave of those type of investments didn’t happen 20, 30 years ago we might have lost more of our historic fabric than we did,” Revell said. “Now, I think we’ve entered this new period where you’ve got some of these heavy-hitter power players like Brian and the Southern Strategy Group guys coming in and taking up buildings that are probably not serving the highest and best use, that are primed for redevelopment, and putting a whole new spin on them. We’re seeing people who have a proven track record of success coming in and venturing into the real estate world. They have the capital available to them from their day jobs … and they’re starting to see success there. We’re very excited, very bullish.” While the capital city’s downtown is getting a much-needed facelift, the lobbyists say their motives aren’t purely altruistic. “I’m not trying to be a saint for Tallahassee,” Ballard said of his office building investment. “It’s one of those deals where we can fit a need (and) it can be a practical business decision. I won’t get rich, but I won’t lose money on it and we can provide something I think 20, 30 years from now we can be proud of.” There is, of course, a certain cachet that comes along with having a big, beautiful Class A office building in the firm’s portfolio. “When they’ve got clients in town, it’s kind of nice to be able to take them out to dinner in the restaurant that, if you don’t own it, at least you’re the landlord,” Revell said. “There’s bragging rights involved, absolutely. If you’re in a cutthroat industry like lobbying, and communicate to existing clients and potential clients that you’re the top brass, it helps to have your own building with your name on it (and) lots


of activity going on in and out the door. It’s a certain display of vibrancy for your personal brand.”


Adam Corey has certainly used his business ventures for meals and entertainment. When the existing 101 Restaurant on Kleman Plaza—one of just a handful that are an easy walk from the Capitol building—became available for purchase, “I looked at it as an opportunity to get a little more noticed and, quite honestly, it worked,” he said. “A lot of deals are made in a restaurant over a meal … having a good time, feeling relaxed … when you take an hour and a half you can really have meaningful conversation and really understand what (clients’) goals or objectives are.” His latest project, four years in the making, is The Edison Restaurant, which opened in mid-September. With a spectacular view of the Capitol and downtown skyline, the unique facility is located in Tallahassee’s new Cascades Park. Creation of the park itself employed a bit of kismet. The 24-acre park was located in an area that had housed utilities in Tallahassee’s


early days. It was scheduled to be transformed into a huge storm water retention area to solve flooding problems uphill. In discussions on how to make it look better than a hole in the ground, amenities were added, including an amphitheater, fountains, a kids’ play area, miles of multiuse paths and historical markers. Tons of dirt had to be removed and the landscape was totally reworked; the only vestige of the area’s former life was a 1920s-era electricity generating plant. The brick building had gone out of service decades earlier, was used for a time as state offices and storage, then boarded up and abandoned in the 1990s. The city of Tallahassee sought proposals to repurpose the facility and ultimately accepted plans from Corey and his other investors—including lobbyists Nick Iarossi, Sean Pittman and the late Fred Leonhardt—to create a brewpub. That plan had to be scrapped because brewing in the facility was impractical, so it ultimately became a restaurant—actually several eateries in one location. The original building houses The Edison, an upscale casual dining restaurant serving lunch and dinner. The main dining area features seating for 100 in the original

building as well as another 42 on a newly built terrace. The structure’s original interior brickwork soars 30 feet to a weathered wood ceiling and the room is awash in copper fixtures featuring antique-looking Edison bulbs, a nod to its industrial origins. Other areas of the building were designed for meetings of all sorts, including a multifunction banquet space, a private dining area tucked away in the lower level that seats up to 12, a beer garden and a table located in the kitchen where Chef John Minas will create special tastings for six people while supervising the restaurant’s food preparation. There’s also an outdoor covered patio with a prime view of events at the 1,500-seat Capital City Amphitheater. The Edison’s internationally inspired menu is “a smattering of the world,” Corey said. Minas was classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America, cooked in an Italian restaurant, and several items on the menu harken back to his Mediterranean roots. Before coming to The Edison, Minas worked 4½ years as chef at the governor’s mansion, cooking healthful meals for Gov. Rick Scott and first lady Ann Scott, as well as catering functions there.

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson

The Southern Public House, left, occupies space owned by Southern Strategy Group on College Avenue. The second floor, above, has offices and a condo.

Corey had trepidation about poaching the governor’s chef: “I didn’t want to do anything to upset the apple cart.” But when Minas approached Scott about his opportunity at The Edison, the governor “sat down and talked to him about business,” and sent a congratulatory letter (to Minas) saying he looked forward to dining at the restaurant. “It’s all good,” Corey says. A popular local coffee purveyor, Catalina Café, will operate The Power Plant Café on the lower level. With a window facing the park’s pathways, Corey envisions people grabbing coffee and breakfast while taking a walk or jog, and workers in surrounding state offices stopping by on their lunch hour. The café will also create picnic baskets for people attending special events in the park. A total of $2 million in community redevelopment money was spent on the project’s infrastructure, while Corey’s group kicked in $2.4 million to develop and furnish the restaurant. The city, county, state and nearby neighborhoods all weighed in during the process, which was not without its controversies. “I would say my experience as a lobbyist certainly helped navigate me through

this particular process,” Corey said. “It wasn’t a normal deal. I visited other cities that had done similar deals. It was certainly beneficial that I knew the process.”


For a dozen years, the Metz, Husband & Daughton firm operated out of the Sun Trust building on Monroe Street, overlooking the old and new Capitols. Although lobbying is the group’s primary game, it’s organized as a law firm, and its offices reflected that old-school, professional vibe: reception area, dark wood and offices in a row. While that model works well in an 8-to5 world, it wasn’t ideal for the 12-hour-plus days and activities that are part and parcel of lobbying, Allison Liby-Schoonover said. With an A-list of corporate clients, “when they come in to Tallahassee it’s a big deal,” she said. “They need a little bit of office space to take a call, they need to have a strategy session over dinner or before a breakfast meeting begins.” Dual-purpose meetings are also useful during those “condensed windows” when legislators come to town, allowing them to pick up a

political contribution during a meal or to have a cup of coffee and talk about issues. So, when the firm began to outgrow its space, members began to search for a new location, with a new attitude imported from the West Coast. “A lot of our West Coast clients, they work in a very different atmosphere than the traditional office,” Shareholder Jim Daughtry said. “You go to eBay … and they all work in cubbies, right? But there’s a lot of conference room space (and) open space for meetings. Same thing for Microsoft and Siemens. We saw what our clients were doing and thought this could work out pretty well.” “The team met several times on ‘What do we need? How do we do this smartly? How do we get a big bang for our buck?’— that was important—‘How do we incorporate the pride we had in our old model but kind of get these new-edge options?’” Liby-Schoonover said. The new space had been used for a short time as a traditional law office, but all traces of its former incarnation were stripped away before Jackie McHaffie of Designs Unlimited went to work to create what Liby-Schoonover called, “Modern … good balance with kind of clean lines (and) some softer details making it not look like an office (but) like a kind-of hybrid.” She credits Patricia Greene with many of the style choices. A senior policy adviser at the Metz firm, Greene also owns a design practice. “She has a good eye … it’s kind of a merge between her two talents,” Liby-Schoonover said. The result is a beautiful, curvilinear second-floor office space about a block away from the original in the Alliance Center building on Monroe Street. Even before you open the front door, you look through a glass wall to see a light and bright little conference room, with a Microsoft “Wordle” on the wall: a collection of adjectives culled from clients, who were asked to describe the firm and its working style. The color palette throughout the office is mostly cool neutrals, utilizing light blues and many of those 50 shades of gray we’ve been hearing so much about. There’s everything from an almost-white tile on the reception area floors and walls to charcoal herringbone vinyl in high-traffic areas, to the metallic-looking tops on the conference room table. While embracing a more modern style, there are nods to the past. In the hallway above that conference room is mounted the firm’s nameplate from the original office. Much of the artwork and a few tables and chairs also made the trip, and the décor in some spaces includes archival photography from the Florida Memory Project. There’s a “bullpen” of support staff and a stretch of traditional offices. Only



Over the years, defining Tallahassee’s downtown has evolved to include several blocks to the north of the Capitol, the new Cascades Park, a redeveloped Gaines Street, the All Saints neighborhood, CollegeTown, Kleman Plaza and FSU’s to-bebuilt Arena District. When lobbyists talk about choice real estate, though, there’s what Southern Strategies’ Bradshaw had dubbed the downtown “golden block.” Actually, it’s more like two blocks in the shadow of the Capitol building, bounded by Park Avenue and Pensacola Street to the north and south, and Monroe and Adams streets to the east and west. While a prestige address impresses, it’s actually the practicalities that make this location so ideal. “There’s a real premium in being in this two-block area,” he said. “Once you head north of Park, when you’re wearing a light wool suit, in May, you’re going to be sweating like a pig by the time you hit


the Capitol.” Locate across Monroe Street and the terrain slopes downhill. “And you don’t want to walk uphill. You’re going to have good thigh development by the time you get to the Capitol.” Although its Adams Street home office is “golden,” Southern Strategies has ventured more into sterling silver territory with its latest acquisition, a pair of College Avenue storefronts that have been repurposed into restaurant, office and condo space and dubbed College Station. When the lobbying firm acquired the properties for $950,000 in September 2014, the restaurant space was already leased and their plans were to develop the rest in the future. “The thought process was that space doesn’t come available in this corridor very often and so that was an opportunity,” Bradshaw said. “We’ve got four sub-state offices and those guys travel to Tallahassee for committee weeks and during the session. We had been renting condos around town (and) wanted a dedicated residential space for them. We saw it as sort of a mixed-use project where you could lease part of it for retail/commercial as restaurants and use part of it for office and residential.” An early February fire in the restaurant caused $130,000 worth of damage and it shut down for good two weeks later. The firm decided to accelerate its plans and renovate the property while there was no restaurant tenant. “It was a good opportunity for us to kind of front load some money into it and do everything at once,” said Managing Partner Chris Dudley, who took the lead on the $1.2 million renovation. “The work upstairs would have been disruptive to the restaurant down below … This was an opportunity to kind of shut everything down to get the condo and the office upstairs finished.” Bradshaw said that within weeks of the shutdown, they had four letters of intent from restaurateurs wanting to lease the space. It was ultimately offered to Roger Unger, who has two other eateries two blocks away in the heart of downtown, Jasmine Café and Brewd Awakening. Opened in September, his latest restaurant concept is The Southern Public House. Wood walls, subway tile, mason jars and a collection of funky lighting fixtures give a Steampunk vibe to the gastropub that offers 20 taps and a locally sourced menu of burgers, salads and Southern-style specialties for lunch and dinner. A huge deck, popular in the restaurant’s previous incarnations as Po Boy’s and Tucker Duke’s, was upgraded to include a section that can be curtained off and air conditioned. Unger also plans develop the space next door to The Southern as a noodle bar restaurant.

The street-side look of the buildings was overhauled with the help of a $50,000 matching façade improvement grant from the Community Redevelopment Agency. The look changes throughout the day as a grid-like pattern of shadows from grated metal balconies moves across the stucco face of the building, painted in color blocks of Army green, rich brown, natural white and pewter. Upstairs, a suite of three large offices fill with natural light shining through large windows and all-glass doors and walls. The residential portion includes three bedrooms, each with a private bath, as well as a full kitchen and large living room area that can also be used as an entertainment venue. Fire codes required a stair tower be built alongside the building, which Dudley suggested be carried all the way to the top of the building. “I thought we could do New York City-esque rooftop events,” he said. “We can put some tables and chairs and plants up there and make it a livable outdoor space which I think we’ll get a lot of use out of.” Dudley says he considers SSG’s project just one in lobbyists’ quest to rework the downtown landscape. “This next generation of lobbyists at a lot of different firms, they want to own a building. They want to have something that’s theirs,” he said. “That’s a good trend that’s going to encourage them to deploy their capital into great spaces downtown that they put money into and can pass along to their kids. I think our College Station project is something we’re going to have for a long, long time. It’s a beautiful building.”


When he bought the Lively House in 1996 for his lobbying firm’s headquarters, Brian Ballard was something of a trendsetter. Tallahassee’s Park Avenue was lined with stately manses, many dating back to the early 1900s and earlier, in desperate need of updating and repair. Listed on the National Historic Register, rules and standards dictated how Ballard’s acquisition could be renovated. It was a money pit. Ballard did a first-class job, though, turning the house into a Colonial Revival masterpiece: a 10,000 square-foot office on four levels that oozes history and Southern elegance. “I love this building. I would never leave if we didn’t have space issues,” he said. “It’s very functional (and) the staff loves working here. There’s a reason it’s 100-some-odd years old. Every inch works.” Over the years, other businesses did the same. Today, most of the homes along Park Avenue have been renovated, providing a beautiful, upgraded frame to downtown’s Chain of Parks.

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson

Warren Husband and Andy Palmer have window views, a definite downgrade from the previous location. But each office includes personal touches. Liby-Schoonover’s has a framed map of Florida that is actually a ’70s-era silk scarf that belonged to her grandmother, Greene’s looks like a page from Real Simple magazine and Greg Black’s includes a stuffed coyote. There are also two fully equipped offices for visiting guests. The office’s focal point, though, is what Liby-Schoonover calls the “entertainment” space. “This is a really cool space,” she said. “We do everything from our firm weekly meetings to conference calls. We have full audio-visual so we can project up a client Skype session. If we’re doing a late-night strategy session, maybe we turn on the end of an FSU game.” The conference table is actually four tables that can be separated, creating space to easily seat 24 people for a meal. To the left is a large niche that includes a bar, catering area and cabinets and a sunny nook with one of the office’s strategically placed coffee stations (no need to interrupt a meeting to get to the coffeemaker or drag a client to the kitchen). But one of her favorite spots is the balcony overlooking South Monroe Street. Even before office construction began, firm members and their families enjoyed a prime view of the Springtime Tallahassee parade. And the upcoming family-friendly Christmas party is set for the night of the city’s holiday parade and winter festival. “The balcony almost looks residential,” she says. “I think its very functional. You can catch up on a few issues with a client or take a call out here. You don’t need a big ol’ conference table.”

The Edison, an upscale casual restaurant above, occupies a repurposed 1920s electrical power plant building in Cascades Park.

The Metz, Husband & Daughton firm took a non-traditional approach to design and decided to mix corporate efficiency with a homey feel.


To give his practice the room it needs to grow, Ballard has embarked on a project that couldn’t be more different: razing the unattractive and pedestrian-unfriendly Florida Homebuilders headquarters to erect an elegant, modern office building in its place. Although plans were only unveiled in August, four floors are already reserved. Ballard Partners will occupy 17,000 feet on the top two floors and leases are being negotiated for two others. Another floor of offices remains to be rented as well as the ground-floor showcase that will be an upscale fine dining restaurant with 7,500 square feet of space and a patio for dining overlooking Bloxham Park. “That’ll be the last thing we lease out and the hardest to get what we want,” he said. Although the buzz in the capital city is always about getting a top-drawer steakhouse, Ballard’s not


wedded to any particular cuisine. “We’re going to hold out for the coolest restaurant we can get.” Initially, Ballard had considered building on what is probably the choicest empty lot in the city—the corner of South Monroe and Pensacola streets, directly across the street from the Capitol. It’s owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which purchased the lot in 2001 and seems in no hurry to develop or dispose of it. Ballard said he “went back and forth” between the properties before finally deciding on the Monroe/Park corner. The Seminole property was perhaps a little too close to the action. “I don’t know that I want to be that close to the Capitol, then you’re in it the whole time,” he said. And parking—always a major consideration when developing downtown—was not practical on that corner.

Ballard bought a second building next door to his planned offices in order to acquire an existing parking garage. “I think I probably overpaid for the Guaranteed building, but without the parking I couldn’t build,” he said. Adding to the parking garage was considered, but would cost about $1 million per level, or $20,000 to $25,000 per space, Ballard said. A quirk of Ballard’s property is that his buildings and parking lot wrap around a historical building, the David S. Walker Library, which houses the offices of Springtime Tallahassee. Built in 1903, the Classical Revival two-story building provides an anachronistic counterpoint to the surrounding modernity. But that’s OK with Ballard. “We could try to make a deal with them and move it somewhere … but so many Springtime Tallahassee people are in love with not only the pageantry

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson

Adams St. Advocates had its 2,000-squarefoot office at 205 Adams St. rebuilt from the ground up.

of the parade, but that building,” he said. “They’re going to have a lot better looking neighbor than they have now.” The new building is being designed by the Lewis+Whitlock architectural firm and built by Culpepper Construction Co., which also did construction and renovation work on Corey’s Edison building. “There was a lot of competition. Every local builder in town really went after it hard. Every architect went after it hard,” Ballard said. “It wasn’t about cost. We picked somebody before we negotiated the cost. For builders we wanted to know what their capacity was, what they had done and their ability to deliver on a timely product—and then we negotiated cost. Same with architects. It’s not the cheapest way to go, but I think it’s better. They want the same thing (we do). They drive the kids around and say ‘We did that building.’” Groundbreaking is set for January 2016 with a construction timeline of 14 to 17 months. Ballard said he anticipates his firm will move into their offices on the top floors after the 2017 Legislative Session. His new digs will cut his “commute” time in half from a seven-minute walk to 3½ and eliminate the uphill climb. “It’s a little hot, but during Session (in the) springtime, it’s not that bad,” he said. “Not to be sexist, but the ladies wearing high heels, they hate it.”


When Adams Street Advocates squeezed nine people in just 2,000 square feet and four warren-like offices in 2011, the first thought might have been to find a bigger office. However, the two-story building at 205 S. Adams St. was ideally placed in the middle of the golden block and a big, showy office wasn’t in the firm’s DNA. “Every firm has its own nuance, it’s own niche, with different business models and approaches. We’re probably a little more under the radar,” said Partner Claudia Davant. “We didn’t fit in the space so but we rejiggered (it) to meet our needs rather than get a bigger building.” The single-story building was built in 1936, with a second story added in the ’70s. As anybody who’s ever watched a house flipping television show has learned, there are unexpected—and oftentimes expensive—surprises once the process begins. When builder Matt McHaffie of GBGH Construction started tearing things apart, he discovered the second floor had been built directly on top of the original building’s roof, with no supporting joists. Then there was a problem with the brick façade: “They had to take the front off because it was literally only a brick thick and there was no steel beam,” Partner Tanya Jackson said. “He told us he couldn’t believe the

“This next generation of lobbyists at a lot of different firms, they want to own a building. They want to have something that’s theirs. That’s a good trend that’s going to encourage them to deploy their capital into great spaces downtown that they put money into and can pass along to their kids.” — Chris Dudley front didn’t fall off.” The fix was an unplanned-for $20,000 I-beam. “We characterized it as a renovation and it ended up being what (Partner) Dave (Ericks) calls a deconstruction, and a reconstruction,” Davant said. “Basically they took it down to the nuts and bolts (and) took the floor out to the dirt. There was a big giant crane in the middle of the building.” When the Advocates moved into their new offices in January 2012, they came back to a building that, while not bigger, was considerably better. By any standard, all the offices on the second floor are tiny, with built-in desks. Three of the firm’s partners formerly worked for business consulting firms “where they all had little bitty offices, because if you’re not out with your clients, you’re not making money,” Jackson said. “We brought that same model to lobbying.” “It’s cozy, but it’s modern and fun,” said Davant, who made many of the décor decisions. Several design choices were made to provide maximum impact in the small space. Without a grand lobby, the entryway features textured silver walls, a concrete floor with metallic designs and a sculptural representation of the firm’s street-sign logo. Upstairs, one finds a lofty hallway lined with cell-sized offices that seem larger because a bank of high windows floods the area with light, and the 9-foot-tall doors for each office feature a frosted glass insert. What was once a single office at the front of the building’s second floor was transformed into a blue-walled conference room/entertaining space. It includes a mahogany dining room table Davant brought from home, surrounded by swivel chairs upholstered in a tone-on-tone beige fabric she had to lobby her partners hard for. “I think it was the fear a bottle of red wine would get spilled,” Jackson said. “So far, knock wood, they’ve been spared.”

A collapsing set of sliding glass doors leads out to the pride of the place, a 16-by20-foot porch. Aided by a façade grant from the CRA, the firm was able to build a new, and properly engineered, balcony covered by a cantilevered metal roof. “It’s built to put elephants on now … or a whole herd of donkeys,” quipped Partner Robert Beck. “We kind of wanted it to be homey,” Davant said. And the space has hosted not just office functions, but Downtown Getdowns, Springtime Tallahassee parties, baby and wedding showers, and engagement and birthday parties. “It really is a livable space for us; it’s not just where we come to work.”


And what can downtown Tallahassee expect in the next 30 years? Those in the know think things are looking up—literally. When it comes to height, only the 23-story new Capitol is the limit. “We think we’re going to hopefully continue to see these (redevelopment) trends,” downtown booster Revell said. “A lot of people, when they think about growth in the community, historically that meant out. Now, we’re in a renaissance of people making vertical investments. “Our hope is (when) you see what Southern Strategy has done, what Brian’s planning on doing, you’re going to continue to see some of these other key parcels either trade hands or see some of the people that own them come in and make a larger investment,” he said. “There were plans some of these people had back in the days before the Great Recession that just didn’t pan out. But now the economy is growing again, you’re starting to see some real positive trends and you’re seeing people come in and make some major investments. We’re hoping that’s going to get contagious.” ][


without regret The 1st DCA building proves no albatross for Paul M. Hawkes.


or someone paid to influence a Republican-controlled state government, lobbyist Paul M. Hawkes has a sterling résumé. He’s a lawyer who’s been a prosecutor and GOP legislator for Citrus County, a top aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush and two Republican House speakers, and finally an appellate judge. Then there’s what he calls “the controversy.” Or, as one former lawmaker privately puts it, the period that causes “a lot of people to have a mental asterisk when they think of Paul.” In 2010, Tampa Bay Times reporter Lucy Morgan, whom the Columbia Journalism Review has called “the Grand Dame of statehouse reporters in Florida,” broke


the story that also broke Hawkes’ judicial career. It’s often referred to in Tallahassee as the “Taj Mahal.” Hawkes, as chief judge of the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal (DCA), had overseen the design and funding of a new $48 million home for the court that became the poster building for pre-Great Recession excess. “I don’t think the courthouse defines me,” says Hawkes, now 58. “It doesn’t define what I do now. I would hopefully still be doing what I am right now if there had not been a courthouse controversy.” In one story, Morgan described the place as “a monument to profligate spending, with no taxpayer dollar spared, a


courthouse outfitted with 20 miles of African mahogany, etched glass and, for each judge, a private kitchen and bathroom.” (After Morgan started reporting, the plans changed, such as removing the individual kitchens for a central one.) Other stories noted an abundance of granite countertops and large, flat-screen television screens throughout. The building is in the capital city’s tony Southwood community, a relatively new development that also hosts a bevy of state government offices and the State Emergency Operations Center. It’s also where Hawkes bought a half-million-dollar home before construction started, Morgan reported. >>

PHOTOS: Hawkes (Mary Beth Tyson); courthouse (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)

“What was really criticized was expenses—and buildings are expensive. It was built to accommodate future growth and to be worthy of its function. We tried to think about the future. And we tried to build a building that wouldn’t be thrown away.” — Paul Hawkes

The news also hit in the middle of an election year. Lawmakers and state officials soon channeled their inner Claude Rains in “Casablanca,” saying they were shocked, shocked to discover such extravagance earmarked for a humble workplace of public servants. Though, as Hawkes now says, “There was no secret, there was no shock. In fact, we showed pictures of what our courtrooms were going to look like. They said, ‘good.’” Nevertheless, then-Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, ordered an audit of the building’s finances after “troubling preliminary findings,” according to another Times story. Hawkes soon was accused of twisting arms at the Capitol and found himself in the crosshairs of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct. Among their charges, the commission said Hawkes wrongly disposed of public records related to the construction and used a “coercive and intimidating leadership style.” Ultimately, he quit the bench in January 2012, avoiding the equivalent of a misconduct trial and securing his state pension. By the end of the same year, however, Hawkes began a reinvention he says was in the works before he quit the black robes, signing his first lobbying client that December. “It sounds a little bit self-serving but I was going to leave the bench in July. The controversy caused me to leave in January,” he says. These days, lobbyist registration records show he represents Duke Energy, the Florida Medical Association, Dade Medical College, real estate concerns and

developers, and the owner of the Gulf­ stream Park casino and racetrack in South Florida, among others. Other reports show Hawkes reported his compensation last year in the range of $100,000 to $300,000. Appellate judges in Florida now are paid about $154,000 per year. That “mental asterisk” hasn’t stopped a host of clients from signing up for his services, including the Dixie County School District. Mark Rains, Dixie’s schools superintendent, says hiring Hawkes was “probably one of the best things we’ve ever done … He’s been a tremendous asset.” Rains says Hawkes was recommended by Chris Doolan, longtime lobbyist for the Small County Coalition, which advocates for counties with less than 150,000 in population. Dixie, on Florida’s Gulf coast west of Gainesville, has about 16,000 residents. It’s also one of the state’s poorest counties, with a 15 percent poverty rate. Rains credits Hawkes with getting funding for the county’s new $38 million high school, paid from the state’s “special facilities construction” account, he says. The current high school was approaching 70 years of age. School board members discussed Hawkes’ history before deciding to hire him as a lobbyist, Rains says. “It may have been a bit of a risk but it sure paid off and that’s the bottom line.” Marc Dunbar, who lobbies for several gambling concerns, represents The Stronach Group. It runs Hallandale Beach’s Gulfstream Park, which Hawkes also now represents. Dunbar also lobbied—pro bono, he points out—for Florida State University during the courthouse episode.

The university eventually took over the court’s old digs, across the street from its law school and near the Capitol and Supreme Court in Tallahassee’s downtown. The Legislature OK’d nearly $13 million to rehab the 1st DCA’s 35-year-old structure for student law clinics and mock trial courtrooms, according to reports. “Every client I recommend work with Paul, I give them the full look,” Dunbar says. Stronach Group executives “were fully aware, but they also said, ‘OK, we read the press stories; what’s the real story?’” “Paul was certainly castigated,” Dunbar says. “He was the person who was thrown out there for it. The reality is, that’s the process in Tallahassee. That’s the sausage-making. There was no secret we all were trying to build a courthouse and help FSU in a big way.” Dunbar talked with company founder Frank Stronach, CEO Alon Ossip and other executives, “showed them the articles and they ultimately met with Paul and decided to move forward with him.” Hawkes “has a lot of members over (at the Capitol) that he has good relationships with,” Dunbar says. For example, “when you think about how a gaming bill has to be structured, five or six members in each chamber wind up making massive policy decisions for the state. And he’s well respected by some of those people.” The most significant of those relationships may well be with state Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Land O’Lakes Republican who’s the House budget chief and Speaker-designate for 2016-18. Corcoran was the party’s sole field operative in its pre-majority days and got to know Hawkes


during his legislative campaigns. A few years later, when now-U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster became the first GOP state House Speaker since Reconstruction, he hired both Hawkes and Corcoran to advise on policy and rewrite the chamber’s rules. “If something wonderful happened in my life today, I would tell Richard and my wife,” Hawkes says. “If something horrendous happened, I would share it with Richard and my wife. Richard is that good of a friend.” But Hawkes quickly adds, “He was never a supporter of the courthouse. What we got, we got in spite of Richard. He’s not a public building guy.” Hawkes still has his critics, such as Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano. He was a state lawmaker when the courthouse kept making the news. Fasano says he’s not surprised that Hawkes not only landed on his feet but is thriving in his new role. “This is a perfect example of how Tallahassee runs,” he says. “Duke Energy and the other special interests, they’re not stupid. They know that Paul Hawkes’ relationship with Speaker-Designate Corcoran is close. They didn’t hire him for his lobbying skills or his understanding of the issues.” Echoing Dunbar’s comment, Fasano says, “He was hired because of his relationships. And shame on Tallahassee and shame on the Florida Legislature for allowing it to happen. They recreated Paul Hawkes as a lobbyist.” Corcoran takes issue with such critiques, saying Hawkes doesn’t exploit friendship for personal gain or to help a client. And he says such a move doesn’t work with him. “People who know me well know that that’s not possible, even if they wanted to try. And Paul doesn’t.” At the same time, when asked whether Hawkes still brings up issues of concerns with his clients, Corcoran says, “Every lobbyist does.” Corcoran, a lawyer with six children, found a lot in common with the upstart Hawkes, who has five kids. Hawkes had decided to challenge Democratic incumbent Dick Locke. He lost against him in 1988, then came back to win in 1990. “I traveled the state, working with candidates; one of them was Paul Hawkes,” Corcoran says. “I got to know Paul during that time. Paul is an optimist; he has a deep faith. Whatever happens in his life, good or bad, he is going to keep his eyes focused on his faith and move forward.” Regarding the courthouse, Hawkes “would expect that was something that was supposed to happen in his life and he’ll try to learn from it and not hold any resentment whatsoever. That’s Paul.” The lobbyist Hawkes now has an office in Tallahassee’s historic Murphy House on


Park Avenue, about a half-mile from the Capitol and five miles from the 1st DCA courthouse. Ask him whether he misses being a judge, and he’ll tell you serving was a “great honor,” but he was ready to leave. “I don’t want there to be any indication that I did not like or appreciate the court or the people I worked with. I thought the 1st DCA was the best district court in Florida,” he says. “There was an incredibly talented group of people I got to work with. But I had been there for nine years and felt I had an opportunity to do everything I could have done.” He mentioned creating a separate unit to handle all the workers’ compensation appeals and making sure the court led the way on electronic filing of documents. “We were fast, we were efficient, but I thought I would like to go out, and I was then 45, the youngest chief judge the court had had by then,” he says. “So I felt it was time.” Hawkes, who got his law degree from FSU, tried four previous times to become a judge before Bush, his former boss, appointed him to the 1st DCA in January 2003. He says he actually wanted to be a trial judge, but one day someone came to him and asked if he were going to apply for a judicial vacancy. The vacancy turned out to be an appellate one. The interview process “was so much different than what I expected,” says Hawkes, who was House Speaker Tom Feeney’s chief policy adviser. Feeney, a Central Florida Republican, led the chamber in 2000-02. During the 2000 presidential election challenge, Feeney and then-Senate President John McKay called for a Special Session so the Legislature could pick the state’s presidential electors, saying the state Supreme Court had “tainted” the process. Hard feelings fomented by the 2000 election spilled over into his vetting by a judicial nominating panel, he says. “I thought we’d talk about my experiences, my judicial philosophy. Instead it was three members out to get Tom Feeney (because) they thought he hated the courts, three members who seemed to love Tom Feeney, and another three who were like, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ “It was the most bizarre interview I had ever been in,” Hawkes says. “I was getting asked, ‘Doesn’t Tom hate the courts?’ and I’m going, ‘Uh no, Tom doesn’t hate the courts.’ ” The going wasn’t any easier trying to convince Bush he was the right man for the job. “I had worked for Governor Bush,” says Hawkes, who led efforts to privatize formerly government-run operations. “I doubt anyone has his work ethic. In my arrogance, I’m not usually frightened or intimidated by

other people’s intelligence. Whenever I met with Governor Bush, I made sure I really prepared. He would ask probing questions and expect real answers. When I went for the interview, he asked me (what was) the worst opinion the (state) Supreme Court has come out with.” Hawkes immediately said, “Armstrong v. Harris,” a 4-3 ruling in 2000 that overturned a constitutional amendment placed on the 1998 ballot by the Legislature. The measure, approved by voters, created a “Death Penalty Preservation” provision. Florida eventually switched from the electric chair to lethal injection and lawmakers wanted to make sure executions could continue even if the method of execution changed. The court struck down the amendment, saying the ballot title and summary were “deficient,” thus earning conservative enmity for what was perceived as judicial activism. A rewritten death penalty amendment was approved in 2002. Bush, however, seemed to presage that answer. “He stopped me and said, ‘Nope. Too easy; name another.’ ” Hawkes quickly did, and eventually got the job. Yet, despite nearly a decade of work at the court, the courthouse kerfuffle may remain what most remember about Hawkes’ tenure, something he still says is

“I still think the attack on the building was unfair. In all the investigations, there was nothing found that was improper. There was nothing done in secret and there was nothing done outside the process that was supposed to be followed.” — Paul Hawkes

PHOTOS: (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)

Previous page: The 1st District Court of Appeal’s new home in Tallahassee; Left: A courtroom in the building; Above: Members of the media photograph the 1st District Court of Appeal’s second-floor atrium during a news media tour of the completed building on Nov. 29, 2010.

“If you look at the cost of a building, there are 16 or 17 items that you look at ... there’s site prep, there’s engineering fees, and there’s something called ‘general building costs’ added on top. [Morgan] took that one line and neglected all the other line items. Our building was actually built below the projected cost.” — Paul Hawkes

“completely unfounded.” “I knew we were building a very cost-efficient building” he says. “We got attacked for flat-screen televisions. Well, they weren’t even making tube televisions anymore … It’s state of the art but it’s not extravagant. But they hit us for TVs.” Critics also questioned the terrazzo floors and fake marble pillars, he says. “If you’re building a floor with lots of traffic, terrazzo make sense; it lasts forever. Now, is it a little bit fancy? I guess you could have done it cheaper, but we’re talking a few thousand dollars less. And the columns … I suppose you just could have put a coat of paint on it and not done the faux marble painting and save some money but it’s really hard to find places to save money.” Hawkes says other expenses, such as a “graywater” system for flushing, added to the final bill but also secured the building’s designation as “LEED Gold,” the second-highest rating for environmentally friendly new structures. Special fire-resistant caulking and putting communication cables in protective casings, to mention a couple more extras, all cost more, he says. “It was a six-year project, from first appropriation to movein. The vision was cast and the funding was in place.” Then Morgan, a Pulitzer Prize winner, started poking around. “I remember sitting in Andrew’s one day when I was still a judge,” Hawkes says, referring to a longtime eatery in the shadow of the Capitol frequented by the Tallahassee in-crowd. “Lucy Morgan came by and leaned over to me, ‘How’s your Taj Mahal coming?’ I said, ‘It’s coming along fine.’ ” According to Hawkes, “Lucy said our building should have cost $250 per square foot and it cost $400 per square foot. Well, if you look at the cost of a building, there are 16 or 17 items that you look at ... there’s site prep, there’s engineering fees, and there’s something called ‘general building costs’ added on top. She took that one line and neglected all the other line items. Our building was actually built below the projected cost. We never had a cost overrun. There were no change orders. “I understand Lucy has a function and she developed a role here,” Hawkes says. “I did get the lion’s share of the hit, but we had a building committee and all decisions were voted on.”

Hawkes says he’s run into Morgan since leaving the court. Asked about their interaction, he says, “It was fine. But I still think the attack on the building was unfair. In all the investigations, there was nothing found that was improper. There was nothing done in secret and there was nothing done outside the process that was supposed to be followed,” adding that CFO Sink made the motion to approve the courthouse and the Cabinet’s vote was unanimous. Morgan, now retired and living in North Carolina, declined to respond to Hawkes’ comments in detail. She says she stands by her stories. “Rather than face a (misconduct) trial, he resigned from the court,” she tells INFLUENCE in an email. “That speaks louder than anything I might say.” Hawkes says the courthouse “did not get a nickel that did not go through a formal process. That’s why it was never labeled a ‘turkey.’ ” Turkeys are what Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit conservative watchdog, calls budget items that it thinks didn’t get proper scrutiny when lawmakers write a state budget. Often, such projects are quietly added to the budget toward the end of a legislative session. “What was really criticized was expenses—and buildings are expensive,” Hawkes says. “It was built to accommodate future growth and to be worthy of its function. We tried to think about the future. And we tried to build a building that wouldn’t be thrown away.” Asked what he would do differently in retrospect, Hawkes says he basically would have been a better lobbyist. “I would have educated more members. I would have invited them out (to the construction site) more often.” Like many, he reflects on the mistakes of the past to inform his current pursuit. Hawkes describes his job as a go-between who gathers and disseminates “intel” for both sides, clients and legislators. “Clients pay because they think you’re going to be able to help them,” he says. “You help your clients in not just ‘getting to yes’ but sometimes you help by just knowing what’s going to happen. It’s just information; that’s what clients pay for. They use lobbyists to decide which battles are winnable.” ][


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.




influence (n) : the power to change or affect someone or something : the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen : a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way


100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN FLORIDA POLITICS INFLUENCE is difficult to quantify. But, as the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in a different context, we know it when we see it. As you read the names who make up the inaugural INFLUENCE 100, you’ll know when you see it that these are the most influential people in Florida politics. There was only one ground rule for making the INFLUENCE 100—you could not be in elected office, the head of a state or government agency, or be running for office. From the campaign consultants to the major donors; from the tireless advocates to the media mavens, these are the 100 Floridians who dominate what those in it refer to as “The Process.” They decide who runs for office before the candidates do. They decide who wins election before the voters do. And they decide which laws pass or don’t pass before the legislators do. Yes, influence is difficult to quantify. But, as this list demonstrates, who is influential is not.




Pat Bainter {player}

Brian Hughes, a strategic communications and political consultant, is CEO of Meteoric Media Strategies in Tallahassee.

Mitchell Berger {player}

Stephen Bittel {player}

Stephen Bittel is a special player in the fastpaced and complex environment of Florida politics. He is extraordinarily generous in his financial contributions to political and charitable causes. He is a committed supporter of the Democratic Party and a fierce advocate for the issues he believes in. Stephen is a very successful businessman and uses his success to tirelessly and unselfishly fight injustice and unfairness. He’s a tough and aggressive negotiator, but those who know him well see his gentle compassion and big heart. In addition to being a member of the Democratic National Committee and its national finance co-chairman, Stephen is a principal patron of many philanthropic causes. In particular, he’s a national leader in the efforts to improve this country’s education system and devotes many hours and resources in support of the Teach for America Program. Stephen doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk, and Florida is a better place because of him. Pete Mitchell is chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.


Did you know Mitchell Berger is friends with Al Gore? Doubtful, because Mitchell’s not one to make his voice heard. Of course, anyone who knows him knows that previous sentence is tongue-in-cheek. Mitchell Berger, super-lawyer head of the eponymous Berger Singerman law firm, friend of Al (among many others), and uber-Democratic fundraiser is many things, but tacit is not one of them. Mitchell mentored me, as he has many young Democratic operatives over the years, as a fundraiser for Bill Nelson in 2006 running against Katherine Harris, the bete noir of the Gore veterans. We engaged in the affectionately named “Kill the ... Project” and Mitchell imparted on to me a wealth of political and professional knowledge, most importantly: have principles and live them. Mitchell certainly lives them, sometimes to his personal detriment, but never at the expense of his soul. He’s that rare high-level donor/bundler who is always honest with politicians, even if it means his seat at the table is farther away from the head than it should be. He usually raises so much money, though, that he gets a good seat, and his opinions are heard loud, clear and often. Ben Pollara is a partner at LSN Partners and a Mitchell Berger protégé who has yet to take his advice to finish college.

PHOTOS courtesy Bainter, Berger, Bittel

Pat Bainter doesn’t like crowds, and he absolutely hates the type of attention lesser campaign professionals would kill to get. Instead, Pat operates from a simple premise: If you work hard and do good work, the right result will follow. With the team he’s created at Data Targeting, Pat has built a reputation as the numbers guy everyone wants. More than that, Pat’s laser focus and ability to distill random information down to cogent strategy is priceless. All of us with the good fortune to work with him also understand he’s a loyal friend and a loving family man. He’s one of the good guys. His loyalty to conservative candidates and causes recently put Pat in the center of liberal special interests’ crosshairs. The spotlight brought out the fighter. Although the result of his fight for everyone to be part Florida’s political future remains unsettled, seeing that he has surrendered so much for that cause is the proof of his principles. Whether running one of his machines in a tractor pull or working to elect good people, Pat plays to win. I feel fortunate whenever we are on the same team.


Sarah Bascom {player} If you’re an elected official in Florida—or hope to be one—and need expert advice on what to say and, more importantly, what not to say to the news media, the best person to turn to is Sarah Bascom. Sarah has cemented herself as the go-to counselor in Florida’s Capitol after a determined rise through the political communications ranks. She got her big break working for the late, great Jim King, so her pedigree is second-to-none. Today she’s so sought after that she has—in the past year alone—represented the new chairman of the Florida GOP, the Florida Senate President-designate, and the Speaker-designate of the Florida House. That’s all while building a firm that never retreats, only reloads, with talented operators who are also trusted by many powerful pols. Still, the best thing about Sarah may be her unending loyalty to her husband, Mike, her daughter, Kate, and the rest of her family, including the cousin she just helped elect to Congress.

PHOTO by Mary Beth Tyson

Dean Cannon, the founder of governmental affairs firm Capitol Insight, is a former Speaker of the Florida House.



Ana Cruz {player}

Friends in Miami call him Jebito—the “ito” is Spanish for “little.” The inner circle of his father’s campaign team calls him 2.0. His two young children call him “Papa.” Jeb Jr.’s passions range from being on the boards for Habitat for Humanity, Friends of St. Jude and the National Alliance for Pubic Charter Schools to producing the documentary film “Underwater Dreams,” a story of how a high school team made up of kids of undocumented immigrants built an underwater robot from Home Depot parts and ultimately beat college teams including MIT in a robotics competition. Until recently, Jeb Jr. shared a wall in a Coral Gables office with his father, where they ran Jeb Bush & Associates. Jeb Jr. often says, “My dad was Jeb, and I was the associate.” Jeb Jr. has been at his father’s side for seven years building companies and learning about life. Not only does he have his father’s imprimatur, but he has gained the respect of those in his father’s orbit for standing on his own two legs in a very certain, yet humble manner. His father’s presidential campaign is focused on attracting a new, more diverse generation of voters to a party that has lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. Jebito, being a bilingual Millennial—coupled with his charisma and heart, has quickly become the campaign’s ambassador to the younger cohort. As Jeb Jr. travels across the country listening to students, engaging young professionals and sharing his father’s vision for the future, he has demonstrated to a national audience of both proven and emerging leaders that he is in his own right the real deal. Slater Bayliss, of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, previously was a personal aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush and now co-chairs Florida Maverick PAC with Jeb Bush Jr. and lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sara, three children and one semiferocious dog.


Charlie Dudley is managing partner of Floridian Partners, a full-service corporate and government affairs firm operating at all levels of government throughout the state.

Tre’ Evers & John Sowinski >


Like a lot of members of the top 100, Tre’ Evers and John Sowinski got their political starts while in college. Sowinski was a former UCF student body president living in Tallahassee, running the Florida Student Association. That’s when he met Evers, the FSU college Republican president running for student body president (with running mate David Rancourt). Evers lost his bid, but he and Sowinski forged a friendship that would launch one of Florida’s most longstanding and successful political and public affairs firms. But first, Evers went to Washington as a part of the Bush 41 administration. He then worked for Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood. Meanwhile, Sowinski ran the 1992 “Eight is Enough” term limits campaign, followed by 1994 amendment victories banning gill nets and defeating casino gambling. In 1995, the duo launched Orlando-based Consensus Communications. For more than two decades, they’ve been at the forefront of

issues that define Florida’s corporate and political landscapes. They’ve won a dozen statewide campaigns, from candidates such as Mel Martinez and Katherine Harris to amendment battles like passing the smoking ban and defeating the sugar tax, hometown democracy, and medical marijuana, while helping corporate clients navigate public opinion and Florida’s complex political environment. Marc Reichelderfer is the owner of Landmarc Strategies Inc., a political and public affairs firm. As a young political operative, he spent several years working for Tre’ and John at Consensus Communications.

PHOTOS: AP Photo/J Pat Carter (Bush); Daniel Reinecke (Evers/Sowinski); Benjamin Todd (Cruz)

Jeb Bush Jr. {player}

Be yourself. Committed to her beliefs, Ana is a great example of someone in politics who is genuine. A gregarious, outgoing “foodie,” Ana is the first one to volunteer for whatever cause needs her—and she delivers. She is who and what she is—very comfortable in her own skin and always makes you feel comfortable about yours. She cares but is a great advocate for her professional clients and personal causes. Ana makes you want to be a better person—or a more effective politician. She is the first one to jump in and roll up her sleeves to tackle any situation. Those strengths and her outgoing personality and communications skills are what makes Ana one of the 100 most influential people in Florida politics.


PHOTO: Daniel Reinecke

Kelly Cohen {player} From once being the shy and quiet kid in class to receiving the nickname as the “Jedi of Networking” in her professional career, Kelly Cohen is the one of the driving forces behind many of the biggest developments in Central Florida. With expertise in public affairs, lobbying and community building, Cohen is one of Central Florida’s most influential professionals. As the owner of Southern Strategy Group’s Orlando office and the co-founder of Bubbled.it, Cohen understands the importance of working with seasoned government officials to enact policy change for clients and communities looking to have their voice heard. Because of Cohen’s savvy and experience in making public-private partnerships work, she had been an instrumental part of many of Central Florida’s largest project initiatives, including the Creative Village, SunRail, Major League Soccer, and the introduction of Wawa into the Florida market. But her involvement in Central Florida doesn’t stop there. Cohen’s influence goes beyond government as she dedicates her time to serving numerous community and civic organizations and associations, including the Orlando Economic Development Commission board of directors, Project DTO, Canvs, Orlando Tech Association, the Nap Ford Community School Board and Clean the World. Ultimately, Cohen is one of Florida’s most influential people in politics because of her dedication to the success of the community and her understanding of the importance of creating an intersection between policy and politics. Buddy Dyer is the four-term mayor of Orlando.



Rich Heffley {player}

Jim Rimes is a Republican political consultant, former executive director of the RPOF and state director of the Senate Majority office.


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

There is hardly a major Republican campaign, ballot measure or policy issue from the past 30 years that hasn’t included Rich Heffley’s strategic thinking. Once referred to by his opponents as the “quintessential insider,” Republican officials across Florida have relied on his creative, often humorous, but always on point advice to push a Republican agenda and win their campaigns. What many younger Republicans might not remember is that, for more than 120 years in Florida, Republicans were the minority. In 1990, Republicans were disorganized, out of power and unwilling to work together toward a common goal. Rich was brought in to change all that. Working with Republican pioneers such as Tom Slade, Dan Webster and Jeb Bush, the party eventually united and started to win elections. Rich interprets difficult issues and makes them understandable to others. His relationships with opinion leaders and key stakeholders have made him much sought after for his advice and counsel. His ability to guide difficult issues successfully through the Capitol has allowed him to build an impressive lobbying business with blue chip clients on par with much larger firms. For those who know Rich personally, they admire his ability to have an unwavering dedication to his family while still playing the full-contact sport called Florida politics. Rich and his wife, Nancy, have been married 31 years and have two children together, 21-year-old Drew and Katie,19.


Brian May {player}

Some call Chris Korge the King of Democratic Fundraising, some call him the “Godfather”: I call him “Dad,” my daughter calls him “Poppa K,” and he calls himself “K-Stacks” and “K-Money.” Yes, fundraisers sometimes create nicknames for themselves. According to The New York Times, every Democrat who wants to run for president of the United States has to sit down with him before making a decision. The list of people includes some you might not remember, such as Dick Gephardt, and some that you may know, such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. There’s no one closer to the Clintons in Florida than Korge. That’s largely because no one is more loyal. Unlike most political people, he will always be there for his friends regardless of circumstances. Korge grew up in a typical middle-class household in the post-World War II United States. Over the years, he excelled professionally and built multiple large businesses from scratch. He has lived an incredible life and done things such as fly on Air Force One and sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. Above all else, he built an incredible family that will cement his legacy of honor, hard work and a deep love for the American way.

Having worked in the Florida political arena for more than 20 years, Brian May is well-known as a political strategist and effective lobbyist. His long record of successes has established him as a prominent figure in Florida politics. Influencing policy and politics at the national, state and local level, May is a key player in Miami-Dade and across the Sunshine State. Before forming Floridian Partners in 1998, May spent more than a decade working in state and local government and politics. He started his political career working with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and worked in many capacities for the senator dating back to 1994. While Chief of Staff and key strategist for Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, May learned his way around the county building and built local county relationships unmatched by any other. As a partner at Floridian Partners, May specializes in insurance regulation, real estate entitlement, transportation, technology and local government procurement. He has a record of achieving results for his clients on difficult, major issues. Most recently he led negotiations on behalf of the Miami Dolphins for a public/ private partnership with Miami Dade County to modernize Sun Life Stadium. As a fixture in Miami-Dade politics, May’s experience, connections, and institutional knowledge make him a valuable asset for his clients and political allies. He is a force to be reckoned with for his competitors. May will continue to influence the political arena for years to come.

Andrew M. Korge is Chris Korge’s son and a candidate for state Senate in South Florida. He works in real estate, technology and has built multiple organizations that engage the next generation of civic leaders across the country.

Ashley Walker is a managing director at Mercury Public Affairs. Before joining Mercury, Walker spearheaded President Barack Obama’s Florida operations for five years, including serving as state director for the 2012 re-election campaign.

Chris Korge {player}

Eric Johnson

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson


It’s a name you rarely hear and to some degree we think he likes it that way. Eric is that strategist who can see both the forest and the trees while finding the outer limits of each candidate and each campaign. If you want to measure success by the numbers, consider that Eric shepherded a Patrick Murphy win in a GOP-leaning seat (during a Republican year) helping Murphy score a larger margin than nearby Lois Frankel against a weak opponent in a solidly Democratic seat. As it stands today, Murphy has emerged as the statewide candidate the Republican leadership clearly fears the most and Eric’s involvement in building that perception is no coincidence. Michelle Todd, a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist, is a public affairs specialist based in St. Petersburg.


Influence100 < Ashley Walker {player}

Ashley Walker is a one-woman conglomerate. Not only does she shape statewide Democratic politics by running big-money campaigns, but she also helps win support for major commercial developments in key areas of the state. A rural girl from an Indiana town that has more tomatoes than people, Walker, 36, landed in Broward County after Florida State University to run the winning 2006 campaign of state Sen. Jeremy Ring. A year later she signed on with Barack Obama, where she managed a multimillion dollar operation with hundreds of employees and more than 20,000 volunteers. Victories in 2008 and 2012 propelled her into the lucrative nonpolitical world. She opened a Florida office for Mercury, a public strategy dynamo that sprawls across the globe. On her list of clients is the 1-million-plus square foot conversion of the Galleria shopping mall into a commercial and residential complex near her Fort Lauderdale home. She remains in demand in politics, currently managing Floridians For A Strong Middle Class super PAC for Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Patrick Murphy. Walker also signed on with the state Senate campaign of former state Rep. Jim Waldman, more evidence that politics remains implanted in her even as she seeks clients far away from the ballot box. Buddy Nevins has covered Florida politics since the 1970s for South Florida newspapers. He now reports for Browardbeat.com.

Randy Nielsen & Rich Johnston

Dylan Sumner

Meredith O’Rourke

Dylan Sumner is senior partner with one of the top Democratic direct mail firms in the country and boasts a client list that reads like a Who’s Who of our nation’s top Democrats, from Barack Obama to a broad range of U.S. Senate, gubernatorial and U.S. House candidates. For the DSCC, DCCC, top labor unions and progressive organizations, Mack-Sumner Communications is the go-to mail firm in tough battleground seats. To Dylan’s clients, he is more than the “mail guy” because he also is a key adviser and strategist, making him one of the most influential political players in Florida.

Meredith O’Rourke brings more than two decades of knowledge and experience, and is a distinguished leader in the field of political fundraising. She uses her expertise to develop, manage and implement successful, targeted, measured fundraising programs. Her winning strategy has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for her clients. Meredith is firmly connected to the core of the clients she represents and, because of that, she continues to inspire the support and trust of donors.


Steve Vancore is the president of VancoreJones Communications and is a former political director of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers.



The two names are as synonymous in Florida politics as any two names can get. Since 1991, anyone opening a mailbox or turning on a radio or television has touched, heard or viewed their work. From aggressive grassroots campaigns that win victories for underdog candidates to multimillion-dollar statewide races, Randy and Rich are as prolific in Florida politics as the clients they represent. The duo’s West Palm Beach-based Public Concepts LLC has represented everyone from U.S. Representatives to city council members. Masters of soft money, Rich and Randy were at the forefront of utilizing 527s in the state. The most notable was working with People for Integrity in Government Chairman Ben Murphey to bring Jeff Atwater to the state Senate. From sugar baron billionaires to big developers to big businessmen, if you’re involved in electioneering you’ve sat and spoken with Rich and Randy and probably hired them right after.

Mike Fernandez is the founder of private equity firm MBF Healthcare Partners. He lives in Florida after emigrating from Cuba in 1964 at the age of 12.

Anthony Pedicini is the founder of Strategic Image Management, one of the largest and most successful political consulting firms in Florida.

Note: Ms. O’Rourke is not pictured.

Note: Mr. Nielsen and Mr. Johnson are not pictured.

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson (Walker); Courtesy D. Sumner; BigstockPhoto.com




Marc is a Reagan Republican, a back-to-basics GC who got his start in the political realm as a communications guy at Consensus Communications. His email back then was gopspinner@aol.com and his daily reading was Heritage Foundation’s policy briefs. But don’t let Marc’s signature hurried shuffle fool you. His reaction to a crisis (which in this business is almost daily) is no more than an “It’s fine” reply as he throws water on a blazing fire. His uncanny (and sometimes frustrating) ability to stay calm at all times is one of the main reasons he is on speed dial for Cabinet members, legislative leaders and members of Florida’s congressional delegation. What makes Marc a phenomenal political consultant and GC is his ability to equally balance messaging with old school and new campaign tactics, all while staying true to his steady campaign plan. Marc is always driven by data, not emotion, and always has a quiet plan in motion in the background. To best illustrate why so many of the political elite in Florida call Marc Reichelderfer the “Marchitect” may be this simple story: A few years ago, I asked Marc to recommend a book for me to read so I could become a better political communications consultant. Marc walked in the very next day and handed me a brand new, crisp copy of “The Art of War.” Although Marc is heralded for all the campaigns he has built and the winning strategies he has designed, what he’s most proud of is the amazing family he and his wife, Kelly, built together in their daughters Grace and Kate. (And maybe his vertical box jump and head-scratching ability to wake up every morning at 4:15 a.m. for CrossFit no matter how late he has been out the night before.) Sarah Bascom is owner and president of political public relations firm Bascom Communications & Consulting LLC.


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Reichelderfer)

Marc Reichelderfer

Influence100 Rick Wilson {player} “No better friend, no worse enemy,” sums up Rick Wilson perfectly, and there’s an ever-growing list of people who have discovered the multitude of reasons why you want this guy on your side. He has a long and impressive résumé, some of it well-known gigs with names like Giuliani, Cheney, Bush and Rubio, and some of it the subject of wild speculation (much of which likely comes from rumors started by Rick himself). Few work harder or smarter than Rick, but as those who have worked with him can attest, even fewer genuinely enjoy their work as much as he does. Rick believes in consulting as a profession, believes in his clients, and believes in the conservative cause, but perhaps his biggest effect will be the many people he has mentored over the years. Fiercely loyal, Rick shows such genuine joy when one of his friends finds success, and even more so if he was able to offer a word of advice, an introduction, or some other help along the way. As unfiltered and entertaining as @TheRickWilson might be on Twitter, The Real Life Rick Wilson is of an entirely different order of magnitude. His recent TV commentary has provided a glimpse into the consummate storyteller and mischief maker well known to those who have been lucky enough to get an invite to a #WilsonParty at his Tallahassee home. So go ahead and follow Rick’s Twitter account, but if you can get to know him in real life too, you’ll be better for it. Sarah Rumpf is a journalist and attorney living in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.

Ellen Freidin {player} PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson (Wilson); Courtesy Ellen Freidin and Courtesy Nancy Watkins

Nancy Watkins {player}

I’m honored to have this opportunity to describe why Nancy Watkins is easily one of the 100 most influential people in Florida politics. It’s a relatively simple decision to place her on this list because quite frankly, Nancy sits on a pedestal by herself. If there were a Hall of Fame for Republican all-stars, Nancy Watkins would deserve a wing all to herself. She is THE Republican accountant, not just in Florida but nationally. Nancy not only manages the bank accounts for GOP candidates, committees and super PACs, but she has also succeeded in understanding and complying with state and federal election laws. That’s not an easy task. Most importantly, she keeps her clients out of trouble. There’s a rumor that I on rare occasions can be difficult to deal with. Nancy has mastered the skill in dealing with me. I would be hard pressed to identify a person in the political-campaigning business who has earned my trust like Nancy. Her advice is the gold standard. Jack Latvala represents District 20 in the Florida Senate, which covers much of north Pinellas County.

Ellen Freidin has spent the better part of a decade working independently to restore the people’s faith and trust in our state government. Through her unwavering and personal commitment to the Fair Districts Amendments, Ellen has shown what it means to be a top influencer in our state and nation. She’s gutsy and made it clear she was not backing down from a fight many thought impossible. She challenged the status quo in a thoughtful way that made the case that the redistricting process was fraught with political opportunism that caused average Floridians to lose faith in the electoral process. Determined to make a difference, even if it meant ruffling feathers, Ellen embarked on a journey with an uncertain outcome. History has been made. Often we see elected officials make proclamations and honor people’s work with catchy phrases. 2015 should be proclaimed as the Ellen Freidin Year because her voluntary work through Fair Districts is rebuilding faith in our democracy and going down in the history books. Christian Ulvert is president and founder of EDGE Communications and a former political director of the Florida Democratic Party.



Brecht Heuchan {thought leader}

I was once told by Chairman Tom Slade that the best in politics get things done without anyone ever knowing they did it. Brecht epitomizes that style. He’s one of the most influential and effective lobbyists, strategists and counsels I have ever been around. Having first met him in 1995 when he was Dan Webster’s right-hand man, I have always watched him closely. From that first day I met him, I knew he possessed a quality different from most in this business. He has since counseled many Speakers, Senate Presidents, and governors, but most would never know he’s loyal to their goals, not his own. Brecht has never followed a traditional path to influence; he has created a new path that involves not just a keen political view, but a view overlaid with stats and facts. If you know Brecht, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know Brecht, you should get to know him. His influence is to be respected for his ability to accomplish his task at hand. More importantly, his influence is to be admired for how he conducts himself in the political world with class and humility. Travis Blanton is a partner with Johnson + Blanton government consulting firm in Tallahassee.

Steve Schale >

{thought leader} Here are three strong reasons why Steve belongs on any list of the most influential people in Florida politics: 1. Were you to ask the other 99 people on the list to name one of the three top Democratic operatives in the state, undoubtedly Steve would be on, if not at the top, of everyone’s lists; 2. Were you able to look into the future and see the INFLUENCE 100 list 10 years from now, it’s a lock that many of the future influencers got their start working with Steve; and 3. Most importantly, Steve cares about Florida and its future. He’s in the process for the very right reasons and that is why I am honored to call him my friend. Charlie Crist is a former Governor of Florida.

Bob McClure

{thought leader} A decade ago, a small think tank was stowed away in a little-known area of the capital city. Hired by founder J. Stanley Marshall and board chairman Charles Hilton, Bob McClure took the lead. Now The James Madison Institute is one of the largest, most influential think tanks in the country. Past experiences working with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Florida Committee and the Florida Elections Commission, and advising Cabinet officials and state leaders regardless of party, helped establish a foundation of respect for JMI to become the go-to thought leader in the public policy arena. At JMI’s 25th anniversary celebration, Gov. Rick Scott presented Bob with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award for advancing economic freedom. Securing a historic downtown headquarters, The Columns, Bob further raised JMI’s profile among policymakers and the public. He lives by example: This purchase and award-winning renovation was done completely through private donations. A fifth-generation Floridian, Bob is dedicated to the Sunshine State’s success having significantly increased JMI’s size and influence. A visionary focused on the principles of JMI, he has and continues to generate public policy solutions that strengthen Florida’s economy and position it well to compete in a global marketplace. Allan Bense is a businessman, community leader and former Speaker of the Florida House. He’s the chairman of The James Madison Institute board of directors.



Ryan Tyson

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Tyson, McClure, Schale); Courtesy Brecht Heuchan

{thought leader} The man who best understands what the future holds knows today’s elections are not won in Washington, D.C., or the Republican or Democratic parties. That person is Ryan Tyson and he can be found in a science fiction-inspired Political War Room on a quiet Tallahassee street a few doors down from the Capitol of the state of Florida. The man who some call the “Crystal Ball Reader,” is not what you would expect. Born in a small northern Florida town, he learned very early that in order to understand where the electorate is moving, one must read where they are coming from and why. He realized in 2009 that there was a cultural demographical shift within the psyche of American voters and that in order to win in today’s political world, one needs to understand voters’ demographics and ethnic composition. Ryan knew before many others (and most still don’t care) that the largest shift among America’s voters was larger than our last shift … the baby-boom generation. In a recent presentation to an audience of Florida’s largest employers, he shared a stark reality: Neither the R’s nor D’s are no longer the largest voting bloc, but the nonaligned voters. In that meeting room, those listening were quieter than the Capitol during a vote count. He stated: “Nationally and locally elections are won by a small margin and that spread can be delivered by the Hispanic population. This statement is even more important in Florida, one of the country’s growing states, because of the large influx of Latinos starting with the Cuban-American influx that began in 1959 and today’s ever-increasing growth of the native Puerto Rican population, which is growing at the rate of 3,000 per month. “For the first time in history the Puerto Rican group, mostly found in the I-4 corridor of Central Florida, will outnumber the Cuban-Americans primarily found in southern Florida. “In the United States today, we have already changed.” Ryan represents the best of America’s future. He is not persuaded by personalities, nor misinformation. With an extremely bright mind he is focused on the “numbers,” and is years ahead of most, if not all, political operators in Florida. Mike Fernandez is the founder of private equity firm MBF Healthcare Partners. He lives in Florida after emigrating from Cuba in 1964 at age 12.


Influence100 Brian Ballard {lobbyist}

Florida is replete with both lobbyists and political fundraisers, most of whom are way more hat than cattle. A few in each category are actually the real deal, a go-to government relations maven when the chips are down or a must-have financial supporter when the ante is measured in millions. Only one person bestrides both areas of endeavor at the highest levels of performance in each: Brian Ballard. The founder, owner, and chief cook and bottle washer of the eponymous Ballard Partners, with government relations offices in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Brian is obviously not unaided in his work. He leads from the front line, though, not from his office and lifts his colleagues up rather than stands on their shoulders. Whether you are an ally or an enemy on an issue, a private-sector potentate or a public-sector pooh-bah, Brian’s presence on the field fundamentally changes the game. On the finance front, he feeds at the very top of the Republican food chain nationally and in Florida. While most measure their influence in terms of who will take their calls, Brian’s influence is measured in whose calls he is willing to take. Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Politicians from Washington to Wauchula court Brian for the same reason. When it comes to political influence in Florida, sui generis Brian Ballard is. Mac Stipanovich is a lawyer, lobbyist and 35-year veteran of Florida politics. He was campaign manager for Gov. Bob Martinez when Ballard was the young travel aide. Stipanovich calls himself Dr. Frankenstein and Ballard his monster.

The saying “knowledge is power” is a universal truth, and Miami-based lobbyist Ron Book has the knowledge to fit the whole world in his hands. With 40 years of hands-on experience, Book knows how to navigate Florida’s political landscape like few others. Ronald L. Book P.A. is one of Florida’s top lobbying firms with clients from large multimillion dollar companies like AT&T to a number of local governments in South Florida. What separates Book from other lobbyists is the passion he has for each client, and how he can be the smartest person in the room, any room. There have been occasions when I’ve seen the stone-faced façade give way to tears when a client or issue close to “Ronnie” is affected. Ron Book is an inspiration because he puts his entire being—mind, body, and soul—into what he believes and the results are usually amazing. Sean Pittman is an attorney and lobbyist with offices in Tallahassee and South Florida. He’s vice president of the Orange Bowl Committee, a co-host of the popular Florida TV talk show “The Usual Suspects,” and a frequent opinion leader on Fox Business News Network.


PHOTOS by Mary Beth Tyson

Ron Book {lobbyist}

Influence100 Dean Cannon {lobbyist}

Dean Cannon has done it all. Licensed pilot, licensed insurance agent, legal counsel to local governments. Successful land-use lawyer. Florida Blue Key, student government president at the University of Florida and an accomplished legislative tour. Hugely successful Speaker of the Florida House, and founder of what has become in three short years one of Florida’s elite lobbying shops. Husband to a beautiful and patient wife and father to three delightful and well-adjusted children. And, not the least, a disc jockey and musicologist. What’s most surprising is not the range of Speaker Cannon’s experience, but that he excelled at every stop. In the Florida Legislature, before he was Speaker, Cannon was given the most difficult of assignments. Cannon successfully brought each issue to the ground, reforming the state’s PIP laws and more. His reputation as Speaker was impeccable. Like everything he has tackled in life, Cannon mastered the political process with grace and dignity. But make no mistake, he mastered it. William Peebles is the founding principal and managing partner of Peebles and Smith lobbying firm.

Gaston Cantens {lobbyist}

Several words help describe Gaston Cantens: family, team, determination, loyalty and unity. His family is a team and his team becomes part of his family. If he’s in, he’s all in. Gaston is a leader who brings people together. He demonstrated a relentless commitment to uniting a once-divided Miami-Dade legislative delegation. That unity allowed them to produce the first Cuban-American Speaker in now Senator and presidential hopeful Marco Rubio. That unity remains and has now produced another future Speaker (Jose Oliva). Although, at times, some may view his soft-spoken demeanor as weakness, his opponents soon learn he is a determined yet fair adversary. He’s as strategic as he is tenacious and he earns their respect. Gaston is determined and loyal. These characteristics carried him through Tallahassee as a representative of his community. They are also the characteristics he brings as the voice for one of the nation’s most important agriculture and food producing operations. There are people who are respected because of their title and then there are people respected long after the title is gone. Former state Rep. Gaston Cantens is respected because of the traits he embodies, not because of any title he may have held. Ralph Arza was in the Florida House of Representatives and currently is president of Arza Consulting, a government relations company.

Al Cardenas PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson (Cantens and Cannon); Courtesy Al Cardenas


For Al Cardenas, making an impact must have seemed an improbable dream when he came to the United States as a 12-year-old. Forced to leave Cuba, his family came to Miami and he began his American journey, learning a new language, new customs and his passion for the freedom of political discourse. After being Dade County chairman for the Reagan ’76 campaign, Al ran for Congress in 1978, challenging Florida icon Claude Pepper. He met a fellow candidate from Texas named George W. Bush and established an enduring friendship with the Bush family. It’s a fascinating journey, one I was fortunate to be a small part of when he was vice chairman and then chairman of the Republican Party of Florida during the 10 momentous years from 1993 to 2003. I learned much from Al. He challenged our views and tactics constantly, from messaging to absentee ballot strategies to data acquisition. He made us look through a new lens dedicated to expanding and deepening the pool, and establishing the natural affinity between Republican values and Florida’s growing Hispanic voting bloc. I submit that Al was visionary, for he understood Florida’s changing demographics and messaging needs. Today he travels with presidential nominees, and his counsel is sought and highly valued. David Johnson is a national Republican political consultant who has worked in Florida politics since 1992. He was a former executive director of Florida’s Republican Party.


Influence100 Paul Bradshaw {lobbyist}

Paul Bradshaw is truly a Renaissance man. He loves family, life, politics and is a serial entrepreneur. One of the highlights of my professional life was the opportunity to move from my eight years in the Florida House of Representatives—the final two years as Speaker—to a partnership with Paul at Southern Strategy Group. During my nine years, I had a front-row seat to watch Paul bring together a talented group of lobbyists and build SSG from a four-man group to the largest state lobbying organization in the country, spanning 13 states. Paul’s success is a reflection of his ability to think strategically and critically, solve complex problems and communicate effectively. His writing ability has been sought by governors, presidential candidates and even a few state senators. At the end of the day, lobbying firms are successful if they have an honest, ethical and entrepreneurial leader. Paul has all of those traits and combines them with the ability to see the big picture in politics. Paul inspires loyalty in his team and that is most evident in the tenure of the partners at SSG and the longevity with which clients retain their relationship with the firm. Interestingly, Paul has expanded his expertise to outside interests such as commercial real estate and Greenfire Farms—one of the largest specialty chicken companies in the country, recently featured in The New York Times. With his wife, Sally, someone I consider a close personal friend, and one of the most brilliant political minds in the country, Paul has built a life of amazing success that focuses on family, business friends and a well-rounded view of the world that’s remarkable to witness.

PHOTOS by Mary Beth Tyson

John Thrasher is a former Speaker of the Florida House and state senator who is now president of Florida State University.


Influence100 Nelson Diaz {lobbyist}

Nelson Diaz got his start in politics in 1996 on the Bob Dole for President campaign. It was an illustrious group of young, rising political superstars—such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, and state Sen. Anitere Flores. Nelson moved into working for then-state Rep. Rubio and helped lead the effort in his early days campaigning for Speaker of the House of Representatives. In Miami, Nelson has become a powerful community leader. For the past three years, he has been chairman of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County. In that role, he helped run a successful campaign operation that produced the highest number of votes for Gov. Rick Scott than any other county in Florida. Outside of politics, Nelson is dedicated to community service. He is a board member and past president of Kristi House, a child advocacy center that concentrates on the treatment of sexually abused children. For his efforts to secure passage of the Florida Safe Harbor Act to protect child victims of human trafficking, Nelson was awarded the Bud Cramer Award from the National Children’s Alliance. On the state level, Nelson is chairman of the RPOF’s powerful Rules and Constitution Committee, the panel that controls the ballot access rule for the Presidential Preference Primary. As the managing partner for the Miami office of Southern Strategy Group, Nelson Diaz has earned a reputation for being one of the most effective and influential lobbyists in the state of Florida. Chris Dudley is a managing partner for Southern Strategy Group. He served as an aide to state Rep. Greg Gay and Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan, and worked on the Jeb Bush/Brogan campaign.

Michael Corcoran {lobbyist}

Michael Corcoran’s entry into politics was his second choice of a career. His first choice was as a pro athlete. But Corcoran went from political rookie to an elite pro in short order. Since his humble start as an aide to then unknown Johnny Byrd in 1996, Corcoran has built a deep bench of relationships and has an enviable win-loss record for his clients. These days, Corcoran and his ace partners and associates are engaged in most statewide policy and appropriations battles. Clients include Live Nation Entertainment, Beer Industry of Florida and Wal-Mart. One of the most dominant lobbyists in Tampa Bay, Corcoran’s arc of clients comprises a combo platter including the Tampa Bay Bucs, TECO Energy, Florida Crystals Corp., and in the public sector, The Florida Aquarium and the University of South Florida. His arc of clients and influence continues to grow because his good friends are in the national arena and his brother becomes the Speaker of the state House of Representatives in 2016. Amid the competition of Florida politics, Corcoran’s North Star is his beloved wife and children who make him a true winner on and off the field. Helen Levine is regional vice chancellor for University Advancement at USF St. Petersburg and is part of the USF System lobbying team.



Robert Coker {lobbyist}

Robert Coker always has been an influential figure in Florida’s agriculture community for the past several decades. Robert has also been one of the most successful lobbyists Florida has ever seen. I have been very fortunate to work for and alongside Robert representing United States Sugar Corp. for well more than a decade. Robert has never, not once, acted as if he was “The Boss” in the traditional sense. Robert has always conducted himself as just another member of the team. A blocker, a tackler: doing whatever was necessary to get the job done. Robert Coker clearly lives by the view that there is absolutely no “I” in team. I joined the lobbying corps in 2001. If there has been one single lobbyist whom I’ve tried to emulate that person would be Robert Coker. What did I learn from watching Robert in action? First of all, always—and I mean always—tell the truth. Secondly, know the facts. Not only the facts that support your position on any given discussion, but also know the facts that support your opposition. In meetings, Robert not only shows elected officials the best facts in support of his issue but also point out the facts that the opposition will raise as well. Thirdly, respect the process and those who serve in it. Robert shows by example that although you may not succeed on every issue, if legislators and staff learn to trust you, you always will be welcomed back on future discussions When I look at the Tallahassee lobbying corps, there are many who are very influential. Yet very few have the longevity and reputation that Robert Coker has enjoyed—this from Republicans and Democrats both. Even fewer have had more of a positive influence on people and the process than Robert Coker.

PHOTOS by Mary Beth Tyson

Screven Watson is president of Screven Watson & Associates. A former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, Watson is a Florida political strategist and regular political contributor on various television and radio shows.


Influence100 Bill Rubin {lobbyist} Bill Rubin is among the few people trusted with the ear of the governor, confidence of the executive staff, access to senior legislative leadership and the respect of his colleagues. He has been moving and shaking throughout the Tallahassee lobbying circles for more than three decades and shows no signs of letting up. Rubin is respected by members on both sides of the aisle and has a proven record of getting things done without compromising himself, his credibility or his character. Regardless of his success, he has a way of making everyone around him feel special and every time you see him, you’re guaranteed a huge bear hug. Influence, in our profession, is defined in many ways but for me it’s how you represent yourself, your family, your firm and your clients. Billy is unapologetically committed to them all without sacrificing any. Ultimately, Rubin is one of Florida’s most influential people in politics because he keeps his ear to the ground, finger on the pulse, nose to himself and mouth out of the gossiping business ... and for that he is trusted. Darrick D. McGhee is vice president of government relations with Johnson and Blanton LLC. He has more than 15 years of experience in state government, the legislative process and statewide politics.

Sean Pittman {lobbyist}

There is a reason Sean Pittman earned Leadership Florida’s 2015 Distinguished Member Award: He’s more than just a political institution in Florida. Founder of the Pittman Law Group, Pittman’s political, legal and consulting reach is statewide with offices in Tallahassee, Riviera Beach and Miami. So is his philanthropy. He’s a major reason why Florida State’s College of Law is producing more minority attorneys. In my city of Tallahassee, Pittman has been instrumental in cementing the legacy of “Smokey Hollow,” a historic African-American neighborhood, through the development of a beautiful, accessible park. And, if that wasn’t enough, Pittman is also president of the Orange Bowl Committee. Pittman’s influence may be most notable, though, for his mentorship and support of countless young men and women wanting to make a difference in their communities. It would be hard to find a hall of government in Florida that hasn’t benefited from his collaborative, smart, deliberative approach to solving problems. Sean Pittman is one of the most influential people in Florida politics because his incredible personal success is already dwarfed by the success of the statewide network of charities, leaders and governments he influences every day. Andrew Gillum is mayor of Tallahassee, and has been recognized as an emerging leader by the Congressional Black Caucus, Jet magazine, Ebony magazine, the Association of Trial Lawyers for America, The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, IMPACT and The Washington Post.

Nick Iarossi {lobbyist}

There are hundreds of hard-working, talented professionals in the Florida lobbying landscape today. To be successful in that highly competitive environment requires a unique skill set: Knowledge of complex issues, technical understanding of a very nuanced process and personal relationships with a diverse set of legislators from across the country’s third-largest state. Very few lobbyists can check off all those boxes, but Nick Iarossi can. Nick has built a formidable operation based on tireless work ethic and smart, strategic thinking. He has mastered the most important fundamental in the lobbying business: He treats his clients like family. Nick has earned his clients’ unquestioned loyalty because he never stops fighting for their interests. Working with Nick on a lobbying team is a pleasure, but more telling is how much I appreciate the times we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue. If our clients’ interests conflict, we know that we have to elevate our game and fight to the echo of the whistle. After the fight is over, he remains a friend and colleague who I truly respect. Congratulations, Nick. You are a credit to our profession and a class act. Brian Ballard is founder of Ballard Partners, one of Florida’s largest government affairs and lobbying firms.


Influence100 Norman Braman

Lewis Bear {titan} Recently, Lewis Bear called a meeting of a state agency head, an influential legislator and representatives of citizens groups all disagreeing about the direction of an extraordinarily important regional project. In advance, he individually and respectfully told those summoned how he thought the highly contentious issue could be resolved. During the meeting, Bear sat quietly, not saying a word. After an hour, everyone came to the foregone conclusion as if it were their own. Warm handshakes all around and he was out the door, closing it softly. Lewis Bear tamed another major issue, not with a whip and spurs but with a nudge and neck rein. Lewis Bear is the most influential leader in Northwest Florida not through pressure but through personality. He hands off credit and slides out of the limelight. If you do something good, especially if it’s bold, you can’t escape his gratitude or generosity. His best jokes are about himself. He loathes liars, incompetence and indifference, especially in public officials. A deadshot hunter, he sometimes introduces himself by saying in a low voice, “I’m Lewis Bear. I kill things.” It sets a useful tone. He is or just was chairman of everything that matters in the western Panhandle: business, education, research, arts, care for the vulnerable, politics and, of course, the Lewis Bear Cos.: the oldest privately held corporation in Florida and one of the most prosperous. He’s a tough fiscal conservative with a libertarian aftertaste and a heart for social justice. In the Central time zone, it’s often sufficient for a cause, a company or a campaign to say, “Lewis Bear is with us.” Don Gaetz is a member of the Florida Senate, where he served as Senate President from 2012 to 2014.


Bill Edwards {titan} Few people have played as defining a role in shaping the Tampa Bay region like Bill Edwards. When we faced difficult challenges such as the Mahaffey Theater, Baywalk or a struggling NCLS soccer team, Edwards stepped up, took charge and offered a new vision for tired community assets. Anyone who has strolled the SunDial, or been to Al Lang Field to watch a Rowdies game recently can feel the energy and passion he puts into such projects. However, I have come to see his support for local charities as the true high point of his leadership. From All Children’s Hospital to the 9/11 Patriot Day Breakfast, his support for our communities’ charitable endeavors has been a lasting gift that will pay dividends for generations to come. His partnership with former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has provided him an inimitable adviser. Edwards’ continued dedication and bold ideas for improving St. Petersburg and the region will ensure that the ’burg remains a great place to live, work and raise a family. Bill Edwards’ leadership is leaving an indelible mark on our community. Jeff Brandes is a member of the Florida Senate.

Quintessential power player; car dealer extraordinaire; major collector/benefactor of the arts, Jewish causes, education, universities and hospitals, Norman is at the pinnacle of Miami leadership. Scrupulously honest and equally outspoken, he is upfront about putting his money behind what he believes. From a proposed penny sales tax increase to the recall of a Miami-Dade County mayor, and the fight against a stadium, Braman has been a force to reckon within the Miami business and political world for more than 50 years, showing no sign of slowing down. The former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles football team, connoisseur of art and wine, and an avid yachter, Norman has made a difference in Republican politics for his whole life. He once backed Jack Kemp for president, and is now in the kitchen cabinet and financial war room for Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential run. A self-made billionaire entrepreneur with more than 20 car dealerships featuring luxury brands such as Porsche, Bentley, Rolls Royce, BMW, Cadillac and on down to Honda, Norman was a ferocious opponent of casino gambling in Miami and continues to oppose any expansion. A major backer of Raquel Regalado’s county mayoral bid, Republican candidates always seek his support and approval early in any run. Stephen Bittel is a real estate owner/developer with a passion for good government and good deeds.

PHOTOS: Courtesy L. Bear and B. Edwards; Braman (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)


PHOTO courtesy Cy Cyr/BuilderOnline


Mori Hosseini {titan} Any savvy politician with statewide ambitions knows that conventional maps are for rubes. Political cognoscenti understand that Florida is really subdivided among warlords; a loose collection of political fiefdoms controlled at the local and regional levels by people of intellect, wealth and power. It’s a place where the lines are no less important because they are invisible; lines that denote where one’s power ends and another’s begins. If a candidate happens to be in the Middle Kingdom along the Atlantic seaboard above the I-4 corridor, he or she will seek the approval of Mori Hosseini. An Iranian immigrant who started life as a Floridian in a $125-a-month apartment in Daytona Beach and rose to create ICI, a billion-dollar construction company, Mori is the embodiment of the American Dream. His accomplishments in the civic realm match his mastery of business. Mori is chairman of the Board of Governors of Florida’s State University System and sits on the Board of Embry-Riddle. His family founded Food Brings Hope, a charity aimed at feeding poor children. What is less obvious are his accomplishments in the political realm. His sphere of power stretches from Florida to the White House, and he’s the rare mega-donor whose grasp of the nuances of the political process equal his generosity in supporting candidates. He exudes the polished grace of a diplomat, and his style of influence relies much more on charm than table-pounding. Maybe that’s because Mori has learned the lesson that sooner or later you’ll end up at his table. Paul Bradshaw is founder of Southern Strategy Group, Florida’s largest governmental affairs firm. He has worked on several political campaigns including those for statewide candidates such as former Gov. Jeb Bush.


Influence100 Mike Fernandez {titan} How does a person measure influence? Is it position, is it power or is it wealth? Not surprisingly, I received my answer when I first spoke to Mike Fernandez in 2013. He was about to embark on a 500-mile, 3-million step journey across the Pyrenees mountains from France to Spain, on a pilgrimage route known as El Camino, and wanted to know if I could help him share his story. Mike wasn’t taking this journey out of personal ambition or to further his own goals. I found out that he embarked on the journey to raise $3 million for Miami Children’s Hospital where his young granddaughter had recently undergone a life-saving heart procedure. It was in the waiting room at MCH that Mike met a woman who shared her concerns for her child, who was going through her third heart surgery, and the costs the family would have to bear. Mike, who has served on the MCH Foundation board, was already a generous donor, but he knew that the journey of faith and commitment would help raise awareness and money to help thousands of other children and their families just like the woman he met in the waiting room. Mike and I stayed in contact throughout his hikes through mountainous terrain, braving cold weather, rain and sometimes snow. As a man who has survived two heart attacks and cancer, he is more than just an influencer: He is an inspiration to others. So what makes a person influential? I believe it is love of family, love of country and a commitment to helping those in need.

Paul Tudor Jones {titan}

Paul Tudor Jones is a far cry from your ordinary environmentalist. But he’s not your typical hedge fund manager, either. Jones envisions a more just world and has been an outspoken proponent for greater corporate accountability, the war on poverty and Everglades restoration for more than two decades. His conservation efforts in the Sunshine State began as an avid angler in Florida Bay where the pollution-stricken waters became his call to action. With his fishing buddy, the late George Barley, he co-founded the Everglades Foundation in 1994. A college welterweight boxing champion who worked his way up from the trading floor, Jones wasn’t afraid of a fight and threw his weight behind powerful policy and cutting-edge science to hold polluters accountable. Jones has been pivotal in building the movement and infrastructure to protect and restore one of the largest, most diverse ecosystems in the world. Jones is a quiet force, and he’s the guy you want in your corner.

Paul Tudor Jones, left


Eric Eikenberg is a former chief of staff for Gov. Charlie Crist and former U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. He has been CEO of the Everglades Foundation since 2011.

PHOTOS: Jones (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for The National Audubon Society/AP Images); Fernandez by Mary Beth Tyson

Alia Faraj-Johnson is the Tallahassee-based senior vice president and Florida public affairs practice leader for Hill+Knowlton, Florida.

Influence100 George Kalogridis and Adam Babington


In September, Las Vegas Sands, one of the world’s largest gaming companies announced it was abandoning its efforts to build a destination resort casino in Florida. LVS, headed by mega-billionaire Sheldon Adelson, doesn’t lose many political fights, but in this case it did. Why? Because on the opposite side of it was The Walt Disney Co., the most powerful force in Florida politics. The tip of the spear of that power is George Kalogridis, the president of Walt Disney World Resorts, and Adam Babington, the manager of Disney’s extensive governmental relations efforts. Whether it’s helping to bankroll the powerful Florida Chamber of Commerce or drilling down to influence the outcomes of key elections, The Mouse truly holds sway over the Sunshine State.


Peter Schorsch is president of Extensive Enterprises, which produces some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine.

John Morgan {titan} John Morgan has said some of the nicest things about me, in public and in private, that anyone has ever said. He’s also said some of the meanest, but he’s nice enough to keep those private (although you never know who he’s BCC-ing on emails). I love John Morgan. This space could be blank and no one would question John’s inclusion on the list of the 100 most influential Floridians. The man is simply a titan in our state: in politics, in business, in his community and in philanthropy. What makes John Morgan so special in my mind is that he, like no one I’ve ever met, actually lives his public persona. What you see is what you get, which is, of course: For the people! Anyone who thinks “For the People” is just a marketing gimmick hasn’t spent any time with John. This is a guy who really lives and breathes for the people, and despite his wealth and success, is one of “the people.” Go to a Carrabba’s or an Outback Steakhouse with him and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The proof of what I’m saying is that I promised Grady Judd would agree with every word.

PHOTOS: Courtesy J.C. Merrrill; Morgan (AP Photo/Alex Menendez); Kalogridis (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Images)

Ben Pollara is a political consultant and campaign manager for United for Care, the medical marijuana campaign that John Morgan chairs, and according to John, suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.

Collier Merrill {titan}

When presidents, governors, U.S. senators, congressmen, and state lawmakers come to Pensacola, they want to be seen at the Merrill brothers’ restaurant, The Fish House and eat its signature dish, Grits à Ya Ya. Former congressman Joe Scarborough has televised MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” from The Fish House deck. Mitt Romney and John McCain held campaign rallies at the same spot. Rick Scott and Charlie Crist held fundraisers there. Collier Merrill, the youngest of the three Merrill brothers, runs Great Southern Restaurant Group that also owns the Atlas Oyster House, Jackson’s Steakhouse and Five Sisters Blues Café. He is the grandson of lumber magnate Burney Henderson, who owned and developed the land that is now Destin. He has stayed close to his family roots. Merrill is also the president of Merrill Land Co., which specializes in condominium development along the Gulf Coast. Merrill has chaired every important board in the area—University of West Florida board of trustees, Greater Pensacola Chamber, Visit Pensacola, Community Maritime Park Associates, Naval Aviation Museum Foundation and Homebuilders Association of Northwest Florida. Respected and admired by all segments of the community, Merrill is the person to call to get something done. It’s no wonder that Jeb Bush tapped him to chair his presidential campaign in Northwest Florida. Rick Outzen is the publisher and owner of Independent News.


Influence100 Pat Neal {titan} State Sen. Pat Neal has always been an oddity among politicians: He has an impeccable reputation for integrity and had great success outside of politics. Elected to the Florida House in 1974 and the Florida Senate in 1978, he served eight years, rising to Appropriations chairman. As chairman, Pat’s University of Pennsylvania roots showed. His memory for details and grasp of the budget led him to the top of the Miami Herald’s list of most effective legislators. This year Sen. Neal’s company, Neal Communities, which includes his sons John and Michael, and his wife, Charlene, cracked the top 50 homebuilders in America list at No. 50. He has built more than 10,000 homes in the Tampa Bay area, mainly in Manatee and Sarasota counties. One of the keys to his success in politics and business is his attention to detail and loyalty to friends. When the economy turned down, instead of shuttering the business, he kept building, just at a slower pace, keeping many employees in jobs and contractors at work. His future, with a net worth that rivals his close friend Gov. Scott, is said to include a bid for state chief financial officer, one that he could easily selffund for say $20 million or so. Barry Edwards is a political strategist and radio commentator for AM 820 News.

Tom Petway is one of Florida’s most influential and successful business and civic leaders. A self-made man, his philanthropic efforts and time spent in public service demonstrate that Tom cares about his community. The effects of his service go beyond the First Coast. He’s played major roles in gubernatorial and presidential races, as well as bringing the NFL and other national exposure to Northeast Florida. Tom is a statesman, always bringing people together and setting politics aside to accomplish goals that are in the best interest of our community. He’s a lifelong Jacksonville resident, graduated from Terry Parker High School, and remains a strong advocate for his hometown. Having been instrumental in bringing both the Jaguars and a Super Bowl to the First Coast, Tom also had two terms as chairman of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission to bring new jobs and opportunities to Jacksonville families. Whether cheering for his alma mater, supporting Republican efforts statewide or setting a standard of excellence for First Coast business leaders, Tom is a steady hand in Northeast Florida and beyond, reminding us all of the importance of giving back. For this and much more, Tom has my deep and abiding appreciation. Lenny Curry is Mayor of Jacksonville and a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.


PHOTOS: Courtesy P. Neal and T.Petway

Tom Petway {titan}


John Rood {titan}

PHOTO by Dennis Ho

Ambassador John Rood has been a stalwart supporter, counselor, underwriter and friend to many of Florida’s (and the United States’) top Republicans for decades. Appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004 as the 11th ambassador to the Bahamas, Rood has helped shape the political futures of U.S. presidents, Cabinet officers, senators, congressmen, state legislators and mayors. Recently he engaged heavily in the election of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and most will tell you his support was central to Curry’s victory. John Rood’s endorsement is gold. It’s not a secret that he’s among the most prolific political fundraisers in Florida, but in a state this big, there are a lot of those. What makes Rood stand out? He’s all in. He puts his own money where his mouth is and everyone he calls on to help him knows that. He’s highly competitive and when he picks a horse, he intends to win. (Pro tip: You don’t get to be the ambassador to the Bahamas by hedging your bets.) I asked Rood one day whether he’d gotten an endorsement from someone we both know for a campaign. He looked at me with a deserving “What a dumb-ass question” look and replied, “Of course, what I want is his check.” John Rood likes it when his candidates succeed, and he dominates the game that makes it so. Seth McKeel is a former member of the Florida House, where he was the Appropriations Committee chairman. He’s now a lobbyist with Southern Strategy Group.



Neal Roth {titan} Neal Roth is not just a fantastic lawyer, he has been a leading advocate for numerous social justice causes throughout our state. His keen political insight and his unwavering passion for justice make him one of the most influential leaders in Florida. His engagement has had a measurable and lasting effect and it comes not just because of his financial generosity, but because he lends his time and intellect to the causes he champions. Eugene Stearns is chairman of the Stearns Weaver Miller law firm.

Chris Searcy {titan} Chris is not just an amazing advocate for his clients, he has been a strong and steady voice for the cause of civil justice in Florida. Chris Searcy sets the standard for consistent and effective advocacy: It is not an exaggeration to say that his leadership and devotion to the cause of justice has had a profound and lasting effect on our state. Debra Henley is executive director of the Florida Justice Association. Before her appointment, Henley was FJA’s Deputy Executive Director and Legislative Director for 19 years, she also held staff positions within the Legislature as a practicing trial attorney, and as an Ethics Commissioner.


Growing up on the lower east side of New York City can be rough for some kids, but for Harris Rosen it was exactly where he needed to be to get to where he is today. From his current vantage point—as founder and chief operating officer of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, a $500-million business—life is good. But he knows there are always things that can be done to make life better for those who need a little bit of hope. The hope Rosen spreads to Central Florida is through his philanthropic endeavors. They include a $25 million donation in 2002 to the University of Central Florida plus the land to develop the successful Rosen College of Hospitality Management. Before that, though, Rosen had an idea. What if he “adopted” students in Tangelo Park—a geographically depressed area of Orange County—and offered free preschool and then fully funded the college educations for high school graduates? That idea became a reality in 1993 and as of 2012, the high school graduation rate there was nearly 100 percent. His idea cost him about $10 million and gained him a lifetime of gratitude from the families he touched along the way. Rosen is a philanthropist born in New York but his heart—and influence—belong to Florida. Michelle Y. Ertel is president of Florida Strategic Advisors, a government relations and communications firm. She’s also a Republican political analyst for a Central Florida television station.

PHOTOS: Mary Beth Tyson (Roth); Rosen (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack); courtesy C. Searcy

Harris Rosen {titan}


PHOTOS: Bradshaw (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara); Vinik (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara); Sembler (AP Photo/Luigi Costantini)

Mel Sembler {titan} President Kennedy observed that “one person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” Ambassador Mel Sembler is one of those rare individuals who makes a difference at everything he tries. In addition to his remarkable business accomplishments, Sembler is universally known for his civic and political activism. He played a key role, both as fundraiser and adviser, in the election of President George H. W. Bush in 1988. Sembler was Florida’s National Committeeman to the Republican National Committee from 1994 to 2000 and Finance Chairman for the Republican National Committee from 1997 to 2000. In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Sembler as U.S. Ambassador to Italy where he served until 2005. While best known for his political activism, statesmanship and business leadership, Sembler is also widely respected for his passionate activism in the anti-drug movement. In 1976, Mel and Betty Sembler founded STRAIGHT, a drug treatment program for juveniles. During its 17-year history, STRAIGHT graduated more than 1,200 young people from its program. Subsequently, Mel and Betty established the Drug-Free America Foundation and SOS, organizations dedicated to educating people worldwide about the dangers of drug abuse and substance addiction. The Semblers remain critically active in both organizations. Sembler is now on numerous boards including American Enterprise Institute, Freedom’s Watch, The Republican Jewish Council and the Moffitt Cancer Center. He’s also a member of the Florida Council of 100. Jim Holton is the president of Holton Cos. and a former chairman of the Florida Transportation Commission. He has been a member of the Enterprise Florida board of directors.

Sally Bradshaw

Jeff Vinik {titan}

Having first met Sally Bradshaw during the summer of 1989, I’ve watched her emerge as a dominant force in Florida and national politics. Trying to measure her effect on the political landscape in just words is next to impossible. She has been a mentor and role model to countless political operatives who have risen through the Florida and national political ranks. Sally’s leadership in everything that makes up Jeb Bush’s political world from his first gubernatorial campaign to the current 2016 presidential race is the basis for what should be a must-read playbook for all who aspire to leadership positions. From the White House to the campaign trail to the policy arena in Florida, Sally has been the architect of countless winning political and policy strategies—and a leader who provides much-needed tough love when needed. She is and has been the Michael Jordan of Florida politics for more than two decades running. Whether it’s her groundbreaking professional life where she thrives in what is still at times a male-dominated arena, or her more private life where she is a devoted mother and wife, she is what we should all try to emulate: loyal, hard-working, humble, relentless, grounded and family-centered.

When you think of future Tampa development, you can’t help but think of Jeff Vinik. Jeff is among Tampa’s greatest champions and he shouts it from the rafters. Jeff bought the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 with a vision of a team that was stronger, a team that could motivate a region, and it has. He moved to Tampa with that vision for our community and during the past five years, Jeff has electrified our downtown with the idea that we can do better and be better. Vinik is leading the endeavor to transform a 40acre hole in the heart of our city and create with it the most meaningful development Tampa has seen in decades. A live, work and play community equipped with a new USF medical school, hotels, residences, retail and restaurants. The $2 billion investment in Tampa will establish the first WELL Certified district in the world, built with a keen focus on health and wellness, green space, walkability and quality of life. Through the Lightning Community Hero’s program, the Vinik family has donated more than $6 million to more than 200 local nonprofits across our region. This support has gone to homeless initiatives, gun buy-backs, education and more. Tampa, along with great leaders such as Jeff, is providing a blueprint for how cities can be better, how we can build bigger and how we can provide a better future for our families, our businesses and our environment. Bob Buckhorn is the second-term Mayor of Tampa.

{behind the throne}

Cory Tilley is president and founder of public relations/communications firm CoreMessage. He also was a top adviser and deputy chief of staff to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.


Influence100 Kathy Mears

{behind the throne} I was told I have 200 words to describe Kathy Mears and what makes her so influential in Florida politics. I won’t need them all because the words below personify her: Fierce loyalty; Hyper-competitive spirit; Brutal honesty; Tremendous integrity; Brilliant strategist “who can see around corners”; Uncanny political awareness; Masterful writer and framer of issues; Deep sense of right and wrong; Tremendous ability to focus; Work ethic that never stops; and Compassionate and faithful. How many people do you know in the political process who’ve served as a senior adviser to three Speakers, two Presidents, and one governor? Not to mention that despite her amazing résumé she’s still very young. In the late 1990s, a new Republican era began with majorities of both chambers along with the governor’s mansion. But it was also the beginning of 20-year-old Kathy Mears’ political career as she went on to become the communications director for Speaker Daniel Webster. The rest is history. Kathy Mears has had an amazing run that’s hard to touch by anyone’s standards in Florida politics. She also happens to be a wonderful friend who I’d run through a wall for. Will Weatherford is a former Speaker of the Florida House. He’s now managing partner of Weatherford Partners.

Alberto Martinez

When it’s time to go into battle, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio know you want Alberto Martinez on your side. Miami-born of Cuban descent, he relished his role as Charlie Crist’s chief antagonist and mastered the skill of cutting his opponent to the quick with a smile on his face. Albert has quietly—rare for such a gifted communicator—made his way up the ranks in Florida Republican circles having earned the trust and respect of those he worked with along the way. Albert’s influence comes not only because of his abilities to craft winning narratives and advance policy agendas, but in large part because he consistently puts his principals—and conservative principles—first. As a longtime confidante and adviser to Marco Rubio, it was no surprise he was tapped to serve as the senator’s chief of staff. His rising influence doesn’t just cover the landscape of Florida politics, it now also walks in the corridors of our nation’s Capitol. Adam Hasner was Majority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives from 2007-2010, Martinez was his communications director. Note: Martinez is not pictured.


PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

{behind the throne}

Influence100 Marcus Jadotte

{behind the throne} Marcus and I became fast friends in 1997, two guys from completely different planets, but two guys convinced we could change the world. During the past 20 years, there are very few people whose advice I’ve called on more often than his. Quite frankly, that puts me in very good company. His résumé alone is beyond impressive: Chief of staff to multiple members of Congress, Florida presidential state director, deputy manager of a presidential campaign, NASCAR executive, senior adviser to a presidential re-election, Senate-confirmed presidential appointee. All of the classic attributes apply: He is one of the hardest workers you will ever know. He’s exceptionally smart. He’s trustworthy. He’s as loyal as the day is long. He is the classic guy you want in a bunker with you. That’s why so many powerful people—and others like me—turn to him for advice. What makes Marcus really special, though, is that in spite of all of his successes he’s still the same humble kid I sat with 20 years ago in Center Field of Joe Robbie Stadium—a stadium built in the shadows of a neighborhood he called home—watching the Marlins win the World Series. He remains as idealistic and committed as ever to changing the world. And you know what? I wouldn’t bet against him succeeding. Steve Schale is one of Florida’s leading Democratic strategists. He was state director for Barack Obama’s Florida campaigns and was named one of the most influential Florida Democrats by Politics Magazine.

Melissa Sellers

{behind the throne}

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson (Mitchell); courtesy M. Sellers; Jadotte (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds)

Newspapers have called her the most powerful unelected person in state government and few would argue. We know what people with power can do. What makes Melissa Sellers unique is what she doesn’t do with power. As you might expect of someone in her position, she is exceptionally smart, highly determined, quick-witted and annoyingly efficient. But ask anyone who knows her well, and they will say what makes her so effective are her sense of purpose, ability to motivate people, a knack for quickly separating priorities from distractions, and her unquestioned loyalty. Make no mistake, Melissa’s vast power and influence are used exclusively to advance the goals and objectives of others, instead of her own. Melissa is quick with a smile or an encouraging word, but has a keen awareness of right and wrong. If you are wrong, brace yourself, you are in for a fight. She’s a follower of Jesus, a relationship central to what makes her tick. She’s an avid runner, a voracious reader and has a voice that would give Carrie Underwood a run for her money. Understanding Melissa’s outlook on politics is as simple as taking a road trip with her and friends. You will play a game she calls, “the question game; a game of car togetherness.” Someone starts the game by asking a question about life, some questions are light-hearted while some are more serious. Each person in the car answers the question, then the next person in line asks a new question. To the uninitiated, the game seems senseless at first, but in the end it provokes thought, laughter, and new perspectives—virtues Melissa values most. Brecht Heuchan, a senior political adviser to Gov. Rick Scott, is the founder of Contribution Link, a fundraising and political intelligence company. He owns a small government affairs firm.

Pete Mitchell

{behind the throne} Pete Mitchell is the James Bond of Democratic Party politics in Florida. He’s discreet, efficient and the consummate gentleman. Rare is the major decision that occurs in the Democratic Party that doesn’t cross his desk or happens without his assent. You rarely see his name in print, you never see him in front of the cameras, and that’s exactly how he wants it to be. Pete has worked for Bill Nelson in some capacity for as long as I can remember and it’s sometimes hard to separate the two. He’s Bill’s chief of staff, most senior strategist, closest adviser, the guy he counts on implicitly to look out for his best interests (and that of the Democratic Party he’s the de facto leader of), and his alter ego. I say with confidence that if there were more Pete Mitchells in our party, we’d have a lot more political power right now. Pete is in a class of political operators in Florida that has few peers: names like Chesterfield Smith, Jim Krog and Mac Stipanovich. The next time you see Florida Democrats do something right or chalk up a big win, just know that Pete Mitchell was likely behind the scenes making it happen. John B. Morgan is the head of the Morgan & Morgan law firm and chairman of United for Care, the campaign for medical marijuana in Florida.





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Influence100 Keith Cate {media} John McCain tapping Sarah Palin to be his running mate was shocking, but the campaign’s next move wasn’t: giving her first local exclusive to WFLA’s Keith Cate. Tampa’s most influential TV newsman presides over the largest media market in the state, reaching more than 1.8 million households in the swing vote-rich I-4 corridor. Cate has secured four exclusive interviews with President Barack Obama, including two sit-downs in the White House. No statewide or national campaign wins Florida without courting his viewers, including every presidential and vice presidential nominee from the last two presidential election cycles. His own story might be his most compelling, though, having begun his career as an anchor and producer at age 19 in small-market Kingsport, Tennessee, then earning his stripes and every journalism award that matters in Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore; and Birmingham, Alabama. He’s made sense of historic events in Florida such as Hurricane Andrew, the 2000 recount, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. His reporting has spanned the globe from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Moscow to Landstuhl, Germany. Ultimately, Cate is one of Florida’s most influential people in politics because voters trust him and candidates respect him and his viewers. Kevin Cate owns CATECOMM, a public relations and advertising firm representing some of the largest campaigns, corporations and associations in the country. He is also one of Cate’s three children, all currently influencing Florida politics in their own right.

Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas

PHOTOS: Courtesy K. Cate; Caputo (Mary Beth Tyson)


Having studied, perhaps as closely as anyone, the Florida Capitol Press Corps, I have reached this conclusion: There are two “corps.” One is the joint bureau of the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald; the second is comprised of the rest of the reporters who are in fierce competition with the T/H. The Times/Herald remains the primary agenda-setter in Tallahassee. That makes bureau chiefs Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas automatic qualifiers for the INFLUENCE 100. Of course, they are both intrepid reporters and storytellers, each with A-list sources and instincts. Unfortunately for the purposes of this magazine, they’re both dogged old-media acolytes, meaning we never heard back from Bousquet about a photo shoot, while Klas politely declined. The traditional media versus new media rivalry continues! Peter Schorsch is president of Extensive Enterprises, which produces some of Florida’s most influential new-media websites, including SaintPetersBlog. com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

Marc Caputo {media}

A mix of feigned excitement and angst marked the voice of state Rep. Daphne Campbell as she proclaimed, “I’m a celebrity.” It was July 2011, and the Miami Democrat was under a Medicaid fraud investigation, but at the moment—as she was scurrying across a parking lot—there was a more pressing issue. In short, Marc Caputo. “This is a public building, and she is a public official,” the then-Miami Herald reporter proclaimed as Campbell’s entourage tried to block him from asking her questions about the investigation. His now-famed “Caputo Cam” recording the entire interaction, Marc would have none of it and dogged Campbell as she tried to flee. It was not the first time, nor the last, that Caputo captured a politician’s cringe-worthy moment on video, but it’s the one I remember most. It encapsulated the confidence, tenacity and intelligence that defines the most recognizable and feared member of Florida’s political press. Now with POLITICO Florida, Marc’s reputation has deservedly gone national. He is a staple on network news shows, where the Key West native takes a baseball bat to sometimes deserving Florida politicians, but also proudly carries the flag for the weirdness that can be Sunshine State politics. Matt Dixon is bureau chief of POLITICO Florida. For the past five years, Marc has scooped him more times than he can count while covering state government for The Florida Times-Union and Scripps Newspapers.



Gary Fineout’s passion for reporting is doubtless fueled by his curiosity, but also by a decades-old blend of indignity and moral outrage. Many were the days when Fineout would storm into the Tallahassee Democrat newsroom, ranting “I knew it, I knew it!” when, say, some other newspaper did a story he had pleaded with his editors to do. He had no qualm about strolling up to the dais in the middle of city commission meetings to listen in if he saw two commissioners having a private sidebar on some issue. That was long after he gained a reputation at the old Florida Flambeau, the student newspaper at Florida State University, for being a tenacious pain in the ass. One co-worker once had T-shirts made saying, “Fire Him! G’s the Worst.” “It involved a multitude of transgressions,” Fineout once explained. Fineout worked his way through several Capitol bureaus, eventually landing at the Miami Herald, where he was famously and ignominiously laid off by the corporate pinheads he oft inveighed against. Not before, however, his reporting on lobbyists footing the bill for lawmakers’ trips and parties almost single-handedly led to the creation of the gift ban. More recently, Fineout—now with The Associated Press—won the wire service’s Best of the States Award for pressing his ear to the door of a closed House GOP caucus while Speaker Steve Crisafulli circled the wagons in opposition to Medicaid expansion. James Rosica is a journalist and lawyer who covers politics for FloridaPolitics.com. Previously, he was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune and a court reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat.


PHOTO: Phil Sears

Gary Fineout {media}

Influence100 Mike Deeson {media} “I’m just offering him the opportunity to sit down. Because if not, I’ll just find him at one of his public meetings.” What government spokesman in Tampa Bay hasn’t heard that line from Mike Deeson? Typically, it’s in politicians’ best interests to accept the offer. The dean of Florida television investigative reporters, Deeson is in his 34th year at WTSP-TV—and, as he’ll remind you, on his 17th news director. His longevity comes from a passion for old-school journalism, the tenacity of a bulldog, and the pride he takes in beating his broadcast and print competitors on even the smallest stories. Maybe that’s why Deeson once spent the night in the state Capitol parking garage, camped out in front of the car of a lawmaker who refused to talk to him. He eventually got his man, but reporters have been banned from the garage ever since. Even at 66, Deeson chases good tips and bad politicians with the same vigor as he did at his first job at Missouri’s KTGR radio. Except now, 49 years later, his phone rings a heckuva lot more with the region’s top politicians and officials supplying the tips. Noah Pransky is an investigative reporter at WTSP-TV. He has won four regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for news and sports reporting, received six Emmy Awards for investigative reporting, and the national George Polk & Columbia-DuPont awards in 2014 for exposing red-light camera abuses.

PHOTOS: Deeson (Joseph Garnett, Jr.,/Tampa Bay Times); courtesy C. Marbin Miller

Carol Marbin Miller {media} “How did Carol Marbin Miller find out about this before I did?” more than one Florida social service agency head has fumed on more than one occasion. Here’s how: Marbin Miller spends a lot of time each day talking with people who aren’t being paid to talk to her. Clients and caseworkers who’ve lost faith in the system bring their stories to Marbin Miller, hoping to gain a hearing in the court of public opinion. Long before she quarterbacked the Holy S&%$! “Innocents Lost” project for the Miami Herald, Marbin Miller was comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable as a reporter for The Boca Raton News, The Palm Beach Post, St. Petersburg Times, Daily Business Review, and now as senior investigative reporter for the Miami Herald. A champion debater in high school and college, Marbin Miller knows how to collect and master a vast volume of data, and distill it down to a story that moves you to tears, and sometimes moves mountains. Marbin Miller is impervious to all forms of fawning and flattery by public officials. She is not intimidated by the bullying and bloviating of their press agents. Marbin Miller is patient. “My bosses pay me no matter how many times I get in the paper,” Marbin Miller is often heard to say. “They pay me whether the story takes two days, or two weeks or two months or two years. Facts are stubborn things. Sooner or later, they all find their way to the light of day.” Florence Beth Snyder has been a First Amendment lawyer since 1975 and still believes that journalism is all that stands between us and dictatorship.


Influence100 Justin Sayfie {media} There is no INFLUENCE Magazine without Florida Politics. There is no FP without SaintPetersBlog. And there is no SPB without the man who started it all in Florida: Justin Sayfie, the godfather of digital media in the Sunshine State. A decade after launching SayfieReview.com, it is still the top information source for those in The Process. Justin’s influence can be felt every time someone—often a top political insider—points and clicks their mouse to his website. With his ties to Bushworld and his new role at Ballard Partners, Justin is also a force beyond the computer screen. Peter Schorsch is president of Extensive Enterprises, which produces some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog. com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine.

Michael Putney Michael Putney is the dean of South Florida political analysts. Every Sunday on WPLG Channel 10 in Miami, Putney co-hosts “This Week in South Florida,” an hourlong program that is must-viewing for anyone interested in public affairs. He hosted the show himself for almost 25 years and now shares hosting duties with Glenna Milberg. At 74, Putney is at the top of his game. The son of a minister, he holds his guests accountable, but he’s always courteous about it. He came to Miami in 1977 to work for the Miami Herald. He left in 1981 to pursue a television career at WTVJ. He joined Channel 10 in 1989. Putney has deep institutional knowledge of South Florida that’s rare for a TV journalist. He’s so influential that people such as Jeb Bush appear on his show when Putney calls. Every other Wednesday, the Herald publishes a Putney column, which is often controversial. In August, he criticized Miami Beach’s mayor for trying to “strong arm” businesses into donating to a PAC that supports the mayor’s allies. Putney says he is “proudly NPA” and prefers honorable politicians. However, corrupt ones “have kept me gainfully employed.” Tom O’Hara is a veteran newspaperman. He is the former managing editor of The Palm Beach Post and the Plain Dealer in Ohio. Note: Putney is not pictured.


Tim Nickens {media} As editor of editorials since 2008 at the Tampa Bay Times, the state’s largest newspaper, Tim Nickens has the best bully pulpit in Florida journalism. When the Pinellas County Commission abruptly ceased fluoridating its water system, Nickens directed an editorial crusade that helped to defeat two commissioners in the 2012 election, changed the mind of a third, got the decision reversed, and earned the Times the ninth of its 10 Pulitzer Prizes, which he shared with columnist Dan Ruth. The saga continued the Times’ historic role as a powerful voice in state and local politics though some politicians now seem to care more about campaign money than newspaper support. Nickens and three colleagues were also 2012 Pulitzer finalists in editorial writing for their commentary on Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who self-financed his 2010 election with no endorsements and continues to ignore the media. Nickens’ continuing crusade is to persuade the state to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. The Senate is willing, but the House is not. Nickens graduated from Indiana University in 1982, worked a year for the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, and has been with the Times ever since 1983 except for a five-year interval with the Miami Herald. Martin Dyckman is the former associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times, now known as the Tampa Bay Times.

PHOTOS: Courtesy J. Sayfie; courtesy M. Putney/Local10.com; Nickens (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Cherie Diez)



Mark Wilson & Marian Johnson

PHOTO: Mary Beth Tyson

{industry leaders} The Florida Chamber of Commerce is known as “the leading voice of business,” and thanks to Mark Wilson and Marian Johnson it is a very strong voice. From the Keys to Pensacola, job creators know they can count on the Chamber to fight for a government that champions the entrepreneur. They advocate for a range of businesses from the “momand-pop” shops to Florida-based companies with brands recognized around the planet. Perhaps their most important role is to advocate for an education system that ensures the children of Florida keep the state competitive in the dynamic landscape of the new, global economy. Individually, Mark and Marian have earned their place in this list of those who make a difference. Mark has brought together a group of professionals and managed them to countless successes. For her part, Marian is a widely respected political adviser with decades of accomplishments. Most often, Marian is noted for her ability to forecast the changing tides of the electoral sea in our state. Today in Florida, because of Mark, Marian and the professionals they’ve assembled at the Chamber, families here have lower taxes, more opportunities to find a job and better education for future generations. Jeff Atwater is Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and is a member of the state Cabinet.



{industry leader} I have watched and admired Carol Dover operate as a tireless advocate for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) for more than 20 years. Her knowledge of tourism and hospitality issues are only surpassed by her relationships cultivated within all branches of Florida government. I was somewhat influential in having FRLA move from South Florida to Tallahassee when it was a small-time association with little political influence. When Carol Dover was hired as FRLA’s president/CEO things began to change in our association’s fortunes. She worked to help elect candidates who agreed with our position on vital issues. One such example was the “alcohol surcharge tax” placed on alcoholic beverages served by the glass at local restaurants, passed by the Legislature at the last minute to help balance the budget. Carol worked several years on the repeal effort, utilizing her relationships with officials in both the executive and legislative branch to ultimately abolish that unfair tax. Her substantial influence, her style and her social skills are impressive. Carol has been pivotal in the success of Florida’s hospitality industry, and through her leadership across the country serving on boards, commissions and associations. Andrew Reiss is the owner/operator of Andrew’s Downtown and Florida Trend’s Golden Spoon Award-winning Andrew’s 228 restaurant in Tallahassee. He is a two-term FRLA chairman of the board, with more than 10 years on its executive board.


Pat Geraghty

{industry leader} Pat Geraghty arrived in Florida in 2011 to take the helm of the company that had for decades been known as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. Four years later, the company has been transformed into the 11,000-employee GuideWell Mutual Holding Corp. The transition has been so successful it’s now a featured business case at Harvard Business School. Geraghty has been equally visionary in helping shape public policy. Known in Washington and Tallahassee as a credible, nonpartisan voice of reason, he’s frequently contacted by policymakers interested in discussing health care issues. He chairs the Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce, an influential Who’s Who of the largest and most politically powerful companies in Florida. He’s a member of the exclusive Florida Council of 100 and is on the boards of several prestigious state and national health care organizations. Widely considered a leading voice—perhaps the best leading voice—on health care innovation and policy in Florida, many still find it hard to believe that Pat Geraghty has been in Florida for only four years. But nobody doubts he’s one of Florida’s most influential people in politics. Jason Altmire had three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (2007-2013) and now works as Florida Blue’s senior vice president of Public Policy and Community Engagement.

Lars Houmann

{industry leader} As president and CEO of Florida Hospital, one of the state’s largest health systems, Lars Houmann has devoted his career to creating access to high quality, affordable health care. By integrating health care into the fabric of local communities, Lars’ efforts have resulted in a healthier population thanks to projects such as Florida Hospitals’ community lung clinics, which provide free care to underserved patients. His work has also spurred economic growth as demonstrated with the launch of Florida Hospital Celebration Health, a state-of-the-future health care facility. Lars’ influence is earned through his leadership by example. He is among the most-respected leaders in Florida, having been elected chairman of both the Florida Hospital Association and Florida Chamber of Commerce. His commitment to the best interest of our people, communities and state was at the center of the 2015 Legislative Session. Lars’ leadership was a key element to rally the business and health care community’s efforts to secure coverage for working, low-income uninsured Floridians. Through A Healthy Florida Works coalition, Lars engaged lawmakers and community leaders on that high-profile issue. This year, he was recognized on the state and national level with the Florida Hospital Association Spirit of Advocacy Award and American Hospital Association Grassroots Champion Award. Crystal Stickle is vice president of government affairs for the Florida Hospital Association.

PHOTOS: Courtesy C. Dover; courtesy Florida Hospital Association (Houmann); courtesy P. Geraghty

Carol Dover

Influence100 Kathleen Shanahan {industry leader}

Emmett Reed

PHOTOS: Reed, Stapleton (Mary Beth Tyson); Shanahan (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

{industry leader} The Florida Health Care Association is a potent force advocating the interests of long-term care centers across Florida, and much of its success is because of the leadership of its executive director, Emmett Reed. The association’s 1,100-plus members have felt the benefit of Reed’s influence since he took the helm in 2009. It wasn’t long ago that FHCA’s interests were routinely overlooked at the Capitol—but in little more than a year under Reed’s guidance FHCA was picked as the 2010 Association of the Year. Reed knows every good leader needs a good team. His ability to mobilize his membership and rekindle their excitement about participating in advocacy efforts has given FHCA a united voice for sharing its message with local lawmakers. Reed is known as a dedicated man of integrity, and regard for him extends far beyond Florida: Many of FHCA’s counterparts in other states look to Florida as a model for grassroots, member engagement, leadership development and much more. American Health Care Association CEO Mark Parkinson, a former Kansas governor, describes Reed as “one of the best—if not the best—state executives in the country.” Florida’s long-term care centers, and by extension their residents, are far better off thanks to Emmett Reed. Daniel Davis is the president and CEO of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and was in the Florida House of Representatives from 2010 to 2014. Davis also was executive director of the Northeast Florida Builders Association, a regional affiliate of Florida’s homebuilders Association where Reed was CEO/executive vice president.

Kathleen Shanahan is a trailblazing woman in the worlds of business, public service, and politics. From the White House to the state Capitol to corporate boardrooms and Wall Street, Kathleen has been a senior adviser to some of the most influential people in the country, making her influence felt in return. Her keen insight has been regularly sought in state and national campaigns, as well as education policy and matters of commerce. She has also been a leading advocate in efforts to combat domestic violence, protect our national parks, and the promotion of literacy and the arts. I remember Kathleen best during our time as chiefs of staff for Governor Bush and Senate President King. Once a week over sandwiches, my fellow NYU alum and I would pore over the daily workings of state government, discussing ways in which our principals could cooperate on matters, and at times also work on resolving disagreements between our two branches of Florida government. We fiercely defended our bosses and earned each other’s respect in the process. It was during those times that I witnessed firsthand how her skills of communication and collaboration helped us achieve great things together for the people of Florida. Gus Corbella is the senior director of the Government Law & Policy Practice of Greenberg Traurig’s Tallahassee office. Before joining the firm, Gus was chief of staff to the Florida Senate President and nearly a decade as staff director for the Majority Offices of both the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives and served nearly a decade as staff director.

Tim Stapleton

{industry leader}

As we look back over the past decade, it’s clear that the practice of medicine has been under attack on all fronts. Tim’s leadership, guidance and strategic insight have helped physicians survive this onslaught in our state in a way that few could have imagined. He has assembled a top-notch policy and political team and as a direct result of his leadership and engagement, medical care in Florida is far better than it would have been without him. I for one feel strongly that Tim Stapleton is one of Florida’s most influential leaders. Don Gaetz was president of the Florida Senate from 2013 to 2014. In 2015, Gaetz was on the Ethics & Elections, Health Policy and Rules committees.



Bentina Terry

Leadership in Northwest Florida has two telltale signs—a can-do attitude and a commitment to excellence, two recognizable trademarks of Pensacola-based Gulf Power’s Bentina Terry. As vice president of Customer Service and Sales for the region’s key employer, Bentina keeps her fingers on the pulse of the community’s needs, which translates to much more than just keeping the lights on. A thinker and a doer, you will find her making sure that “the western gate of the Sunshine State” is not only well cared for, but also well represented across the state. From her role as chairwoman on the RESTORE Advisory Council, her trustee seat at UWF, her steward role with the Pensacola Symphony, her board position with the Great Northwest, or her former statewide roles as chairwoman of both Leadership Florida and the Florida Chamber Foundation, state leaders turn to Bentina when they want to bring all voices to the table and get things done. Bentina has a way of welcoming voices from all camps and marshaling them to positive outcomes. Our community and leaders across the state trust her to lead because she has everyone’s best interest at heart. Tony Carvajal is an executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation.


Tom Feeney

{industry leader} It’s no surprise to find Tom Feeney on the list of Tallahassee’s top influencers. First on Tallahassee’s radar as a member of the Florida House of Representatives, he was quickly recognized as a rising star. He caught the eye of Jeb Bush, who chose Feeney as his running mate for governor in 1994. That narrow loss hardly narrowed his influence, however. After he returned to the Florida House in 1996, he was chosen by his peers to be House Speaker in 2000. After 10 years in the Florida House and six in the U.S. Congress, Feeney returned to Tallahassee in 2011 as president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida. With Feeney at the helm, this century-old business lobby shop has become one of the most influential voices in town. And Feeney has leveraged this influence to help us make Florida the most business-friendly states in the nation. Feeney is always quick to pop open a cold one or two and tell a story. Folks would do well to listen because he’s got a lot of wisdom to share. Adam Putnam was a five-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives and has been Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture since 2011.

PHOTOS: Courtesy B. Terry; Feeney (Mary Beth Tyson)

{industry leader}

Influence100 Eric Silagy

{industry leader} Eric Silagy may run a major power company, but his power comes from his leadership skills and experience in how and when to use them. When Eric was chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, I witnessed his influence in more than 100 official meetings and even more conference calls. While some may incorrectly assume Eric’s influence comes from having a veteran and professional lobbying team (he does), strategists who routinely outsmart associated interest groups (they do), or because his company invests significant resources in pro-jobs candidates (it does), Eric’s real power comes from his unique ability to see the entire field: players, fans, rule-makers and the scoreboard. Eric has the wisdom to see whether today’s game is a battle or the actual war. Despite media and special interest attacks, I’ve seen firsthand how much Eric cares for people, and his passion for always doing the right thing. Whether it’s helping schools with a STEM opportunity, helping explain long-term energy options to a national conference of state chamber leaders, supporting a candidate or helping a friend, Eric is a one-in-100 leader because he knows how to help advance a common agenda where everyone wins. Securing Florida’s future requires leadership, and Eric Silagy is a leader’s leader.

PHOTO: Courtesy E. Silagy

Mark Wilson is president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.



Monica Russo {advocate}

A political candidate barnstorming Florida in search of voters needed to win our swing state over to their cause is frequently in the news. Unreported, but just as critical, is the phone call or meeting that candidate has with Monica Russo. No statewide or national Democratic campaign can win in Florida without Monica’s support thanks to her years of helping to lead the fight for immigrant rights, minimum wage, fair districts and myriad other social issues. Monica wears many hats so she, and the workers she has dedicated her life to, always have a seat at the table. She founded and organized private sector health care workers across the Southeast into the region’s largest health care union, the Florida branch of the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. She’s an international vice president of the Service Employees International Union and president of SEIU’s Florida State Council. Add to that her role for organizations including the South Florida Workforce Investment Board, National Leadership Council, Florida State Voices, and Florida International University’s Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy, and the Florida Alliance. But I know the role she loves the most is that of loving mother to Giovanna.

Jeff Wright {advocate}

Jeff Wright has been a vital figure in helping shape Florida’s public education landscape for well more than a decade. We can easily conclude that our state’s public schools are better off because of his direct involvement. Whether it’s his hands-on negotiation skills, his understanding of the political landscape or his passion for public education, Jeff is a persuasive and effective advocate. I shudder to think what our state’s public schools would be like today if not for his unceasing work.

Joy Friedman is the political and legislative lead in Florida for the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees.

Alex Heckler {advocate}

Alex Heckler tells people that I am his mentor. The truth is that he has taught me a great deal over the years. I knew from the moment he started as a junior partner in my practice group at Shutts & Bowen that I would not be Alex’s “boss” for very long. A decade later he’s my managing partner at LSN Partners, which he built and later joined and he has grown into one of the best advocates I know. He’s also one of the brightest stars that’s shone during my five decades in political life. I watched Alex from afar become a national player with John Kerry’s 2004 campaign, and then up close in 2008, when he, working relentlessly and sleeplessly, became Hillary Clinton’s Florida Finance co-chairman. I’ve seen Alex in action many times since: as Treasurer and Board Member of the Democratic Governor’s Association, twice as a member of Obama’s NFC, and countless other positions, not to mention the civic and charitable work that he and his dynamic wife, Tiffany, do outside of politics. Lobbyists get a bad name by the perception we only care about dollars and not ideals. Alex Heckler exemplifies that you can be a great advocate for your clients by combining skills, ethics, hard work and by giving back to the community. George I. Platt is the managing partner of LSN Partners’ Fort Lauderdale office, a former Broward County Commissioner and former Treasurer of the Florida Democratic Party.


PHOTOS: Courtesy A. Heckler; Russo and Wright (Mary Beth Tyson)

Scott Arceneaux is executive director of the Florida Democratic Party and a former executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

Influence100 Mark Ferrulo {advocate} When I met Mark in college, we were both student leaders, working with the student and consumer rights group called the Florida Public Interest Research Group (FPIRG). We were enthusiastic, energetic and determined to change the world. I was impressed by his quiet conviction that we must hold politicians and corporations accountable. I felt humbled then, as I do now, in watching Mark’s good work; his indefatigable spark of passion that drives him to dedicate his work life to progressive public-interest advocacy. Over a 24-year career marked by dedication and perseverance, battles won and lost, three sentinel accomplishments come to mind. Mark led the 1997 effort to pass a law that stopped oil companies from drilling in state waters. The public took notice, as did then-Gov. Lawton Chiles, who invited Mark to the bill signing and thanked him for his years of work fighting to protect Florida’s world-famous coast. Three years later in 2000, Mark led the successful effort to ban the entrenched predatory, anti-consumer “Car Title Loan” industry practice. Since launching Progress Florida in 2008, Mark and his team have made it into the largest netroots organization in the state. A gifted organizer and innovative strategist, Mark was recognized as the Florida Netroots Activist of the Year by his colleagues. So when you ask Mark what he does for a living, and he says, “I fight the good fight,” he means it. My old college friend indeed continues to change the world, and we surely know how important that influence is here in Florida. Darden Rice is a St. Petersburg City Councilwoman and a longtime leader in environmental issues, voter rights protection and health care reform.

Mary Barley

PHOTO: Barley (AP Photo/Gregory Smith); Ferrulo (Benjamin Todd); courtesy B. Pollara


Not many people can call themselves a “Hero of the Planet.” It’s a fitting title given to Mary Barley by Time magazine for her resolute leadership and tireless advocacy to restore the Everglades. Saving the Everglades is deeply personal for Barley. After the untimely passing of her husband, George, a formidable Everglades advocate himself, Mary picked up the torch to bring attention and action to saving that natural treasure. On two occasions, Mary played a leading role in amending the Florida Constitution to protect the Everglades, and she was instrumental in advocating for passage of the historic bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the largest restoration project in history. She’s active in conservation organizations including the Everglades Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association and the Everglades Trust. Her influence rests in her determination and ability to wield power of the best kind— that which serves the greater good and leaves a legacy of environmental stewardship for future generations. Eric Eikenberg is a former chief of staff for Gov. Charlie Crist and former U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw, Jr. He has been CEO of the Everglades Foundation since 2011.

Ben Pollara {advocate}

I say whatever the hell I want, because I’m old and rich, and I don’t give a shit. I tell Ben Pollara he’s got Asperger’s syndrome because he’s neither of those things but still doesn’t give a shit. Sometimes it hurts him, but like me, he rarely opens his mouth without knowing what’s he’s gonna say, even if it doesn’t look that way. I kicked Pollara out of my office once in 2004, when he showed up unannounced to demand checks for Betty Castor. In 2012, he showed up at my house unannounced and told me he was holding a Super PAC reception with Bill Clinton in my billiard room. A few months after that he came to me with a poll and a $50,000 check and an idea about medical marijuana. That’s when I should’ve kicked him out. Nearly three years and many millions of my dollars later, I can’t get rid of him. Ben’s a pain in my ass, my ghostwriter, the occasional bane of my existence, and the adopted son I didn’t need or ask for. I look forward to when he’s old and rich and has actually earned the right to say the shit he does. John B. Morgan is the head of the Morgan & Morgan law firm and chairman of United for Care, the campaign for medical marijuana in Florida.



David Johnson I met DJ shortly after I decided to run for the Florida House. When he came to our house/campaign office for the first meeting as our campaign manager, he said: “Whatever you do, do not waste money buying magnets.” What he did not know is that sitting right behind him were three large boxes of brand-new magnets we had proudly purchased the day before. So, needless to say, I have been taking his political advice ever since. After that first meeting, three more candidates jumped into the race and DJ was under a lot of pressure to walk away from my campaign. He stuck with me and I’ve never forgotten that. Had it not been for David Johnson, there is no doubt in my mind I would never have been elected to office or had the chance to become Senate President. DJ is a great friend and adviser with a brilliant political mind. He is as loyal a guy as you will ever meet. In fact, 16 years later the “Andy Gardiner for State Representative” magnet is still on his refrigerator. Andy Gardiner is President of the Florida Senate.


PHOTO: Johnson (Mary Beth Tyson)



John Hitt

{academic & wonk}

PHOTOS: MacManus (Tampa Bay Times/Fitterer, Brendan); Baker (AP Photo/Phil Sears); Levesque (XXX); Hitt (AP Photo/Phil Coale).

University of Central Florida President John C. Hitt arrived in Orlando in 1992. Since that time he has led UCF—the second-largest university in the nation with more than 63,000 students—on a meteoric rise to national prominence. In September, a front-page story in The Washington Post reported that at UCF “bigger is better.” With Hitt as its leader, the Post detailed how UCF is “storming higher ed” as a model for “a nation in desperate need of a better-educated workforce.” U.S. News and World Report ranks UCF as the 13th-most innovative university in the country, alongside institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Duke and MIT. Similarly, Washington Monthly ranks Hitt as one of the nation’s top 10 most innovative presidents. When it comes to students, Hitt has championed quality as well as quantity. UCF’s fall 2015 freshman class set UCF records with an average SAT two-score of 1261 and a weighted average high-school GPA of 4.0. UCF also set new university records for diversity in the fall with 43 percent of students being minorities. As former Gov. Jeb Bush once wrote, “I believe President Hitt and Walt Disney have done more to transform Central Florida into a vibrant, dynamic place than any two people in the region’s history.” Robert Stuart Jr. is senior director of government affairs at the GreyRobinson law firm.

Patricia Levesque {academic & wonk}

Fortified with a deep-seated passion to advancing education, Patricia Levesque is the nationally renowned CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and a called-upon educational public policy adviser. Lauded for her proven aptitude to forge substantive legislative initiatives, she’s held a leading post in the Office of the Speaker of the House as well as deputy chief of staff for then-Gov. Jeb Bush. That put to the test her dedication to improving the education of all children. Patricia has one priority: student success. From that vantage point Patricia, assisted by the Foundation, boldly advocates for educational opportunities intended to energize the furthest horizons of a student’s potential. Patricia is an outspoken advocate for customization in education, children with special needs, accountability and 21st century world-class job skills. As often is the case with innovative leaders, Ms. Levesque is frequently the object of rival perspectives. Nevertheless, her fervent belief that rigorous curriculum must be implemented, learning opportunities multiplied and scholarly uniqueness esteemed, remains resolute. She knows that to coddle education and maintain a stilted image of achievement is deceptive to a community while leaves our youth unprepared for a fierce and dynamic world. Patricia has not only been a person of influence in Florida over the past two decades but is also a person of influence nationally and will be for decades to come. John Legg is chairman of the Education PreK-12 Committee in the Florida Senate. He’s worked with Patricia Levesque since the mid-1990s.

Amy Baker

Susan MacManus {academic & wonk}

Susan McManus received her B.A. from Florida State in 1968, her M.A. from Michigan in 1969, and her Ph.D. from FSU in 1975. She’s now the most cited political scientist in Florida and, perhaps, the nation. Under contract with WFLA NewsChannel 8 for decades, MacManus has appeared on all the major networks in Florida, and most radio stations and newspapers. She is a regular panelist on “Florida This Week” on WEDU and a featured columnist for SayfieReview.com. MacManus has written or co-written many books, including “Politics in States and Communities” (14th ed.); “Politics in Florida” (Third ed.); “Florida’s Politics: Ten Media Markets, One Powerful State”; “Targeting Senior Voters”; and “Young v. Old: Generational Combat in The 21st century.” MacManus has received more than 60 grants and research awards, written hundreds of articles and book chapters, and given hundreds of talks to community and professional groups. As a result of her numerous contributions, MacManus received the USF Town and Gown Community Service Award and was recognized as one of Florida’s 174 most influential Floridians by Florida Trend magazine in 2004. A bad week for MacManus is adding only eight to 10 items to her résumé. Darryl Paulson is an emeritus professor of government at USF St. Petersburg.

{academic & wonk}

Amy Baker’s influence on Florida government cannot be overstated and is fundamental to the essence of operations. A quick look at the Office of Economic and Demographic Research’s website shows the depth and breadth of her office’s reach. It can forecast available revenue to build the state’s budget; estimate the number of inmates the state’s prisons must accommodate; estimate population growth; determine how many students the state’s public schools must provide for; and assess the financial effect of proposed constitutional amendments. By compiling that and other data, Amy and her staff provide the governor, House and Senate, key predictive analytics on the state and national economy. That helps decision-makers in the Executive Office and the Legislature make accurate and timely decisions about how much money to budget, how much to save, and how much to borrow. It keeps the state on track and in touch with the national and global economies. Jerry McDaniel served three governors and three attorneys general in his 37 years in Florida government. During the final seven years, McDaniel was state budget director for the past two governors.


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Allan Bense {legend} It’s difficult to put into words the effect Allan Bense has had on Florida. He will be viewed by history as one of our great Floridians. Even before he got involved in politics, his life story was already amazing. His humble beginnings instilled in him a strong work ethic and ability to relate to people from all walks of life. His hard-fought rise to power is a legendary tale for every aspiring presiding officer. He showed you could win a competitive House Speaker’s race with grit, determination, attention to detail and a sincere interest in others. We honor Speaker Bense as one of the top influencers in Florida politics because of his exemplary term as Speaker of the House from 2004 to 2006. Speaker Bense and I both worked in the construction industry. Whether anyone else will understand, I know he will readily identify with the analogy I’ll use to describe his abiding and continual influence in the process. It’s called a plumb line. In construction terms, it’s a weighted cord used to set a straight vertical line. Every decision made is based on that reliable reference point. For more than a decade, Speaker Bense has been a reference point for representatives, Speakers, senators, Presidents and governors. Although he described himself as plain, his service was marked by extraordinary greatness. He acted more than he spoke. He agreed more than he clashed. He invested far more than he ever took. He was fond of explaining his governing approach in baseball terms: He believed that games were won not by the rare home run, but by the accumulation of base hits. The Florida House is fortunate to have had his example of leadership. He has and always will be a reference point for political leaders in Florida.

PHOTO: AP Photo/Phil Sears

Steve Crisafulli is the 85th Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.


Influence100 John Delaney {legend} He’s been a prosecutor, city general counsel, a two-term mayor of Jacksonville and the highly successful president of the University of North Florida. John Delaney also chairs the 2015 JAX Chamber. In some circles, he’s known as the moderate Republican, who has campaigned hard for LGBT rights in conservative North Florida. A prodigious fundraiser, Delaney has nearly doubled the university’s privately funded endowment campaign during his tenure. As mayor, Delaney spearheaded the Better Jacksonville Plan, a $2.2 billion program that gave the city new public facilities and other amenities. He also created the Preservation Project, a massive land conservation initiative giving Jacksonville the distinction of having the largest urban park system in the United States. These days, Delaney is seen as wielding considerable “soft power” in the political sphere, even though he’s now officially ensconced in the world of academia. A behind-the-scenes adviser to the region’s power brokers, Delaney navigates comfortably among the overlapping business, social, political and academic elites that govern the First Coast. Melissa Ross is the host and producer of “First Coast Connect,” WJCT Jacksonville’s flagship daily public affairs call-in program, and a contributor to FloridaPolitics.com.

I was a 26-year-old kid when Dan Gelber splashed onto the scene in Tallahassee in 2000, a brand-new member barely 10 days into his term given the task of making the Democratic case in the House battle over presidential electors. I thought to myself: Who is this guy? Dan is a rare partisan who’s also universally respected. He passed major legislation while overseeing the Democrats’ largest gains in the Legislature in 40 years. He defined the terms of the debate, even on issues that his side lost. He is still the intellectual leader of our party. Asked to identify one Democrat who could be governor, Jeb Bush picked Dan Gelber. A man of unimpeachable character, he never forgot why he got in public life. Even six years after leaving office, there isn’t a smart Democratic pol in Florida who doesn’t seek his counsel—and for good reason. Dan is very much a role model on how to succeed in public life. Andrew Weinstein is the managing partner in the Weinstein Law Firm. He’s on the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and is finance chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.


PHOTOS: Delaney (Dennis Ho); Gelber (AP Photo/Phil Coale)

Dan Gelber {legend}


Marion Hammer {legend}

PHOTOS: Gray (Daniel Reinecke); Graham (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/23294); Hammer courtesy National Rifle Association

Bob Graham {legend}

Charlie Gray {legend}

“When you build your community, you build your firm.” More than 40 years ago, Charlie Gray made that his personal vision as he developed GrayRobinson into one of the most dynamic and influential law firms in Florida. A former county attorney and city solicitor, he recruited lawyers who not only excelled in their field but bought into his mission. I am a product of it, since I was recruited by Fred Leonhardt (the definition of a servant-leader), who was previously recruited by Mr. Gray. His efforts in shaping Central Florida are well-documented. It’s not a stretch to say that the University of Central Florida (then Florida Technical University), our expressway authority, Campus Crusade for Christ, the world’s greatest convention center, and even Disney would not be a part of our landscape without the efforts of Charlie Gray. But you’ll never hear him tell you that. He’s a modest man who takes SunRail to work. Simply, he just enjoys being an attorney and a servant to this community. I am humbled to be part of a team he started and continues to work with to this day. Chris Carmody is a shareholder with GrayRobinson, specializing in government relations. In his free time, he is father to Patrick, husband to Lauren and runs marathons.

Teacher, bellhop, farmer, barber, nurse, trucker and chicken plucker—Bob Graham has worked more than 400 different jobs across the state of Florida—but his most important positions were as governor and U.S. senator. When he launched his statewide campaign in 1978, no South Florida candidate had ever been elected governor. Many pundits wrote him off, but Graham won hearts and votes with a novel idea: Workdays—devoting hundreds of hours to working full shifts with everyday Floridians. Always hungry for information, Graham’s workdays taught him firsthand about issues and industries affecting voters—but more importantly, they connected him with the people he wanted to represent, earning him new friends and lifelong relationships. Going on to serve 18 years in the U.S. Senate, Graham developed a reputation as a true statesman willing to work with both parties to advance legislation important to his state. Chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee and having the foresight to vote against the Iraq War added to that reputation. The only job he’s ever failed at is retirement. Graham keeps an active schedule and remains a powerful force in Florida politics, advocating for greater civic engagement and fighting for Florida’s environment. Gwen Graham is Bob Graham’s eldest daughter. She’s following in her father’s footsteps of public service and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. She’s carrying on his tradition of workdays and credits them in aiding her victory.

“It’s Hammer Time!” When I got the text in 2010, I knew the greatest force in Florida politics was on my side. Marion Hammer is the chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Armed with decades of political and legislative experience, financial resources, and the most engaged/informed/rabid liberty-loving constituency, she is widely regarded as the most powerful state-level lobbyist in Florida (and probably the United States). As a past president of the NRA nationally, she enjoys unique deference within the organization. The NRA’s most celebrated successes throughout the country—such as the “Eddy Eagle” safety program, “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground”—all link back to Hammer. Her judgment is trusted with good reason. When Marion whispers, the earth shakes in Republican districts—but she’s actually a “Blue Dog” Democrat. Her email alerts spark thousands of outreach to legislative offices. Her famous “orange card” candidate endorsements alter the course of elections. In committee, she always asks to speak last, relishing the opportunity for fact-loaded rebuttal. Chairmen generally comply. No industry or organization wants to be in Hammer’s crosshairs. Business groups, medical interests, and law enforcement associations have all had the experience—no one wants to go back for more. In fact, several years ago an insurance company quibbled over a valid claim for property damage at Marion’s home. Insurance lobbyists didn’t sleep until her matter was resolved. But it’s not just about guns and liberty with Marion. She is a tireless advocate for the disabled and disadvantaged. She has raised children, grandchildren and the most-loved cats in Tallahassee. So if you see a lady with determined eyes, a wry smile and a cherub face adorning a red jacket sitting in the front row of a Judiciary Committee meeting, know you are in the presence of influence … and many rounds of ammunition. Matt Gaetz represents District 4 in the Florida House of Representatives.


Influence100 John Thrasher

{academic & wonk} In a world filled with people famous for being famous, John Thrasher is an old-school leader, a serious man with a real and meaningful track record. Although he’s not one to pick a fight for the sake of a fight, John Thrasher is also never one to shy away from a fight that needs waging. What sets him apart is an approach to leading that empowers others to be better than they would otherwise be. John Thrasher understands what is important and he focuses himself and others on the task at hand to accomplish whatever the goal may be and never spends a minute thinking who gets the credit for success. John Thrasher has many qualities that make him special. He’s confident, yet humble, always genuine and sincere and a friend anyone would be proud and fortunate to have. These attributes, matched with a keen intellect and an incredible work ethic, have helped him achieve success in every endeavor he has pursued in life. Whether these qualities come from a humble upbringing or a life of service that began in Vietnam, his family, our university and our state have been tremendous beneficiaries of what makes John Thrasher influential. David Rancourt is a co-founder of the Southern Strategy Group lobbying firm and is most recently a managing partner of Land South Group, a real estate investment company based in Lakeland. Rancourt also was a senior adviser to Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

John Kirtley

Ron Sachs {legend} During his storied career as a confidante to Florida’s political leaders, Ron has been involved in some seriously big moments … but none of those moments proved to be bigger than Ron. I’m always amazed at Ron’s relentless energy. Big client, small client … it doesn’t matter. He brings a passion to the table that’s infectious. I’ve sat in many meetings with Ron and I’ve always found it interesting that, despite his leadership position, everyone in the room has a voice. Because of that no idea goes unexamined. Ron’s sense of community is impressive. His thinking isn’t bound by geography, but he understands the importance of deep roots. His community service is second to none. In the public relations business, being safe has its place, but there are times when only bold will do. That takes a special kind of courage. Ron understands bold moves mean asking your client for an extraordinary level of trust, and that’s not easy. When that route is chosen, it’s usually because that client has a problem that requires such a big bold step. That’s not a dance for clumsy feet. Ron’s willingness to embrace those moments has been demonstrated time after time. I’ve always believed you can tell everything you need to know about a person if you watch how they are with their family. Watching Ron with his daughters is a beautiful thing. If you want to put a smile on his face, ask him about his kids and be prepared to lose the next 15 minutes. Two family sentences don’t come out of his mouth without his wife, Gay, being revered. Good family man equals good businessman. When you launch your PR lifeboat, you’d be smart to save a seat for Ron. Gary Yordon is president of The Zachary Group, an Emmy Award-winning media and public relations firm specializing in political campaigns. He also is host of the CBS-TV political talk show “The Usual Suspects.”


What most people know about John Kirtley is that he’s a remarkably successful venture capitalist—co-founder of KLH Capital in Tampa—who has used his business acumen and political skills to help create and run the largest scholarship program for low-income children in the nation. That’s all true, but it misses his inspiring motivation. John has used his wealth and influence to help the least among us, and I’ve seen him choke up when he talks about the educational mission we share. In 1998, John started the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Tampa Bay with 750 private K–12 scholarships mostly out of his own pocket. In turn, he received more than 12,000 applications and threw his considerable talents into finding a way to bridge the gap. The nonprofit that John created and chairs, Step Up For Students, provides tax-credited scholarships this year to 77,000 of Florida’s poorest students. More than two-thirds of them are black and Hispanic. They were struggling when they chose the program and are now making impressive academic gains every year. In John, I have found a kindred spirit who believes the scholarships help public education fulfill its commitment to equal opportunity. I’ve also found a man who turns words into deeds. The Rev. H.K. Matthews is a civil-rights leader who marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King and for whom a park in Pensacola was named. His autobiography, “Victory After the Fall,” was published in 2007.

PHOTOS: Courtesy J. Kirtley; Sachs (Mary Beth Tyson); Thrasher (AP Photo/Phil Coale)



Will Weatherford

PHOTO: AP Photo/Phil Sears


A very successful person at Will Weatherford’s age might be described as a “rising star,” but with the long list of significant accomplishments he’s earned before his 40th birthday, it’s more accurate to describe Will Weatherford as a political North Star. I was honored to serve with Will in the Florida Legislature and observed his passion, intellect, determination and willingness to push against the status quo firsthand. Few can question his conservative credentials: sponsoring bills on everything from school choice to pension reform while effectively thwarting the expansion of Obamacare in Florida. Yet, his deeply held principled beliefs also include a passionate indignation against generational poverty. In many ways, Will used his influence to not only change laws, but also change hearts. Will Weatherford’s lasting legacy in Florida politics is proving that nice guys can finish first, that honesty is a virtue, and kindness is a strength. These attributes make Will not just one of the most influential political figures in Florida, but also among the most admired. There is no question in my mind that Will Weatherford’s star will continue rising, and shining brightly, in Florida government for many years to come— maybe sooner than many may think. Dana Young represents District 60 in the Florida House of Representatives, which covers coastal sections of western Hillsborough County in the Tampa area from Town ‘n’ Country to Ruskin.




Pick sixty four teams for the NCAA basketball tournament championship and the 65th ranked team—the one not invited to

the Big Dance—is sure to be offended. That’s one of the dangers when creating a list like the INFLUENCE 100—leaving someone deserving off of it. Here are a dozen Floridians who easily could have made the INFLUENCE 100. They’re right there on the bubble. If only the decider of the list had been not so brain-dead! GARY CHARTRAND – The former Board of Education chair has became one of the strongest and most contentious voices for change in education, impacting such issues as where children go to school and how much money public schools have to educate them. MARSHALL CRISER – He was already one of the most influential people in politics when he was president of AT&T Florida. Now that the former chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida TaxWatch is Chancellor of the State University System, his influence has only grown. CHRIS DUDLEY – If you are the quarterback of the Super Bowl-winning football team, you’re an automatic all-star. Dudley is the quarterback of the state’s largest lobbying firm, making him an all-star in the political arena. ROSEMARY O’HARA – A throwback to when journalists led with their chin, the Sun-Sentinel editor of editorials has made her page a must-read from Tallahassee to Washington, D.C. ADAM GOODMAN – Turn on the television during the month before Election Day and it’s likely you’ll see one, if not several, spots created by Goodman and his award-winning team at The Victory Group. Goodman counts as his clients Pam Bondi, Will Weatherford, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and enough lawmakers to pass a quorum call. JOE GRUTERS – On resume alone—chair of the Sarasota GOP, trustee at Florida State University, vice chair of


the Florida GOP, state House candidate and point man for Donald Trump’s campaign in Florida—Gruters is not only one of the most influential, he’s also one of the busiest. CARL HIASSEN – If any one figure in the media best captures the roogoodoo spirit of Florida politics, it’s the Miami Herald columnist and novelist. Hiassen is considered one of the most important American novelists working today, with his outrage over political corruption and senseless environmental destruction found on every page. WAYNE HOGAN – One of the four or five most important trial attorneys in Florida. JUSTIN HOLLIS – If Adam Putnam makes it to the Governor’s Mansion in 2019, he’ll have many people to thank and one of the first among them will be this loyal lieutenant. NADINE SMITH – The leader of Equality Florida can rightly take credit for win after electoral and legislative win, helping to change red-governed Florida to rainbow colors. MARLEY WILKES – The leader of Ruth’s List is a must-see for every Democratic candidate hoping to make it out of a primary. She can turn on the fundraising spout for candidates running for Congress or city council.


Honorable Mentions Bryan Anderson, HCA Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation Brewster Bevis, Associated Industries of Florida David Brown, Broad & Cassel David Custin Travis Blanton & Jon Johnson, Johnson & Blanton Kevin Cate, CateComm

Richard Coates, Tidewater Consulting

Mark Delegal, Holland & Knight Ana Navarro David Coburn, Capital Analytics Gus Corbella, Greenberg Traurig Brett Doster, Front Line Strategies Matt Dixon, POLITICO Florida Chris Flack, Duke Energy Alia Faraj-Johnson, Hill+Knowlton Peter Rummell Brian Hughes Marty Fiorentino, The Fiorentino Group Adam Hasner, Fmr. Majority Leader, Florida House

Mark Herron, Messer Caparello Christina Johnson

Chris Hudson, Americans for Prosperity Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig Jackie Lee, Jackie Lee Strategies Mel Martinez, Fmr. U.S. Senator Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel Mike Moskowitz, Moskowitz Mandell Salim & Simowitz Adam Smith, Tampa Bay Times

David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group

John Stemberger, Florida Family Policy Council John â&#x20AC;&#x153;Macâ&#x20AC;? Stipanovich, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney

Mike Vasalinda Steve Vancore, Vancore Jones

Screven Watson

Abigail MacIver, Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy

Andrew Weinstein Brian Yablonski, Gulf Power Joe York, AT&T FALL 2015 INFLUENCE | 143

What I’ve Learned ...

Lucy Morgan 75, Tallahassee and North Carolina Sort-of-Retired, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist As told to Rosanne Dunkelberger

My mother (told) me that I was always curious. I have a sister that’s 12 years

older who has a Ph.D. from Harvard. Extremely bright. When she was little, she loved for mother to read fairy tales to her. Mother said when I came along years later if she started to tell me a story, my first question was, “Is it really true?” I had no interest in it if it wasn’t a true story.

I don’t remember being interested in politics at all before I went to work as a reporter in 1965. I was a stay-at-home moth-

er of three children. I only got into reporting when area editor Frances DeVore knocked at my door in Crystal River and asked if I


would be interested stringing for the Ocala Star Banner. I said, “Why would you ask me? I’ve never written anything.” And she said the librarian at the Crystal River library, who was a friend of a friend of hers, told her that I read more books than anybody else in town and she thought I could probably write because I read so much. They were paying 20 cents an inch and $5 a picture and I broke their stringer budget in the first month. I covered Citrus County and Levy County. I responded to fatal traffic accidents over the two counties, county commission meetings, school boards, any crime, city commissions—Crystal River, which was always in an uproar, and sometimes some of the others. I almost immediately became a staffer there and about a year later the St. Petersburg Times asked me if I would do some stringing for them. I started working exclusively for the Times in the Pasco County bureau in 1968, and would spend my reporting career there until I was assigned to travel the state

stirring up trouble in January of 1980.

Andy Barnes talked me into becoming the Tallahassee bureau chief in 1985 and in 1991 I was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Times Publishing Co., owners of the St. Petersburg Times—now Tampa Bay Times—Florida Trend, Governing Magazine and Congressional Quarterly and served until December 2005. I retired in January 2006 and then I kept working part time and retired a second time in 2013. I

still report occasionally, most recently a 1A story about Raymond Grady Stansel Jr., a drug dealer I had written about—I wrote a lot about drug dealers over the years—who faked his own death in a scuba diving incident off Honduras in 1974 but actually died earlier this year in a car accident after living on the lam for 40 years.

In Florida journalism right now, we’ve created a lot of dark spots nobody covers until something blows up. Chiefland,

Bronson, Cedar Key—all of those little towns would routinely have three or more daily newspapers covering city commission meetings, in addition to the weekly reporters. Nobody’s covering them now. Every now and then you will have a scandal erupt like the guys in that small town in California who were paying themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars in pensions. I wouldn’t be surprised if things like that are happening in small towns all over and we don’t know about it because there’s no reporter. I do think it’s sad. It breeds more public corruption, I suspect, because when you’re sitting in a governmental agency and you don’t believe anybody’s watching, good people will do good things but bad people may take advantage of that lack of supervision.

Ralph Haben always said there were no secrets in Tallahassee. Some things

stayed buried longer than others, but everything comes to the surface. And I do think he’s right. Sometimes you don’t hear about

PHOTO by Mark Wallheiser


am a third-generation uppity woman. In 1905, they knocked on the door to tell my grandmother her husband was dead and produced the body. He worked for the railroad and had been in a train accident. My mother was about 2 and her sister was an infant. She took my mother and her sister and took a job teaching at Mississippi Women’s College, which is now William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss. She supervised a dorm as well as taught (and) stayed in that job until her children got free college educations. Then, my mother and her sister took a job teaching on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Why two young women from Mississippi would do this, I don’t know. I can only say my grandmother bred independence in the women in the family and … that was the model I had to follow.

“I have made a point of not shooting rubber bands at anybody. I’m not going to write about something that will harass them a little. If I’m going to write about somebody that appears to be doing something bad, I will load the gun.”


“If Mother started to tell me a story, my first question was, ‘Is it really true?’ I had no interest in it if it wasn’t a true story.” it for a long time, but things come out. I had a sheriff’s deputy once who described that reaction of admitting what you know they know first as being like cutting the dog’s tail off one inch at a time. It’s going to be very painful. Many public officials think they can get by with only disclosing part of what they did wrong. So often that

disclosure promotes another disclosure and you end up with the cover-up being worse than the original scandal. I reached a point even when I retired the first time, when I really didn’t want to do things that involved the Legislature. I got really bored with sitting through committee meetings that essentially went nowhere and did nothing. You’ve got people introducing all this crap and the bulk of it never passes anyway. You really should tell people that it’s out there but … some of these stupid ideas (are) in the wind when it’s over.

A few people went to jail because I wrote about ‘em, yeah, but I didn’t know anybody that didn’t deserve to go to jail or deserve to lose the position he was in. I have made a point of not shooting rubber bands at anybody. I’m not going to write about something that will harass them a little. If I’m going to write about somebody that appears to be doing something bad, I will load the gun. I think far too many reporters nowadays get a little tiny story about a public official who made one little minor mistake and just run it into the ground.

If you find somebody doing something wrong and write about it, I think most public officials understand. I think it comes from the fact that in everything I’ve done, I’ve given that person the opportunity to plead their side of the story as I was writing it. I don’t think I have ever over-accused someone of doing something. I tend more to understate it. I think a lot of them know that I could have written something much worse about them. There’s some people, usually a low-rent, cheesy politician that doesn’t have much future, who really get bent out of shape with a reporter when they write something they don’t like. The ones who are going somewhere, most of them shrug it off when you write something they don’t like. I think a couple of the sheriffs I’ve


written about over the years probably would be still mad at me today. Most of them were pretty horrible. And they deserved to lose the jobs they were in. And I suspect that if they were to tell the truth, they would agree they deserved what they got. The best description of lobbying I ever heard came from Jim Smith. Bernie Parrish had been charged with income tax evasion and was about to go to federal prison and he barricaded himself in a house out on the Apalachee Parkway threatening to kill himself. He finally surrendered and came out. He had been one of Smith’s oldest friends and as I was doing the story … I said, “Jim, what in the hell happened?” And he said,

“Well, you know, Bernie has just reached the point where he could no longer kiss the sorry ass of people for whom he had no respect.” Most of the reporters who cover the Capitol assume, incorrectly I think, that they should cover the Legislature—the members of the House and Senate. But the real knowledge of what’s going on comes from covering the lobbyists. Most wouldn’t admit that, but they know what’s going to happen before the members do because they’re dealing with leadership or committee chairmen and they know the process, certainly better than any member that comes in now. With term limits, you don’t have any members that have been there a long time who really know what’s going on and how the process operates. I think reporters today make a mistake by not covering the lobbyists. They don’t understand that the lobbyists not only know what’s going to happen next, they have orchestrated it in many instances. (Reporters) tend to ignore the crowd on the fourth floor and watch the lawmakers, who don’t have any idea what’s going to happen next.

I never had a journalism class. I married a guy with a pretty good journalism education. He’s been my best teacher over

the years I suppose, certainly since we were married in ’68. This is an editor who would make 10 phone calls to confirm that the spelling of a guy’s last name was Brown, B-R-O-W-N, not with an E on the end of it. You learn a lot when you sit down and

watch somebody who was that persistent about spelling or a fact that would be in a story. I think the best thing is to totally learn everything you need to know about what you are covering. The school board or the sheriff, you need to go read everything that’s ever been written about them so that you know what the history is. And I really am a believer in knowing how the process works. And that you need to stick with something long enough to learn it. A lot of young reporters are so eager to get the next, better job that they’re not willing to spend the time they need to … build that basic foundation. In the Pasco sheriff’s series that won the Pulitzer, it began with one guy who started talking to me about things that were wrong and before it was over with I must have had 15 or 20 sources in that department. When I got the initial tips I tried to give the story to the bureau. The person who talked to me said he wasn’t going to talk to any other reporter. I said, “Why? We have regular reporters covering the sheriff’s department who know what’s going on.” He said, “Lucy, I’m pretty confident that 10, 20 years from now, you’ll still be working for the Times or writing ... I don’t know that one of those (reporters) isn’t going to end up as the sheriff’s public information officer next week.” And I thought, how much damage does that do

journalism every time a reporter leaves and becomes the public information officer for somebody? You think about all the people in agencies now who might be a source to expose corruption in government that are worried about whether that reporter is going to continue to be a reporter.

I have to believe that a lot of the public relations people are being told that it’s your job to make the boss look better. If you’re on the payroll of a private business it might be justified, but when you’re on the pubic payroll, it’s the taxpayers’ money that’s paying you. I don’t think there’s any justification for that. I guess it mirrors the animosity between the parties … everything has gotten so partisan that anybody who works for a Democrat or a Republican doesn’t want to do anything that would allow the other party to make hay, so their

[Reporters] don’t understand that the lobbyists not only know what’s going to happen next, they have orchestrated it in many instances. They tend to ignore the crowd on the fourth floor and watch the lawmakers, who don’t have any idea what’s going to happen next.

PHOTOS, clockwise from top left: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/13928; Donald Gregory/State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/102688; Donald Gregory/State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, https://floridamemory.com/items/show/103503

—Lucy Morgan

first reaction is to cover something up or to let out as little as possible.

I’ve always believed in going to the scene and to the meeting. It’s very easy in Tallahassee particularly to listen to (government meetings) from home or work. We used to have just speakers in the press building, but now you can watch a meeting on television. A lot of people do. But there are a lot of things you learn from being in the room that you don’t learn from what is broadcast. You can see the speaker’s staff coming around and whispering in people’s ear when they’re about to take a vote on a crucial issue if you’re there and you don’t see that watching TV. And just talk to people there, who might whisper in your ear from time to time. We bought a vacation home near Cashiers, N.C., at the top of a mountain in the early 1990s. We started doing six months up here when I retired in ’06. We really like to be in both places half the year. Most of our Tallahassee friends are either in journalism or politics or law. Our friends in North Carolina rarely talk about journalism. Occasionally politics, but we’ve learned who we can say what in front of up here. Our neighborhood is divided between conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. I missed a step in the House press gallery in 2000 and broke my ankle. I’ve had eight surgeries and it’s not fixed. My right ankle essentially feels like it has a broken bone in it all the time. Because I had spent so many years favoring the ankle, I screwed up the other knee. They did a complete knee replacement and it’s OK. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer and treated in 2013. It is somewhat frustrating because there are a lot of things I’d like to do to. Walk more. I just learned that I have to limit the steps I take in any given day. I always carry too much with me from one place to another because I don’t want to have to make two trips. It is limiting. I know that I can’t go chase around the Capitol anymore and I don’t really have the desire to. I like doing the kind of projects I’ve been doing lately. Sometimes I have felt guilty for being paid well for doing what I do because it’s so much fun. ][

Clockwise from left: Dick and Lucy Morgan celebrate the July 31, 1976, Florida Supreme Court decision that overturned a jail sentence given to Lucy for refusing to reveal a source. The landmark decision, written by Justice Joseph Hatchett, created a qualified privilege for Florida reporters; Pictured (L to R) Maya Bell and John Van Gieson of the Orlando Sentinel and Lucy Morgan of the St. Petersburg Times post results to the Press versus Senate softball game (1987); St. Petersburg Times reporter Lucy Morgan with her 1980s-era video camera and phone.


1. Always tell the truth.

2.  Do your homework on the client before agreeing to representation.

19. Do not be afraid to lead with strength; shyness will not work in this business, but arrogance is never a virtue.

4. No work without a signed agreement.

21.  Combine business and pleasure where ethically appropriate.

3. Avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety.

20. B  e a good listener.

5.  Strictly observe all applicable codes of ethics.

22. S  eek allies who will support your issue.

6. In-depth knowledge of subject matter and pertinent procedures are the foundation of success. 7. Hire, train, and compensate the best talent.

8. Work closely with key government staff and show them respect and professionalism at all times.

9. Get to know the elected officials, and do not forget them when they leave office. 10. Be selectively involved in fundraising, endorsements and campaign support. 11. Put a face on the client to facilitate a personal link with public officials. 12. Deal with the downside by addressing the weaknesses of a position.

13. Carefully analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your competition or opposition. 14. No nastiness.

15. You must never, ever break the law and counsel the client on this as well.

23. C  ommunicate regularly with client.

24. Utilize demonstrative tools and simplify your message.

25. Utilize social media and related tools to advocate for your client. 26. Use outside experts, studies or research for support. 27. Utilize public records requests and scrutinize staff comments. 28. Protect the record; use a court reporter when appropriate. 29. K  eep a sense of humor and a good smile.

30. T  he Abramoff Rule: The lobbyist should never become The Issue. 31. If you know you cannot get a #1 vote for someone in a competitive procurement, ask for a #2. 32. If it seems too good to be true, it probably isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t true.

16. Always follow lobbyist registration laws and applicable rules.

33. N  ever burn bridges with elected officials or other lobbyists.

18.  Assume nothing; attention to detail is essential.

35. Give back to your community and never stop building your network.

17. Tailor your work to anticipate the Cone of Silence.


34. Be careful what you say in casual conversation.

American Pharoah and Jockey Victor Espinoza are mobbed at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup

“We’re Worried Florida Legislators Take Our Business For Granted.” —The McKathan Brothers

Meet the World-Famous Florida Horsemen Who Taught “Horse of a Lifetime” American Pharoah How to Be A Racehorse. Decoupling Would Cripple Their Florida Business.

Is That What We Really Want?


Because Casino Revenue Earned in Florida Should Work for Florida. Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association • Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association • Florida Quarter Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Association Florida Standardbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association • National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association • American Quarter Horse Association U.S.Trotting • Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association • Ocala Breeders’ Sales

ONE OF THESE IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS... 26 states have already passed modern ridesharing regulations in the last two years.

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Profile for Extensive Enterprises Media

INFLUENCE Magazine — Fall 2015  

Recognizing the 100 most influential people in Florida politics.

INFLUENCE Magazine — Fall 2015  

Recognizing the 100 most influential people in Florida politics.