TALLAHASSEE — Telecom companies, Malaysian casino-builder Genting, sugar concerns, and an Internet sweepstakes cafe company led the crop of corporations and interests that poured $212 million into lobbying Florida government last year, new reports show.
The total includes $123 million paid to lobby the Florida Legislature and another $88.5 million paid by companies seeking influence with Gov. Rick Scott's office and the state's two-dozen agencies.
Many of the biggest spenders get favorable results.
Phone giant AT&T set the pace, paying $1.8 million to 28 lobbyists last year as the company pushed to lower its communications services taxes. AT&T, Verizon Communications, and other big telecoms won tax changes that could ultimately save them anywhere from $35 million to $300 million a year.
This spring, legislation is moving through the Senate to cut the tax again, and also ban texting while driving, another issue the company is pushing.
A raft of other often-competing interests, from optometrists to Internet cafes, U.S. Sugar and even local governments also spent big. And many of them hired GOP super-lobbyist Brian Ballard, who says his clients are buying insider access to power and decision-making. His Ballard Partners firm was the top grosser at $10.7 million in total fees.
Genting paid $1.7 million to lobbyists last year, ranking No.1 in payments ($770,000) for executive-branch lobbying. Though the company's push to develop a destination casino at the site of the Miami Herald building went nowhere, the company continues courting legislative allies...(click pic to continue reading)