TALLAHASSEE -- Former House Speaker Dean Cannon appears to have landed on his feet quite comfortably in his return to the lobbying world.
The Winter Park Republican, who along with former House Speaker Larry Cretul launched his lobbying firm Capitol Insight before leaving office last year, banked approximately $755,000 in his first full-quarter of business. The figure includes both legislative and executive lobbying totals due this week.
The firm launched last November quickly signed up an impressive list of clients, from AT&T, to the Florida Realtors, The Villages, the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and Walt Disney World Resort. The firm has also taken on the estate of the late Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, whose hazing death spurred a series of criminal charges.
“He spent his two years as speaker lining up a lot of that work, so it’s not surprising at all,” said Brian Ballard, the capital city’s highest-grossing lobbyist. Cannon did not respond to a request for comment.
Cannon had been a lobbyist before he first ran for the House. But his quick return to the ranks inspired lawmakers to enact a stronger prohibition on such "revolving doors" for future termed-out legislators, in an ethics bill that extends a two-year legislative lobbying ban for ex-members to executive branch agencies. Cannon is registered to lobby only the executive branch for now, although the other employees of his firm can lobby both.
Lobbying reports show that 11 firms grossed more than $1 million in the first quarter, led by Ballard Partners ($2.8 million); Southern Strategy Group ($2.6 million); and Ron Book ($2 million).
All told, more than 2,500 companies, groups, local governments and other clients spent approximately $34.2 million on legislative lobbying contracts from January through March, a period that covers the first-half of the 60-day lawmaking session.
That figure is an aggregation of reports due by midnight Thursday disclosing contract lobbyist compensation in $10,000 ranges, and is down slightly from the $36.8 million spent to lobby the Legislature over the same three months in 2012.
Clients spent another $24.3 million on executive-branch lobbying during the same period.
The reports show how Florida’s legislative process provides a cash-spigot for politicians and connected interests alike.
Last year, clients trying to influence state government poured a combined $212 million into lobbying, $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.
Those totals were down slightly from 2011, when clients paid $127 million to influence the Legislature and another $89.1 million to lobby the executive branch.