It doesn’t get much more American than the Fourth of July. After all, the holiday commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
It’s been 243 years since the founding fathers undertook great personal risk to declare their independence, and created this democratic republic out of their blood, sweat, and philosophical determination.
The politics of 1776 were void of ‘registered lobbyists’ but the things that we associate with Independence Day today, however — trips to recreational locales, beer & spirits and even Old Glory itself — are all “lobbied” items.
Here’s a look at the “Fourth of July in Lobbying.”
Other than the flag, fireworks are perhaps the most iconic symbol of Independence Day. While it’s legal to buy ‘em, it’s not legal to light ‘em. Plus, depending on what part of the state you’re in, shooting off bottle rockets could start a major blaze.
But revelers aren’t too observant of the ban, and there’ll be more than a few fire departments that’ll be tasked with stomping out fires Thursday night.
When the Florida Professional Firefighters needs some help in Tallahassee, they turn to Screven Watson of Screven Watson & Associates. That relationship bore fruit this year, with Gov. Ron DeSantis lending his signature to a bill that will increase insurance benefits for firefighters diagnosed with cancer.
For a lot of Americans, a festive Fourth means imbibing.
Florida’s beer and spirit industry is a big one — from renowned craft breweries such as Cigar City, to nascent distilleries such St. Augustine Distillery. Macro brews operations have a major footprint in the Sunshine State, too.
For its lobbying needs, the Beer Industry of Florida has tapped Brian Bautista, Laura Boehmer, David Browning, Nelson Diaz, Mercer Fearington, Seth McKeel, Sydney Ridley, David Shepp and Clark Smith of Southern Strategy Group.
St. Augustine Distillery, meanwhile, has John Harris, Joe Salzverg, Robert Stuart and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson while St. Petersburg Distillery has retained Bill Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Amy Bisceglia and Christopher Finkbeiner of Rubin, Turnbull & Associates.
Another homegrown association with a seat at the bar is the Florida Independent Spirits Association, which has been represented by Ramba Consulting Group and SKD Consulting Group since 2015. They’ve since brought on the advocates at Nortelus Roberts Group and ADF Consulting.
Of course, after all that celebratory excess, you may want to call a cab or, more likely, an Uber.
The ride-hailing company has an extensive lobbying corps, with nearly three-dozen advocates helping them out in the Capitol complex — Colodny Fass, Converge Government Affairs of Florida, The Fiorentino Group, Floridian Partners, GrayRobinson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Pittman Law Group and RSA Consulting Group are all pitching in to help in-housers Javi Correoso, Kasra Moshkani and Stephanie Smith.
With a team like that, it’s no wonder Florida’s set to become “ground zero” for self-driving cars.
But wait… what about “the bombs bursting in air”? Who lobbies for them?
Lockheed Martin, which has a massive presence in Central Florida, is loaded for bear with Michael Huey, Ty Jackson, George Levesque, Jessica Love and Todd Steibly of Gray Robinson walking the halls in Tallahassee.
And then there are the lobbyists for freedom itself: the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. They’ve got Kirk Bailey on watch to make sure lawmakers respect the constitutional rights of all of us — even if that means taking aim at one of the Republican Legislature’s major priorities in the 2019 Legislative Session.
If Paul Revere-style muskets are your thing, those Bill of Rights enthusiasts at the National Rifle Association are, as ever, represented by 2nd Amendment stalwart and Adams Street staple Marion Hammer, who also represents the United Sportsmen of Florida.
If they aren’t, maybe the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund is more your speed. They’ve been represented by Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff and Teye Reeves of Smith Bryan & Myers three years and counting.
With the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday this year, many are planning to take advantage of the four-day weekend with a little getaway — perhaps to Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Florida and Pennsylvania don’t seem to share much on paper, but here’s one thing they do share: The Philadelphia Phillies. The ball club has been coming to the Sunshine State for spring training since 1948.
Thanks to the efforts of their lobbying team — Michael Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Matt Blair, Anita Berry and Amanda Stewart of Corcoran & Johnston — a bill that would have slashed public funding for pro sports was defeated, so that 70-year relationship is set to continue.
No matter the end destination, you’ll need a place to stay. When it comes hotels, Wyndham and Marriott are the biggest brands out there.
Gene McGee of GMA Inc. lobbies on behalf of the former while Marriott has Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Stephen Shiver, Sarah Busk Suskey and Jeff Woodburn of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners as well as Michael Dobson, Pete Dunbar, Martha Edenfield, Brittany Finkbeiner and Cari Roth of Dean Mead.
If you’re looking for a place with a homier feel, then perhaps a vacation rental is more your style. Look no further than Airbnb.
The premiere vacation rental company has a long list of lobbyists, including in-housers Joseph Leonard, Tom Martinelli, Viviana Jordan and Kenny Montilla; George Anderson, Brian Bautista, Paul Bradshaw, David Browning, Kelly Cohen, Rachel Cone, Chris Dudley, Mercer Fearington, Sydney Ridley, Clark Smith and Monte Stevens of SSG; and Robert Hawken of Leath Consulting.
However you celebrate in the Sunshine State, be sure to take a moment to be grateful for our founders and the political system of checks and balances they put into place.
After all, without the political descendants they bequeathed, who would the lobbying corps have lunch with on Adams Street?