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Golden Age Lobbyists

Post # 291, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

The Best Lobbyists Come in All Forms and Fashions--Old, Young, Black, White, Tall, and Short, but one Thing in Common--Smart.

Critics of politics say lobbyists are a problem. Because the Supreme Court has given them unlimited authority to finance campaigns, money and not talent generally determine the makeup of our government, at all levels. As a former lawmaker, I can confirm that criticism is true, but also false, at least to a degree. But there are exceptions among the lobbyists. They are a source of great influence in government. Here are the virtues of good lobbyists:

  • They are knowledgeable about government.

  • They work hard because they know the pressure to succeed is tremendous.

  • They are generally smart, clever, and cunning, with excellent memories and a good source of political history.

  • They are terrible opponents, especially when mad.

  • Most are bi-partisan, and therefore always important.

I am often asked who were the really great lobbyists of the Golden Age of the '70s and '80's in the Florida Legislature. Without ranking, there are many who come to my mind and memory; and their clients, as follows:

John Roberts: Southeast Banks and a powerhouse broker of leadership in the Senate and House.

Ron Book: Major Businesses Operating in Florida; Former Aide to Governor Graham and Rep. Becker.

John Culbreath: TECO, former Chairman of the House Regulated Industries Committee.

Don Tucker: Wine and Spirits, former Speaker of the House for unprecedented two terms.

Roberta Fox: ERA, a former member of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Pat Tornillo, Murray Sisselman, Yvonne Burkholtz, and Rick Sisser: FEA, liberal lobbyists for statewide teachers, educators, and public education.

Stu Rose, George DePontis, and Bob Reynolds: Project Masters. They often represented blockbuster but clandestine clients.

Fausto Gomez: FIU, voice for new upper-level education and Hispanic issues.

Mamma Althalie Range: African American and City issues. Mamma Range was a Miami City Commissioner and stealth power is the House of Representatives.

Howard Walton: Senate, Howard was a state employee who ran the upper body, with all knowledge and an iron hand.

Senator Ken Plante: Rinker Cement, former Minority Leader of the Senate, and among the most beloved Florida Legislators ever.

Leader Don Reed: Financial interests, former Minority Leader of the House and Representatives, and premier floor debater.

E.C. Rowell: Truckers, former Speaker of the House, and among the last of the "Pork Choppers."

These individuals were among the outstanding lobbyists to walk the Florida Capitol halls in the old and new Capitol. I know because as Senator Lloyd Benson of Texas said about President John Kennedy, "I knew them and they were my friends."


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