Lobbying compensation: Ballard Partners’ reign continues with nearly $20M in 2019 pay
Brian Ballard and Ballard Partners continue global expansion.

Brian Ballard
The Southern Group followed at $15.4 million.

Ballard Partners’ tenure as the top-earning lobbying firm in the state continues, with an estimated $19.5 million in overall income last year.

With its recently filed fourth-quarter compensation numbers included, the firm founded by Brian Ballard raked in an estimated $10.7 million lobbying the Legislature and $8.8 million lobbying the Governor and Cabinet in 2019.

Florida lobbyists report their earnings from each of their principals in ranges. Florida Politics uses the middle number of those ranges to estimate lobbying compensation.

The 2019 estimates show substantial year-over-year growth for the firm, which recorded $16.1 million in receipts in 2018. Top-end figures show Ballard could have collected up to $26.5 million in fees last year, which bests their 2018 max by more than $4 million.

As Ballard maintained the No. 1 position, so too did The Southern Group hold on as the No. 2 firm in overall receipts.

The firm — which spent most of 2019 as Southern Strategy Group before rebranding — reports $8.4 million in pay for its legislative lobbying efforts and another $7 million for work in the executive branch. The combined total of $15.4 million represents a nearly 10% increase over The Southern Group’s 2018 haul, which measured in at $14 million.

The firm also topped their 2018 max. Last year could have seen as much as $23.1 million flow into the firm’s coffers. In 2018, the top-dollar estimate rung up at $22.1 million.

Coming in a close third was Capital City Consulting, which closed the year with $12.5 million in pay. Their split also favored their legislative lobbying operation, which accounted for $7.5 million of their total. Executive lobbying came in at $5 million.

Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace and the rest of the CCC team may have earned half-again more if their clients trended toward the high end of their reported. If they all maxed out, the firm would have crossed the $10 million mark in the Legislature alone, with another $7.5 million coming in through the exec.

Ron Book, working alongside Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette, took No. 4 in overall pay, collecting just over $10 million. Their ledger leaned heavily toward the Legislature, which provided $8.5 million of the annual score — good enough for second place if only legislative reports are considered.

That’s typical for Book, who has held the top spot in legislative lobbying earnings as recently as the fourth quarter of 2018.

The trio’s earnings ceiling hit $13.1 million last year, putting them within range of third place overall.

Greenberg Traurig edged out GrayRobinson in a tight race to earn the No. 5 spot for the year. Their $7.85 million tally includes $4.75 million in pay for legislative lobbying and another $3.1 million lobbying the Governor and Cabinet. At the top end, the multistate firm could have notched as much as $11.5 million.

The median estimate tracks with Greenberg Traurig’s reports from 2018, which added up to an estimated $7.7 million.

GrayRobinson’s median earnings estimate came in at $7.68 million. Of the total, $4.2 million came in through Legislature while $3.48 million came in through the executive branch.

Though median figures show the firm is $170,000 short of a fifth-place finish, GrayRobinson could have earned as much as $12.7 million for the year, which puts the firm led by lawyer-lobbyist and former House Speaker Dean Cannon in the conversation for a higher spot on the list.

The 2019 figures also outpace the firm’s 2018 tally by about $500,000, indicating decent year-over-year growth for the firm.

Florida lobbyists and lobbying firms faced a Feb. 14 deadline to file compensation reports for the period covering Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. Compensation reports for the first quarter of 2020 are due to the state in mid-April.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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