Fourth of July Weekend is brought to you by these lobbyists and political organizations

july fourth
Here’s a look at the Fourth of July in Lobbying.

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 has been 245 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.

There were no “registered lobbyists” in the 18th century but the things that we associate with Independence Day today are all “lobbied” items.

Here’s a look at the “Fourth of July in Lobbying.”

For many Americans, the Fourth of July will be the first holiday in more than a year that they are able to spend with friends and family without fear of infection. That’s thanks in large part to vaccines.

President Joe Biden has set vaccination goals and Americans have mostly met them, though it seems like the country will miss the latest checkpoint heading into the holiday weekend. The White House had hoped 70% of Americans would have received at least one shot by July 4, but the current tally is closer to two-thirds.

Still, about 150 million Americans are fully vaccinated, including about 8.4 million Floridians. Many of them received the Pfizer vaccine, which was the first one to hit the market.

When Pfizer is working on life-saving drugs and vaccines, the last thing they need to worry about is what’s going on in the Florida Legislature. That’s why they’ve hired the team at Johnson & Blanton to handle it on their behalf.

J&B is one of the top firms for health care and pharmaceutical lobbying — and one of the top firms overall. In addition to named partners Jon Johnson and Travis Blanton, the pharma company has Darrick McGhee on retainer. They’ve also got in-house lobbyist Amy Christian on the ground in Tallahassee.

According to AAA — The Auto Club Group, nearly 48 million of those (hopefully vaxxed) Americans will be hitting the road this weekend, a movement topped only by the pre-pandemic record for Independence Day set in 2019. AAA also estimates that about 2.6 million Floridians will take a trip during the holiday weekend. That’s the second-most on record, and 36% more than the 2020 holiday period.

For decades, motorists have relied on AAA for peace of mind when they hit the highway. The association has The Southern Group in its corner.

What will the millions of Americans travelling this weekend do when they reach their destination? Probably attend a barbecue and shoot fireworks.

A cookout takes plenty of supplies and the best place to grab them is Publix. They’ve got food, sauce and things that go boom … and by that we mean fireworks, not propane tanks or lighter fluid.

When it comes to paying attention to politics and public policy, Publix looks to Matt Bryan, Jeff Hartley and Teye Reeves of Smith Bryan & Myers as well as in-house advocate Thomas Culligan.

If cooking isn’t your forte, there are plenty of restaurants clamoring for your business. More than 10,000 of them — and the 1.4 million Floridians they employ — are represented by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, the state’s premier hospitality industry trade group.

While patrons are waiting on their plates to come out of the kitchen, FRLA’s extensive Tallahassee team will be hard at work advancing the trade association’s issues du jour.

Working on FRLA’s behalf in the Capitol are Jim DaughtonWarren HusbandDouglas BellPatricia GreeneAimee LyonAndy Palmer and Allison Liby-Schoonover of Metz Husband & Daughton.

Though you can pick up some fireworks with your groceries, you’ll need to go elsewhere to find the real-deal blow-off-your-fingers stuff. There are plenty of tents on the side of the road but if you live in the I-4 corridor, consider stopping by Phantom Fireworks Showrooms — also known as “America’s premier fireworks retailer.”

If there’s ever a bill that threatens to blow up the industry, they’ll rely on the team at Dean Mead to shoot it down. The roster includes Angela Bonds, French Brown, Marc Dunbar, Peter Dunbar, Martha Edenfield, Chris Moya and Jennifer Ungru.

For the many Floridians who skipped out on a big Fourth of July bash last year, they’ll likely notice for the first time that they no longer need to sign a form saying they would only use their stockpile of ordinance to scare off birds on a farm. Lawmakers ditched the pretense in the 2020 Legislative Session.

Wherever the fireworks come from make sure to put safety first. Not only could you lose a digit, but you could also start a fire that spreads like … well, wildfire. That means firefighters will be on duty to stop the spread.

Many local fire departments and fire control districts have lobbyists in Tallahassee, but the biggest advocates for that flavor of first responder are the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association and the Florida Professional Firefighters.

The former is represented by Travis Blanton, Jon Johnson and Eric Prutsman of Johnson & Blanton while the latter relies on in-housers Wayne Bernoska, George Marsh, Rocco Salvatori as well as Screven Watson of Screven Watson & Associates.

Florida is also home to some companies that produce “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” that are far beyond consumer grade — and they have lobbyists.

For the former, look no further than Taylor Biehl and Jeff Sharkey of Capitol Alliance Group. The duo represent SpaceX, which currently training the first-ever all-civilian crew to enter orbit.

For the latter, there’s Lockheed Martin, which has a massive presence in Central Florida. The defense company is loaded for bear with Michael Huey, Ty Jackson, George Levesque, Jessica Love of GrayRobinson who work alongside in-house lobbyist Joseph Mayer.

For a lot of Americans, a festive Fourth means imbibing — just make sure whoever is holding the lighter hasn’t been making frequent trips to the cooler.

Florida’s beer and spirit industry is a big one. From renowned craft breweries such as Cigar City, to distilleries such St. Augustine Distillery. Macro brew operations have a major footprint in the Sunshine State, too.

For its lobbying needs, the Beer Industry of Florida has tapped Brian BautistaLaura BoehmerNelson DiazMercer FearingtonJustin Hollis, Seth McKeelSydney RidleyDavid Shepp and Clark Smith of The Southern Group. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli also reps the industry association.

St. Augustine Distillery, meanwhile, has John HarrisJoe SalzvergRobert Stuart and Jason Unger of GrayRobinson while St. Petersburg Distillery has retained Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Ralph Criss and Andrea Tovar of Corcoran Partners.

Of course, if “drinkability” is your priority then Anheuser-Busch probably brews something to your liking. It’s one of the biggest alcohol companies in the world and it has a lobbying team to match.

On board are Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley and Cory Guzzo of Floridian Partners; Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Christopher Chaney, Sarah Busk Suskey, Jeffrey Woodburn and Stephen Shiver of The Advocacy Group; French Brown of Dean Mead; and Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick and Rob Johnson of The Mayernick Group.

If you chose to have a drink or three, leave the driving to Uber.

The ride-hailing company has an extensive lobbying corps, with nearly three-dozen advocates helping them out in the Capitol complex — Colodny Fass, The Fiorentino Group, Floridian Partners, GrayRobinson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Pittman Law Group and RSA Consulting Group.

However you celebrate in the Sunshine State, the holiday is good reminder that the nation has made it through tough periods, including the Revolutionary War. And the pandemic, too.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


One comment

  • John

    July 2, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Professional Lobbying should be a class 1 felony.

Comments are closed.


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