Last Call for 5.23.22 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Attorney General Ashley Moody on Monday announced that her office secured a $20 million judgment and a lifetime ban against a consortium of shady moving companies.

All companies involved in the settlement were owned by Ohad Guzi: Eight Florida moving companies, operating under names such as All USA Van Lines, Moving Group and Top Movers.

According to the Attorney General, the companies advertised professional, cross-country moving services performed by well-trained employees in company-owned trucks. In actuality, they employed untrained contractors using rented box trucks and outsourced delivery services to third parties without informing customers.

The companies also routinely quoted a low price for services before billing substantially more after they had picked up their customers’ belongings.

“This wide-ranging, deceptive moving scheme victimized people all over the United States, including many here in Florida, by adding excessive charges to the quoted price, advertising professional moving services that the movers did not provide, falsely promising secure handling of household goods and hiding bad reviews by using a variety of misleading company names. I am grateful to my Consumer Protection team for putting a stop to these outrageous practices and holding moving companies accountable,” Moody said.

After a week-long trial, Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips in Broward County found the defendants engaged in many deceptive practices. She ordered Guzi’s companies to pay $21.7 million — $5.2 million for consumer restitution and $16.5 million in penalties for violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, the Florida Moving Act and federal law governing interstate movers.

Additionally, she permanently banned Guzi and the affiliated businesses are from engaging in any moving-related services in Florida

The Fiorentino Group earned an estimated $760,000 in lobbying fees last quarter, new lobbying compensation reports show.

The firm headed up by Marty Fiorentino represented 66 clients in all, including 59 in the Legislature where the six-person team earned an estimated $420,000.

The Fiorentino Group collected an additional $340,000 from their executive branch clients.

Florida Politics estimates lobbying pay based on the middle number of the per-client ranges firms list on their compensation reports. Contracts are reported in $10,000 increments up to $50,000.

The firm’s top client in the Legislature was Flagler Health+, which paid between $30,000 and $40,000 last quarter. It shipped another $35,000 to the firm for executive lobbying — it also topped that report.

The Fiorentino Group is one of the premier firms in Northeast Florida, a fact reflected in their client sheet, which includes many of the region’s top businesses and associations.

Other Jacksonville-area interests represented by the firm include Duval County Public Schools, the Florida East Coast Railway and UF Health Jacksonville. Each paid the firm $15,000 for legislative lobbying work and an additional $15,000 for executive branch lobbying work.

The Fiorentino Group also represents some national companies, such as the PGA Tour and AT&T. Local governments make up a sizable portion of the roster, too — TFG is the contracted team for the county governments for Clay, Flagler and St. Johns.

In addition to Fiorentino, the firm’s Q1 roster included Davis Bean, Melissa Braude, Joseph Mobley, Mark Pinto and Shannan Schuessler.

According to overall compensation ranges on The Fiorentino Group’s reports, the firm earned at least $500,000 last quarter with a top-end of $1 million. Their Q1 median estimate bests their average quarterly earnings for 2021, which clocked in at about $620,000.

Florida lobbyists and lobbying firms faced a May 15 deadline to file compensation reports for the period covering Jan. 1 through March 31. Compensation reports for the second quarter are due to the state on Aug. 14.

Evening Reads

—“Gov. Ron DeSantis wants insurance market problems fixed before diving into Citizens” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“If you can’t legislate, regulate: David Altmaier enacted property insurance policies lawmakers didn’t OK” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel

—“Florida lawmakers want to fix property insurance. Here are the big issues.” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

—“DeSantis named to Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential list” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“As Joe Biden zeroes in on student-loan forgiveness decision, voter anxiety grows” via Andrew Restuccia of The Wall Street Journal

—“Florida won’t stop rising insurance rates without combating climate change” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents

—“Gov. DeSantis plans to OK $100M housing relief for ‘hometown heroes’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

—“Florida Senators blast state handling of property insurance” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix

—“Appeals court upholds injunction on Big Tech crackdown law” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

—“‘Ghost’ candidate judge shields records to protect privacy of ex-lawmaker’s contacts” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel

—“Florida gas prices ease a bit but still hanging around $4.50 a gallon” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“How a French bank captured Haiti” via Matt Apuzzo, Constant Méheut, Selam Gebrekidan and Catherine Porter of The New York Times

Quote of the Day

“We don’t want to be in a situation where hundreds of thousands of people are losing their policies and getting dumped on Citizens. There’s going to be some stuff in there that is going to be, I think, very positive for individual homeowners.”

— Gov. Ron DeSantis, on property insurance reforms.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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