Lobbying compensation: The Southern Group clears $6M+, fights for top spot in Q3

southern group
The firm may have earned as much as $8.82 million.

The Southern Group earned $6.18 million in lobbying pay last quarter and may have earned more than any other firm in the state.

Based on median estimates, the 30-member lobbying corps led by firm co-founder and chair Paul Bradshaw earned $3.45 million lobbying the Legislature and $2.73 million lobbying the Governor, Cabinet and state agencies.

Florida Politics estimates how much firms earn based on the middle number of the per-client ranges they list on their compensation reports. Contracts are reported in $10,000 increments. 

Compensation reports also include firm-level ranges, which can give outsiders a rough idea of minimum and maximum quarterly earnings. However, firm-level ranges max out at $1 million — a hurdle easily cleared by The Southern Group on each of its compensation reports.

TSG represented more than 300 clients during the July-through-September reporting period and listed 293 clients on its legislative compensation report.

Vestcor Companies provided the most lucrative contract on that side of the fence, paying $50,000 for the quarter. It was followed by nine clients in the $45,000 range.

That set included some household names such as Airbnb, Disney and Apple, the latter of which is currently the largest publicly traded company in the world with a market cap of $2.36 trillion. 

Another nine clients appeared in the $35,000 bracket. They included the Florida Sheriffs Association as well as several large corporations, such as Royal Caribbean Group, Siemens, and U.S. Sugar.

Siemens is possibly the oldest company on The Southern Group’s client sheet, and may also have the most interesting corporate history of the bunch as well. The Munich-based company predates German unification, having been founded 175 years ago in what was then known as Prussia — a kingdom so loosely feal to the Holy Roman Empire that the title “King in Prussia” is purportedly the inspiration for the “King in the North” chant in Game of Thrones. Over the past two centuries, it has grown to become the largest industrial manufacturing company in Europe. Its high-tech output includes CT scanners, wind power generators, steam turbines, high-voltage transformers, and high-speed rail cars. A bonus bit of trivia: Siemens’ founder Werner von Siemens appeared on the 20 Reichsmark note from 1929 until the currency was replaced by the Deutsche Mark two decades later.

Numerous other major companies are represented by The Southern Group, including CVS Health, Darden, FedEx, Rayonier and Tesla, which was a trillion-dollar company as recently as six months ago. The firm also represents a bundle of city and county governments. A non-exhaustive list: Apalachicola, Coral Gables, Crystal River, Plant City, Sanford, Sarasota and St. Petersburg.

The portfolio is also stocked with educational institutions. Some of the better-known entities on that front are the University of Florida, Florida Poly, Jacksonville University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Southeastern University.

The Southern Group’s executive branch report includes the same set of clients, plus a few extra — it lists 301 contracts in all. There was a three-way tie at the top of the executive branch report, with Eagle LNG Partners, MCNA Dental Plans and Phillips & Jordan each paying the firm $45,000. 

The executive branch report largely mirrored the legislative report, with most clients paying TSG slightly less for executive branch representation than they did for legislative lobbying work.

In addition to Bradshaw, The Southern Group’s third-quarter team included George Oscar Anderson, Brian Bautista, Laura Boehmer, Oscar Braynon, David Browning, Edgar Castro, Kelly Cohen, Rachel Cone, Mary DeLoach, Nelson Diaz, Christopher Dudley, Mercer Fearington, James Gilmore, Michelle Grimsley, David Hagan, Tasi Hogan, Justin Hollis, Nicole Kelly, Karis Lockhart, James McFaddin, Seth McKeel, Taylor Mejia, Paul Mitchell, Sydney Ridley, Erin Rock, David Shepp, Clark Smith, Monte Stevens, Jared Torres and Sheela VanHoose.

While median estimates show TSG earned $6.18 million last quarter, per-client ranges indicate the team may have earned much more, with the top end showing as much as $4.75 million in legislative pay and $4.07 million in executive pay. If the firm’s total was closer to its $8.82 million quarterly max than its estimated minimum, it may have been the most lucrative lobbying firm in the state last quarter.

TSG held the title for all of 2021 but has narrowly lost to Ballard Partners for the past three quarters. The Q3 gap between the two juggernaut firms was a mere $340,000 based on median estimates. However, TSG’s top end is about $250,000 higher than Ballard’s $8.56 million max. The Southern Group had highest earnings ceiling in Q1 and Q2 as well, so the firm is likely to best all other firms in potential earnings once Q4 reports are released.

Florida lobbyists and lobbying firms faced a Nov. 14 deadline to file compensation reports for the period covering July 1 through Sept. 30. Compensation reports for the fourth quarter are due to the state on Feb. 14.

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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