Lobbying compensation: Ballard Partners is top earning firm for 2022, narrowly besting The Southern Group
Brian Ballard remains on top. Image via Bloomberg.

After slipping to No. 2 in 2021, Ballard is back on top.

Ballard Partners collected more than $25 million in lobbying fees last year, retaking the No. 1 spot in annual earnings from The Southern Group.

The two dozen lobbyists led by founder and President Brian Ballard represented nearly 300 clients for all or part of last year, earning an estimated $14.72 million lobbying the Legislature and $10.63 million lobbying the executive branch.

The firm’s $25.35 million annual total is 35% higher than the $18.76 million it reported for calendar year 2021, when the firm earned second place behind perennial rival The Southern Group.

The revenue spike was consistent across 2022, with the firm showing at least $3.5 million in legislative lobbying fees and $2.5 million in executive branch lobbying fees at each quarterly check-in.

The year-end ranking is based on median earnings estimates, which Florida Politics calculates quarterly by using the middle number of the per-client ranges firms list on their compensation reports. Quarterly reports also list an overall revenue range, but the top bracket is $1 million-plus, a threshold every firm in the Top 5 easily clears.

Though Ballard Partners has recaptured the No. 1 spot that it held for multiple years prior to 2021, The Southern Group put up a formidable fight.

The firm, led by founder and Chair Paul Bradshaw, earned an estimated $25.02 million last year, just $330,000 less than Ballard Partners. The gap between the two juggernauts shrank substantially in Q4, when The Southern Group retook the No. 1 spot in the quarterly rankings with a $6.76 million report.

Rankings aside, The Southern Group had a lot to celebrate in 2022. TSG’s statewide footprint grew with new offices in Downtown Orlando and Broward County, and its roster has also expanded to 30-plus advocates thanks to a string of splash hires.

Its balance sheet also shows revenues grew by 14% year-over-year.

Capital City Consulting earned No. 3 in the full-year rankings after pulling in no less than $4.5 million each quarter last year.

CCC is also coming off a banner year — it recently announced a major expansion in the South Florida market and has also made significant additions to its roster. It also saw double-digit revenue growth.

Co-founders Nick Iarossi and Ron LaFace and the dozen other lobbyists at the firm represented about 250 clients last year, reporting just shy of $20 million in overall pay. The total marks a 16% increase over the firm’s $17.1 million haul in 2021.

The other major shakeup in 2022 was GrayRobinson’s steady ascent up the rankings.

The firm, led by former House Speaker Dean Cannon, started the decade jockeying with Greenberg Traurig for the No. 5 spot but pulled ahead by clear margin by mid-2021.

Last year saw the firm climb another rung. The team, now two dozen strong, squeaked past Ron Book to take the No. 4 spot in Q1 and held onto it for all of 2022.

GrayRobinson consistently posted quarterly reports in the $2.7 million range last year, finishing out with $10.75 million in overall earnings. That represents an increase of more than 20% over 2021, when the firm’s tally stood at $8.87 million.

Ron Book and lobbying partners Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette rounded out the Top 5 with an estimated $9.18 million in earnings. Even more than the other Top 5 firms, the trio’s earnings are heavily weighted toward legislative lobbying.

If that was the yardstick, Book, Brown and Mallette would have ranked No. 4 with $7.73 million in pay. They even could have been a threat for No. 3 if their contracts trended toward the upper end of per-client ranges.

Still, the team continues to punch above its weight class with average quarterly revenues of $2.45 million with a team that’s a quarter the size of its rivals.

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 are due to the state on May 15.

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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