Lobbying compensation: The Southern Group is top-earning firm for second straight quarter
Southern Group reigns for another quarter.

Just $333K separated the top 2 lobbing firms in the state.

The Southern Group (TSG) narrowly bested Ballard Partners last quarter to remain the top-earning lobbying firm in Florida.

According to newly filed third-quarter compensation reports, the firm led by founder Paul Bradshaw earned an estimated $8.05 million during the July-through-September reporting period, placing it in the top spot among all lobbying firms in the state.

The Q3 haul included nearly $4.6 million in legislative lobbying pay and an additional $3.5 million in earnings lobbying the Governor, Cabinet and state agencies. The combined total is a $250,000 increase over Q2 and continues the firm’s long-running quarter-over-quarter growth streak. Just one year ago, TSG was reporting quarterly earnings in the $6 million range.

“Our secret sauce isn’t very secret or complicated. At TSG, every lobbyist is an owner in the firm, and this tight-knit team is insanely focused on winning for clients.  All success flows from that mix,” Bradshaw told Florida Politics.

The TSG team has scads of clients to be insanely focused on — their compensation reports list more than 350 unique contracts.

Florida Politics estimates lobbying pay based on the middle number of the per-client ranges firms listed on their compensation reports. Contracts are reported in $10,000 increments up to $50,000. Firms are also required to register overall earnings ranges. However, firm-level ranges top out at $1 million, a hurdle most Top 10 earning firms quickly cleared.

The Southern Group’s reports included a trio of contracts that broke the cap on range reporting. The legislative report lists Age of Learning and The Vestcor Companies at $53,000 apiece and the executive report shows Goldman Sachs & Co. paid the firm $60,000 for the quarter.

Based on the upper end of per-client ranges, The Southern Group’s overall haul could have eclipsed the $11 million mark.

While The Southern Group has held the top spot in Florida Politics’ Lobby Firm Rankings for two quarters running, Ballard Partners has put up a fight and which firm ends up taking No. 1. Their Q3 effort was close to the mark, falling just $333,000 short of the top spot — and, if their clients trended toward the top end of their listed pay ranges, the firm could theoretically be No. 1.

Brian Ballard and the Ballard Partners team logged $7.72 million overall earnings last quarter, with $4.46 million flowing in from legislative clients and $3.26 million earned lobbying the executive branch.

The international firm’s Sunshine State operation listed about 300 unique clients between its two reports, which included several big fish. The largest contract was with the Council of Florida Medical School Deans, which showed up with $155,000 in retainers on the executive compensation report.

Other $50,000-plus clients included UF Health Shands, Safe Port Terminals, Automated Healthcare Solutions, HNTB Corporation, National Strategies and L3Harris Technologies, the company that manages the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System in no small part due to a deft lobbying effort.

Like TSG and several other firms that cracked the Top 10, Ballard’s revenues grew in Q3, coming in about $120,000 above Q2 levels. While the quarter-to-quarter bump is slight, the latest numbers are well over $1 million higher than what the firm reported in Q3 2022.

The firm’s top-end earnings estimate comes in at $10.14 million overall, with $5.66 million in potential legislative earnings and $4.48 million in potential executive branch pay.

Ballard Partners and The Southern Group have jockeyed back and forth in the top spot for several years, and both firms have announced new ventures as their Florida lobbying revenues continue to swell.

Ballard, which has established offices in Washington, D.C., Turkey and Israel, is hoping to replicate its success in the California market. The Southern Group, meanwhile, has launched a spinoff consultancy, called TSG Advisors, which is initially catering to clients in the education and public safety industries.

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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