The Christmas holidays are brought to you by these Florida lobbyists and political organizations
A palm tree is decorated for Christmas on a beach in a tropical climate. Strings of lights glow in the night.

A palm tree is decorated for Christmas on a beach in a tropical
A look at the lobbyists whose work helps ensure the very things that define the holiday.

‘Tis the season.

After another long year, it’s finally time to relax, spend some time with family, and catch your breath before revving up for another Legislative Session.

The Legislature tackled a lot this year, including universal school choice, a massive affordable housing bill and permitless carry, to name a few. There were also a couple of Special Sessions, too, which have become considerably less special and substantially more frequent during the DeSantis era.

But that’s neither here nor there.

For now, it’s time to get in the Christmas spirit in the only way we know how: Connecting the lyrics of a holiday staple to Florida lobbyists and lobbying firms.

We’re once again using the classic carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” as our lens to combine the political with the Noel. The tune started “either as a children’s song or a Christmas carol in the late 18th or mid-19th century,” according to Mental Floss.

The site digs up some interesting details, including how the lyrics changed over the years. For instance, what we now sing as four “calling birds” has previously been “canary birds,” “mockingbirds,” and “collie birds,” an old term for blackbirds.

“Over the years, the song has been done and redone by everyone from the ChipmunksWinnie the PoohRen & Stimpy, to Lucille Ball and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself,” the story goes. “In Sinatra’s version, he replaces the traditional gifts of birds with things he’d like: ‘Five ivory combs, four mission lights, three golf clubs, two silken scarfs, and a most lovely lavender tie.’”

We’d be doing our readers a disservice if we didn’t mention that The Muppets and Twisted Sister have also covered the song (separately). We don’t want to imagine what that collab would look like.

All that goes to say: We don’t feel bad appropriating the song yet again.

With that …

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Sure, you can eat a partridge, but there are other, tastier birds further down the menu, but you won’t find any other fruit. Pears are the only fruit, though. They are quite possibly the original fruit, too — the word “pear” is derived from the early Semitic word “pirâ,” which means “fruit.” While fresh Florida pears are hard to find in the grocery store, they are perfect for pies, pear butter, jams and canning. Pears — and every other fruit grown in the state — have an ally in the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, which looks out for the best interests of growers in Washington and Tallahassee. Their go-to guy is Gary Hunter of The Vogel Group.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Two Turtle Doves.

Turtle doves don’t have a lobbying presence in Florida. Really, they don’t have a presence at all — you’ll need to travel to Europe or the Middle East to find one. There are, however, many lobbyists working to ensure Florida’s environment remains hospitable to turtles and doves. The Florida Aquarium runs the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in Apollo Beach, and it has Ron Pierce, Natalie King, Melody Arnold, Edward Briggs, and Matthew Herndon working on its behalf in the Capitol. A prominent ally of doves — and every other avian — is Audubon Florida, which uses birdlife to measure the health of the state’s overall ecosystem. They are represented by in-house advocates Alvi Elizabeth D’Silva and Charles Lee as well as Andrew Rutledge and Diana Ferguson of Rutledge Ecenia.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Three French Hens.

Perhaps the French hens in question are Coucou de Rennes, one of the most prized chicken breeds in the world. Good luck snagging one, though, as they are among the rarest breeds, too — they nearly went extinct during World War I, but a handful of dedicated breeders brought them back from the brink. The hen may be hard to find, but despite Francophone Florida being short-lived, some relics of the past are still around today. In fact, there are remnants of the first French settlement in Florida, Fort Caroline, located in Jacksonville’s Arlington neighborhood. The City of Jacksonville’s lobbying team includes Marty Fiorentino, Davis Bean, Melissa Braude, Cody McCloud and Joe Mobley of The Fiorentino Group.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Four Calling Birds.

Talk about a useless gift. Obviously, the easiest way to make a call these days is with a cellphone. And the biggest name in the business is AT&T. Ma Bell has one of the largest teams in the Capitol, with no less than 50 lobbyists on retainer in the Legislature. We’ll spare you some a block of bold-face type and just list the firms: The Advocacy Partners, The Aleksander Group, Becker, Capital City Consulting, Converge Public Strategies, The Fiorentino Group, Flagler Strategies, Greenberg Traurig, Heffley & Associates, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, The Mayernick Group, Metz Husband & Daughton, Pittman Law Group, Ramba Consulting Group, Ronald L. Book PA, Shumaker Advisors Florida and Tripp Scott.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Five Golden Rings.

The familiar image of five glowing gold rings puts in mind Adams Street’s gold standards — the firms by which all other firms are measured. Last quarter, the five firms that topped the charts were The Southern Group, Ballard Partners, Capital City Consulting and GrayRobinson are perennial Top Fivers, but Q3 saw the team at Corcoran Partners break into the top tier. There’s plenty to go around at each of these firms, but The Southern Group and Ballard Partners, in particular, are having banner years. TSG broke the $8 million mark for the first time in Q3, and Ballard was close behind with a $7.7 million haul.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Six Geese a Laying.

A half-dozen geese make an OK gift, but we’d rather have a goose that lays golden eggs. It’s important to note that the “golden goose” is not the same as the goose that laid golden eggs, though the former may hatch out of the latter. Either way, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is finally starting to capitalize on the golden egg factory they were granted in the 2021 Gaming Compact. Legal challenges kept the Tribe from rolling out its sports betting platform for most of the past two years but the app re-launched in earnest last month, and in-person visitors at Florida’s Hard Rock locations will also finds craps and roulette have been added to the games list. The Tribe’s lobbying team includes Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Traurig; Charlie Dudley of Floridian Partners; Marc Dunbar, Chris Moya and Jennifer Ungru of Dean Mead; Will McKinley and Angela Dempsey of PooleMcKinley; and Screven Watson of Screven Watson & Associates.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Seven Swans a Swimming.

Swans have the right idea. It may be a little chilly now, but in a few months, we’ll all be ready for a nice swim. But swimming in a pool that has been dormant for a while is kind of a hassle. Chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity … balancing it all out is like a chemistry test. Luckily, professional help is just a phone call away. Chances are your pool guy knows about the Florida Swimming Pool Association, a statewide group that promotes the industry and ensures its members are appropriately licensed and insured for the work they perform. When pool bills come up in the Legislature, FSPA turns to Jonathan KilmanCarlos CruzPaul Lowell, Christian Minor, Gerard O’Rourke and Elnatan Rudolph of Converge Public Strategies.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Eight Maids a Milking.

We’re finally done with birds. From here on, the gifts are people. We’re not sure if that’s better or worse … we’ll have to think about it over a glass of milk. Speaking of which, all that milk is presumably coming from cows. Cattle is a major cog in Florida’s massive agriculture industry — just ask the Florida Cattleman’s Association, which fills the Capitol with a sea of cowboy hats every Session to advocate for ranchers and agriculture. The Florida Cattlemen’s Association is repped in-house by Governmental Affairs Director Samual Ard. And, since we’re discussing milk, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the United Dairy Farmers of Florida and their in-house lobbyist Ray Hodge.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Nine Ladies Dancing.

One of the best places to find nine dancing ladies is in the Tampa Bay area … we mean sophisticated, family-friendly dancing … is the David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts. It hosts everything from ballet to the internationally renowned dance troupe Tango Fire. The Straz Center also hosts musical acts, screens films, and gives a mic to comedians. The Straz Center has the team at RSA Consulting Group — Ron Pierce, Edward BriggsMatt Herndon and Natalie King — working on its behalf in the Capitol.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 10 Lords a Leaping.

Aristocratic titles didn’t leap over the Atlantic to the New World, but some high-society pastimes did. Take golf, for instance. The game was a favorite of Scottish lords as far back as the late 13th century. While Scotland is still a golfing force, Florida is king. There are more than 1,300 golf courses in the Sunshine State, and a few of them make a cameo on millions of TVs during the PGA’s annual Florida swing. The PGA Tour has Marty Fiorentino, Davis Bean and Joseph Mobley of The Fiorentino Group on retainer.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 11 Pipers Piping.

In the years since voters greenlit the medical marijuana amendment, the state’s cannabis industry has grown like a weed. Trulieve is the biggest player in Florida, with more than 100 storefronts. They also have 13 pipers helping them push pro-pot policies in the Legislature. The corps includes Brian Ballard and Courtney Coppola of Ballard Partners; Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Megan Fay, Kaley Anne FlynnAndrew Ketchel, Scott Ross, and Chris Schoonover at Capital City Consulting, Katie Webb and Amanda Fraser of Colodny Fass; Sean Pittman of The Pittman Law Group; and Brecht Huechan.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 12 Drummers Drumming.

Top-notch drummers are hard to come by unless you’re on the campus of Florida A&M or Bethune-Cookman. While most universities claim their marching band is world-renowned, few take it as seriously as these two. As a 2021 write-up on the FAMU-BCU rivalry in The Atlantic put it, “football is the warm-up to the real show: the battle between bands, in the stands, and at halftime.” As awesome as it would be to see the Marching 100 or Marching Wildcats in the Rotunda, the FAMU and B-CU lobbying teams have it covered. FAMU’s team includes Brian BallardCarol BracyMathew Forrest, Chris Hansen and Wansley Walters of Ballard Partners. Representing Bethune-Cookman are Yolanda Cash Jackson and LaToya Sheals of Becker.

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

  • Don't Say FLA

    December 27, 2023 at 11:51 am

    Given so many special sessions but never undoing the Rhonda Exemption from Resign to Run, it’s a safe assumption that Rhonda’s promise of an Epsteinian”Tell All” was a threat

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