Independence Day Weekend is brought to you by these lobbyists and political organizations

july fourth
Here’s a look at the Fourth of July in Lobbying.

It doesn’t get much more American than the Fourth of July. After all, the holiday commemorates the ratification of the Declaration of Independence.

It has been 248 years since the founding fathers undertook great personal risk to declare their independence and created this democratic republic out of their blood, sweat, and philosophical determination.

There were no “registered lobbyists” in the 18th century but the things that we associate with Independence Day today are all “lobbied” items.

Here’s a look at the “Fourth of July in Lobbying.”

According to AAA — The Auto Club Group, an estimated 70.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more for the Fourth of July weekend, which for many — including state employees — will have July 5 off as well. Out of those, an estimated 4.5 million Floridians will travel somewhere during the period celebrating the nation’s founding.

For decades, motorists have relied on AAA for peace of mind when they hit the highway. When it comes to lobbying, AAA has put The Southern Group in the driver’s seat.

What will the millions of Americans traveling this weekend do when they reach their destination? Probably attend a barbecue and shoot fireworks.

A cookout takes plenty of supplies and the best place to grab them is Publix. They’ve got food, sauce and things that go boom … and by that we mean fireworks, not propane tanks or lighter fluid.

When it comes to paying attention to politics and public policy, Publix looks to Matt BryanTeye CarmichaelJeff Hartley and Jonathan Rees of Smith Bryan & Myers, as well as in-house advocates Thomas Culligan and Tara Chilton.

If cooking isn’t your forte, there are plenty of restaurants clamoring for your business. More than 10,000 of them — and the 1.3 million-plus Floridians they employ — are represented by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA), the trade group focused on growing the state’s $112 billion hospitality industry.

While patrons are waiting for their plates to come out of the kitchen, FRLA’s extensive Tallahassee team will be hard at work advancing the trade association’s issues du jour.

Working on FRLA’s behalf in the Capitol are Jim DaughtonWarren HusbandDoug BellLeslie DughiAimee LyonAndy PalmerAllison Liby-Schoonover and Karl Rasmussen of Metz Husband & Daughton.

Though you can pick up some fireworks with your groceries, you’ll need to go elsewhere to find the real-deal blow-off-your-fingers stuff. There are plenty of tents on the side of the road but if you live in the Interstate 4 corridor, consider stopping by Phantom Fireworks Showrooms — also known as “America’s premier fireworks retailer.”

If there’s ever a bill that threatens to blow up the industry, they’ll rely on the team at Jones Walker to shoot it down. The roster includes French BrownMarc DunbarPeter DunbarMartha EdenfieldChris Moya and Jennifer Ungru — thanks to them, it’s been half a decade since Floridians needed to pretend they’re using their stockpile of ordinance to get a flock of birds away from their crops.

Wherever the fireworks come from, make sure to put safety first. Not only could you lose a digit, but you could also start a fire that spreads like … well, wildfire. Unfortunately for Florida firefighters, that means they’ll be on the clock for the holiday weekend.

Many local fire departments and fire control districts have lobbyists in Tallahassee, but the biggest advocates for that flavor of first responder are the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association and the Florida Professional Firefighters.

The former is represented by Travis BlantonJon Johnson and Eric Prutsman of Johnson & Blanton while the latter relies on in-housers Wayne BernoskaGeorge MarshRocco Salvatori and Meredith Brock Stanfield as well as contract lobbyist Screven Watson of Screven Watson & Associates.

Florida is also home to some companies that produce “rockets’ red glare” and “bombs bursting in air” that are far beyond consumer grade — and they have lobbyists.

For the former, look no further than Taylor Biehl and Jeff Sharkey of Capitol Alliance Group. The duo represents SpaceX, which has been launching rockets from the Sunshine State for years. The Space Coast is also a top launching ground for other major players in the commercial space industry, such as Blue Origin, which is repped by Brian Ballard and Mathew Forrest of Ballard Partners.

For the “bursting” part, there’s no better candidate than Lockheed Martin. The gargantuan defense contractor has well over 100,000 employees worldwide, and a sizable chunk (around 17,000, per the company) live in Florida. The defense company is loaded for bear with in-housers Brian Baluta, Robert Head, Joseph Nolan and Zach Sherman working hand-in-hand with George Levesque and Jessica Love of GrayRobinson.

For many Americans, a festive Fourth means imbibing—just make sure whoever is holding the lighter hasn’t been frequenting the cooler.

Florida’s beer and spirit industry is a big one. From renowned craft breweries such as Cigar City to batches of the hard stuff from St. Petersburg Distillery, there’s something for everyone — even macro brew operations have a major footprint in the Sunshine State.

For its lobbying needs, the Beer Industry of Florida has tapped Brian BautistaLaura BoehmerNelson DiazMercer FearingtonJustin HollisSeth McKeelSydney RidleyDavid Shepp and Clark Smith of The Southern Group. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli also reps the industry association.

St. Petersburg Distillery, meanwhile, has retained Mike CorcoranJacqueline CorcoranMatt BlairBethany McAlister and Will Rodriguez of Corcoran Partners. Meanwhile, the team at Capital City Consulting — Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Maicel Green, Andrew Ketchel and Chris Schoonover — is handling matters for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a national trade association representing many major labels.

Of course, if “drinkability” is your priority, then Anheuser-Busch will probably brew something to your liking. It’s one of the biggest alcohol companies in the world, and it has a lobbying team to match.

Veteran government relations pro BillieAnne Gay is the point person, and she’s backed up by a swath of contract lobbyists. The 2024 team includes Slater BaylissChristopher ChaneySarah Busk SuskeyJeff Woodburn and Stephen Shiver of The Advocacy Partners; Frank MayernickTracy Mayernick and Rob Johnson of The Mayernick Group; and the teams at Dean Mead and Smith Bryan & Myers.

Where can you get all those beverages in one place? ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, of course. The ubiquitous chain has top-shelf lobbyist Scott Dick handling its affairs in Tallahassee. If Total Wine is more your style, then Jorge Chamizo and Melissa Ramba of Floridian Partners would be happy to point you toward the nearest location.

If you choose to have a drink or three, leave the driving to Uber.

The ride-hailing company has an extensive lobbying corps, with nearly 30 advocates helping them out in the Capitol complex. The firms are Colodny Fass, The Fiorentino Group, Floridian Partners, GrayRobinson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Pittman Law Group, and RSA Consulting Group.

However you celebrate in the Sunshine State, the holiday is a good reminder that the nation has endured nearly 250 years. There have been tough times — the Revolutionary War was one of them — but the U.S. has always found itself pressing forward on the journey toward a more perfect union. That alone is something worth celebrating.

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.

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