Florida lobbyists urge overturning of state’s ban on gifts to lawmakers
BY MARY ELLEN KLAS
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — Florida lobbyists asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to review the state’s ban on lobbyists buying gifts and meals for legislators in light of the high court’s review of a similar case.
The petition was filed by Miami attorney Thomas Julin on behalf of lobbyists Ron Book, Guy Spearman and the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists. It argues that the court should consider the same issues that a lower court used to uphold Florida’s law when it takes up Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The lobbyist association argues that if the court rules in the Citizens case that disclosure requirements on “grass-roots” lobbying violate the free-speech provisions of the First Amendment, then it should overturn Florida’s law that requires lobbyists to broadly disclose their compensation.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Mickle ruled that Florida’s law, which bans lobbyists from buying gifts and meals for legislators and requires that lobbyists to broadly disclose their fees, did not violate the First Amendment.
Meanwhile, lobbyists operating in Tallahassee reported earning $45 million from January through March this year, despite the gift ban. That is essentially the same amount that all 2,000 state lobbyists made in the same period in 2008, when Florida wasn’t in the depths of a recession.
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com