will be holding a meeting Wednesday from
9:30-11:30 a.m. at County HQ on Andrews Avenue,
but the big news is that the meeting will actually be
The agenda for the meeting is here:
Public comments are scheduled for 11 a.m.
As of today, I plan on being there and will bring
along my handy camera/camcorder to capture
any of the human melodrama, wit or comic
oddities that I spot there, if any, while I'm
checking it all out.
Plus any lobbyists that I happen to recognize
in the audience -or behind the curtains.
I called the always-helpful Dee Platt at Comm.
Sue Gunzburger's office yesterday and here's
what Dee wrote back about how to watch the webcast.
If you scroll to the bottom of the Ethics Commission
website, and click on “Live Meetings Webcast”
at the time of the meeting, it will open up a new
window for video central and it will show the
relationships among the powers-that-be and their
pals was the topic du jour about 18 years ago.
Plus, the whole Caesar vs. Ceasar debate.
SOME LAWMAKERS, LOBBYISTS ENJOYING COZY BUSINESS TIESFrom Herald Staff and Wire Reports
Twenty-six of Florida's 160 state lawmakers have business relationships or own property with some of the 3,000 lobbyists who represent various interests at the Capitol, state records show.
"It probably is one of the more nagging problems we still have," says Bill Jones, lobbyist for Common Cause of Florida. "If you're out here trying to influence somebody . . . it's another way to ingratiate yourself."
The Tampa Tribune reported Sunday that these relationships take on all sorts of shapes. They include:
* Senate President Gwen Margolis, D-North Miami Beach, who for several years has owned a $70,000 piece of land in Tallahassee with Capitol lobbyist Phial Blank, who has represented several interests in South Florida.
* A few legislators who bought townhouses years ago with fellow legislators or staffers, only to have their roommates go into lobbying.
* A few legislators who work for companies that employ lobbyists -- such as state Sen. Javier Souto, R-Miami, whose employer, Burroughs-Wellcome, has a North Carolina-based lobbyist, John Bowdish, registered in Tallahassee.
They also include relationships which, one of the lawmakers involved concedes, pose ethical questions.
Rep. Norm Ostrau, D-Plantation, who last year fought for ethics reforms, guaranteed a business loan with lobbyist Mitchell Ceasar so their wives could open a cookie shop in The Fashion Mall at Plantation. Ostrau also shares office space with Ceaser in Plantation.
Ceasar's lobbying clients include Port Everglades. However, Ostrau has been one of Broward's most vocal critics of the port's spending practices, and has advocated a takeover by the county.
Yet Ostrau recognizes he probably shouldn't have gotten involved in the business arrangement. The cookie shop was sold after it lost money.
"It's definitely a cozy relationship," Ostrau said. "I didn't think it was something to avoid altogether. I didn't think it was something that would be a problem."
Others say there is nothing wrong with their business relationships:
* Margolis co-owns a $70,000 parcel of Tallahassee property near a golf course with Blank, who represents several clients including Alamo Rent A Car and Amoco Corp. Blank was among the lobbyists who persuaded the Legislature to ante $1 million for a stadium for the Lipton International Tennis Championship on Key Biscayne. Both say their business ties had nothing to do with the legislation.
"I have several million dollars worth of property," says Margolis, a real estate broker. "A little $50,000 lot isn't going to influence me."
Blank: "The fact that she owns a piece of land with me has nothing to do with the way she handles issues I talk to her about."
* Rep. Peter Deutsch, D-Sunrise, is a lawyer. In private practice, he was representing Invex, a Dade company forming a community development district. He hired Wade Hopping, a Tallahassee lobbyist, to provide legal advice.
"It's a very technical area of the law. Wade Hopping is the expert on this. He has created more of these than anyone else," Deutsch said. "I honestly do not recall Wade lobbying me in 10 years."
Hopping wrote in a letter to the Legislature's lobbyist registrar: "The business relationship is one separate and apart
from legislative matters and is essentially a straight-forward attorney-client relationship."
* Close friends Rep. Elaine Gordon, D-North Miami, and lobbyist Roberta Fox, who represented South Dade in the Legislature, have jointly owned a Tallahassee townhouse since 1979. During legislative sessions from 1987-89, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, paid them $25 a day for the use of a sofa-bed in the living room, a report filed by Fox shows. Frankel didn't stay there in 1990, but returned in 1991. She paid no rent this year.
"I do not believe that the value of Rep. Frankel's ability to reside in the townhouse is a gift from me or value from me under the law," Fox wrote to the lobby registrar, "because she in effect is the guest of Rep. Gordon."
As for her own friendship with Fox, Gordon says: "We talk politics. We don't talk on the level of, 'I need your help on a bill.' That's verboten."
* Next door, lobbyist Linda Cox -- a former legislator -- owns a townhouse with longtime friend Rep. Anne Mackenzie, D- Fort Lauderdale. They bought it in 1980, when Mackenzie worked as Cox's legislative aide.
"If I told you how many times we've had that baby on the market so we wouldn't be in the business of owning a townhouse together, you wouldn't believe it," Mackenzie said. "We can't get rid of it."
* Dade lobbyist Ron Book also represents Lipton, among many clients. Book and state Rep. Ron Silver, D-North Miami Beach, have invested together in a company, Linc International, providing information in medical emergencies.
Silver says he had an idea about starting such a company years ago, and when Book found someone starting one he put Silver in touch with them.
Silver says the fact that he supported a state appropriation for the Lipton stadium and numerous other Dade projects has nothing to do with Book. "I supported the Lipton tennis tournament before Ron Book ever got involved as a lobbyist."