When the 2017 legislative session began, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he wanted to clean up Tallahassee by adopting sweeping ethics reforms. Those reforms have advanced about as far as sex and drinking have stopped during the legislative session.
At a time when there is such a severe public trust deficit, our elected officials should be more aware of the dangers of even the appearance of self-enrichment, as well as their relationships with lobbyists, regardless if that relationship is just friends or friends with benefits.
It seems, however, legislator’s insatiable desire for self-gain, pleasure and perpetual re-election outweigh their concern for the public trust.
Today we have a Senate President and a House Speaker who are both employed by law/lobbying firms. They hide behind the “I’m a lawyer” line, but the truth is, their employers directly employ registered lobbyists who lobby the legislative bodies these two men head.
How can this be anything but a conflict of interest? Even if these two men do not entertain matters of their firm’s clients, which is likely all but impossible, the conflict is inescapable.
As bad as the real and perceived conflict the employer presents, what may be even worse is a legislative leader helping lobbyists get hired and letting them dictate agendas.
There seems to be little doubt that the Mayernicks benefit from a close relationship with Joe Negron, the question is: Do they benefit from working issues Joe likes or does Joe like simply like helping them on their issues?
It’s good to be close to Joe
Many news outlets have noted that lobbyists Frank and Tracy Mayernick are so close to the Senate President, that they’ve earned a reputation for being Joe Negron’s de facto mouthpieces. A paid contract lobbyist being noted as the “mouthpiece” for the President of the Senate — could anything sound more offensive to a voter than that?
From a cursory look at a few issues and how they moved in recent legislative sessions, it appears that in addition to lending his mouthpiece to the Mayernicks, Negron may also be letting them dictate legislative priorities, calendaring and policy decisions.
During the 2017 legislative session, the “tear down walls” bill pushed by Walmart was one of the most contentious issues. Upon the hiring of the Mayernick firm, the issue propelled through the process like a Tesla rocket to space.
Similarly, a Medicaid reform bill including a dental carve out represented by another firm gained rapid momentum when Tracy Mayernick was added to the team. Funny how that works.
We are aware of no thank you notes received by the President’s office for his work for the Mayernick firm’s clients. But there are other ways to thank a leader. Campaign contributions being just one, and there are plenty of examples there.
There seems to be little doubt that the Mayernicks benefit from a close relationship with Joe Negron, the question is, do they benefit from issues Joe likes or does Joe like their issues?
Responding when asked is one thing, but in some cases, legislators also inappropriately call companies and organizations to tell them it would be a great idea to hire their friends.
The reality is that plenty of lobbyists in Tallahassee see their fortunes and bottom lines grow with a favorable relationship with leadership in the House or Senate, or the Governor. A close relationship obviously means access to those leaders. More access means more clients, higher fees, etc. It is also not uncommon for those leaders to recommend certain lobbyists when asked by companies who they think are the better firms in town.
Responding when asked is one thing, but in some cases, legislators also inappropriately call companies and organizations to tell them it would be a great idea to hire their friends. This is where the practice gets murky. Is this the kind of relationship we want in Tallahassee? A state lawmaker directing people to certain lobbyists?
The symbiotic game of lobbying and legislating in Tallahassee is sickening
Of course, this can work out well for all parties involved: The lobbyist gets hired, the legislator raises money from the lobbyist and the clients they represent, and the client gets the bills they want passed. What a deal! Everyone wins and everyone needs everyone else to do it. Ultimately, the lobbyist makes a lot of money, the client gets the policy they want and the legislator gets contributions needed to win re-election.
Such an absurd reality was similarly and aptly portrayed in the 1951 cartoon classic Foghorn/Legorn called “Swoggled.” This charming tale, however, is not so sweet when public dollars, policy and trust is being traded and sold.
In the real world of Tallahassee, an added perk is that everyone gets to know everyone very well and eventually obtains mutually destructive information on one another. As long as the music keeps playing, everyone behaves and does what they should, nobody but the citizenry gets hurt.
This symbiotic food chain of corruption where everyone at the Capitol gets fed while the public gets fleeced with one sided policy created by lobbyists for their client companies is exactly why Donald Trump calls Washington, DC a Swamp.
USA Herald is aware that the practice of legislators proactively calling clients happens quite often, while no lobbyist, university or company would go on record for fear of reprisal.
The example of the stunning rise of clients tied to the power of a Senator stands out above the rest. The Mayernick Firm has tremendously benefited from a close association with knowing Joe Negron. Only Joe Negron knows how much work he has put into the effort of enhancing the Mayernick’s client base. We invite him to share his response with us.
For Lobbyist Tracy Mayernick – Being Joe’s friend has privileges
Tracy Mayernick’s client list has certainly grown with Joe Negron’s ascension to Senate President. She’s gone from just 10 clients during the third quarter of 2010 to nearly 60 last year.
Of course, Mayernick and her clients have in turn donated money to Negron’s political causes. At best, this is just bad optics. But what is so compelling about the Mayernick firm that caused it this dramatic turn around? Did they get better as their firm got older? Or was it just the power of Joe Negron rising and the Mayernick’s perceived closeness to Joe?
The Mayernick’s are also the poster case for the mess in Tallahassee when you consider not only did they lobby on behalf of medical marijuana patients under Florida for Care, which was bankrolled by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, but they also signed Arizona Facilities Supply during the 2017 legislative session. AFS was interested in pursuing a medical marijuana license. Like no crying in baseball, there are no conflicts in Tallahassee. The move angered Morgan and drew criticism for the Mayernick’s who appeared to be lobbying on both sides of an issue.
The Mayernick Firm’s Client increases with Joe Negron’s rising power
Bottom line, ethics and integrity should be at the heart of the legislative process and until it is, the swamp of Tallahassee will never be drained.