Ballard Partners Gets Big Bucks to Win in Tallahassee
Around the State
One of the biggest names in Florida lobbying is Brian Ballard’s, and it’s not without good reason. Ballard is renowned for his work and his firm, Ballard Partners, raked in the highest amount of legislative fees in 2012, ranking the firm No. 3 on Sunshine State News’ list of Top Lobbyists in Florida.
Last year, Ballard Partners was home to 11 lobbyists and brought in $5.2 million in legislative fees, or about $473,000 per lobbyist.
Ballard told Sunshine State News he expects the firm to see a 10-to-20 percent growth from last year’s numbers.
Ballard’s no stranger to Florida politics -- he has vast experience in the field, specifically in high-profile political fundraising. He had a hand in John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, serving as Florida finance chairman and national co-chairman of McCain’s campaign. On top of his lobbying practice, Ballard led Mitt Romney’s fundraising team in Florida in 2012.
Senior Vice President Joe McCann also has significant experience in Florida politics. McCann served as the campaign manager for Bob Butterworth for attorney general, was senior legislative aide to former Florida Sen. Ron Klein, and also served as legislative aide to Congressman James Bacchus.
One of the firm’s largest clients is U.S. Sugar, which paid Ballard Partners $180,000 in legislative fees last year. The lobbying firm also represented several other high-profile clients such as Automated Healthcare, Florida Power & Light, Bethesda Healthcare and Amazon.com. The firm’s average client retainer in 2012 was $42,000.
Brian Ballard told Sunshine State News that lobbyists at Ballard Partners have lots of training and experience at the government level, which sets them apart from other lobbying firms in the state.
“There are a lot of good firms out there that do really good work,” he began. “I think what sets us apart from those folks who work hard is that all of our guys spent time serving at various levels of government, including high levels of government.”
Beyond their political experience, the lobbying firm has one important thing in mind for their clients: they help them win.
“We pride ourselves on really one driving force: We win,” said Ballard. “We make sure we do everything we can under the appropriate ethical and legal standards to make sure [the clients] win. I always like to tell people, if I were going to hire ... a group of lobbyists, I would hire us. If I ever get to the point in my career where I say, ‘There’s a better firm out there for a better result,’ then I really would say, ‘OK, I’m done, I really don’t want to do this anymore.’”
But while winning is important to the firm, Ballard says that’s not all that makes his firm so successful. It's close relationships with clients that have helped the firm throughout the years.
“Caring about your client as you would a member of your family ... has to be the driving force behind any successful lobbyist,” explained Ballard. “We really pride ourselves on client retention and client satisfaction. ... If that drives you every day, then you’re going to be successful in this business. If it doesn’t, then you should really do something else.”
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.