Government

Capital City Consulting Uses Teamwork, Specialization to Push Legislation in Tallahassee

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: June 11, 2014 3:55 AM
Florida Capitol Rotunda
Over the last 11 years, Capital City Consulting has made a name for itself as one of the most specialized, strategic lobbying firms in the Sunshine State, ranking it No. 3 on Sunshine State News' list of Top Lobbyists in Florida.
 

With nearly three decades of experience, co-founder Gerald Wester boasts expertise in several areas of lobbying, including financial services and health care. Prior to funding Capital City Consulting, Wester worked in Florida’s Insurance Department and as a private-sector governmental consultant.

Wester joined forces with Nick Iarossi and Ron LaFace Jr. to build Capital City Consulting in 2003, bringing together their own unique set of political experiences to establish themselves in the world of lobbying.  

Iarossi got his first taste of politics as student body president at Florida State University and initially wanted to run for office. He worked as a staffer in the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate, and eventually as a law clerk at the Department of Insurance. It wasn’t until he started working at a law firm, however, that Iarossi realized his interest in the lobbying profession.

LaFace has been lobbying ever since he left law school at Florida State University, specializing in several business areas, including insurance and financial services, education and construction, to name a few.

Since its founding, the firm has grown significantly in terms of clientele, but as far as the actual number of lobbyists working at the firm goes, the number has remained relatively small.

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“In my experience and observation, one thing we are very careful with is chemistry among ourselves,” Gerald Wester told Sunshine State News. “We are very careful to grow from within.”

Capital City Consulting has grown. In 2013, it employed seven lobbyists and brought in $4 million in legislative fees, or about $570,000 per lobbyist.

When it comes to the firm’s clients, Wester said the firm’s primary consideration is to do its best to keep its current clients happy and gather more clients through positive recommendations that way.

“Our No. 1 overall focus is with our current clients,” he said. “Our motto is to take care of all existing clients and all else will happen.”

The firm must be doing something right -- in 2013, Capital City Consulting had 84 clients with an average annual retainer of $48,000.

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The lobbying shop’s biggest client in 2013 was casino and resort operating company Las Vegas Sands, but other clients included the Everglades Foundation and the American Insurance Association.

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Most importantly for clients, Capital City Consulting helps push tough legislation through the Capitol through carefully planned strategy and close political connections.

“They’ve done some great legislative work for us,” said Harry Bassett of Assurant Solutions. “They passed some [legislation] that I knew was going to be tough, but they still got it done, and that’s really the key: knowing the ‘how’ ‘when’ and ‘who,’ and I think that’s one of the things they do extraordinarily well.”

“They have folks ... who have been around for decades,” said Audrey Brown, president and CEO of Florida Association of Health Plans. “They have younger folks working on issues as well, but they just have this huge depth and breadth of expertise on my issues and other insurance issues as well. They have it all.”

For Wester, teamwork and good-spirited nature are qualities that make the firm thrive.

“We are all energetic and we get the job done,” he said.


Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.



How we rated lobbyists:

Sunshine State News staff and researchers analyzed thousands of Florida’s legislative lobbying compensation reports filed within the databases and official records maintained by Online Sunshine and the Florida Lobbyist Registration Office in Tallahassee. In order to determine SSN’s rankings, we considered a combination of three factors: a firm’s total billings, a firm’s average client annual retainer and the sum of a firm’s total 2013 fees divided by the number of lobbyists it employed last year.


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