One of the biggest names in Florida lobbying, if not the biggest, is Ron Books. Over the last 20 years, Book has defined lobbying in the Sunshine State, consistently rising to the top as the one best of the best in the lobbying world, ranking his firm No. 1 on Sunshine State News list of Top Lobbyists in the Sunshine State.
Books name is one that came up frequently in talks with other lobbyists -- to many, he represents the unique, shining example of one of the greatest lobbyists ever, and one who seems to work very well -- and very hard -- with not many people working alongside him.
Ronnie is the last of a breed of lobbyists where they were bigger on their own than any other firm, said Peter Schorsch of SaintPetersBlog. There wont be any more Ron Books.
Books political experience is much lengthier than the average lobbyists -- he delved into Florida politics nearly 40 years ago in the 1970s, when he worked in the Florida House of Representatives. His firsthand experience in witnessing the many changes in Floridas political system has undoubtedly shaped Book into the lobbyist he is today.
Although Book is the head honcho, hes joined by two other lobbyists who bring their own talents to the lobbying firm. Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette bring health care and intergovernmental affairs experience to help keep the firm at the top of its game.
Last year was a particularly lucrative year for Books firm, which brought in $5.6 million in legislative fees, or around $1.6 million per lobbyist.
Book attributed a successful year to a recovering economy.
2013 was a great year, Book told Sunshine State News. As the economy rebounded, so did opportunities in the [legislative] process ... The upkick in Floridas revenues allowed many of our clients opportunities that had shrunk during the economic downturn.
Books firm represented many big-name clients in 2013, from AT&T to Miamis Sun Life Stadium and the University of Miami. The lobbying shop also represented a great number of local governments in South Florida. The firm's top client last year was AutoNation, followed by the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.
In total, the firm had 81 clients in 2013 with an average annual retainer of $69,000 per client.
Books clients also feel a closeness with his firm due to the fact that he not only lobbies for causes, but also believes in them -- a distinction not seen with many other lobbyists.
He is enthusiastic and celebrates with us ... our successes, said Suzanne Sayfie, executive director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. When you have somebody who believes in you, its so much easier for them to support your mission because its something they believe in also. Hes just amazing.
While Book enjoys a great deal of prosperity in the lobbying process, it doesnt come without challenges. Book told SSN that term limits prove especially difficult in the lobbying profession because many lawmakers just dont have the same depth of knowledge on issues as those who have been familiar with them for many years.
I dont know that the system has benefited when all that institutional knowledge is with us [lobbyists,] Book said. While we enjoy the value of it, term limits serve as a challenge for all of us who represent long-term interest-related clients ... youre continuing to re-educate the process on an ongoing basis.
In order to effectively work with legislators, Book faces the challenge of term limits head-on, meeting with lawmakers in person to communicate with them about legislative issues. Because of time constraints, time management is crucial to educating lawmakers on issues.
Members ... want you to come in and in five or six minutes tell them both sides of the issue and the what, where, why, when, how. Thats what you have to do, he explained.
But Books not deterred by potential problems in the lobbying world. Beyond the challenges of the lobbying process comes an opportunity, he told SSN, to make a real impact on the world and help create beneficial public policies for Floridians.
I love everything about the process, he said. We do a lot of good.
How we rated lobbyists:
Sunshine State News staff and researchers analyzed thousands of Floridas 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 SSNs rankings, we considered a combination of three factors: a firms total billings, a firms average client annual retainer and the sum of a firms total 2013 fees divided by the number of lobbyists it employed last year.