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The new breed

By Times Staff Writer
Published March 7, 2004

Before turning to lobbying, many of the old hands served in the Legislature. None of the new breed served elected office, but they're doing all right for themselves. Former House Speaker James Harold Thompson, a lobbyist since 1988, wonders about their staying power: "Some of the young ones are making a lot of money. It's sellable for a while, the question is how long they can maintain it."

Many lobbyists consider a story like this great for business. As veteran lobbyist J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich is fond of saying, a bad story in the St. Pete Times is worth 10 new clients.

Clients are as of December 2003.

Text by staff writer Lucy Morgan. Photographs by staff photographer Michael Rondou and from Times files.

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Ballard
BRIAN BALLARD

Age: 42

Got started: Carried Bob Martinez's luggage in 1986 campaign for governor; rose to chief of operations for Martinez administration.

77 clients include: AT&T, Florida Power & Light, Barr Laboratories, Siemens, Citigroup Global Markets, Florida Beer Wholesalers, town of Palm Beach.

Assets include: $700,000 home in Moore Pond, a gated community north of Tallahassee; $600,000 historic house/office building downtown; beachfront condo in Walton County; building vacation home on $1-million lot nearby; 2003 Hummer, 2003 Ford Explorer, 2000 Mercedes Benz, 1998 Chevrolet truck.

Notable: Married Katherine Smith, daughter of former Secretary of State and Attorney General Jim Smith, 1990; father-in-law is lobbying partner; Smith & Ballard includes partners from both parties: Democrat Joe McCann and Republicans Amy Young, Greg Turbeville and Smith's son, Clark.

The profession: "It's not what you think you'll be when you are 8 or 9 years old. Kids want to be an astronaut or a police officer. But we get some neat clients with neat issues, and we can make a difference."

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Corcoran
MICHAEL CORCORAN

Age: 36

Got started: Grew up in West Pasco, lives in Dade City; aide and campaign consultant for Rep. Buddy Johnson of Plant City; stayed on when Johnnie Byrd won that seat; began lobbying, 1999.

38 clients include: Tampa Electric, Golden Rule Insurance Co., Verizon, St. Joe Co., St. Petersburg Kennel Club.

Assets include: $200,000 home near Dade City; $275,000 Dade City office building, purchased last year; modest home in Tallahassee; two businesses: Corcoran & Associates lobbying and Capitol Consulting, which have been paid $2.3-million from candidates and state GOP since 1996; 2002 Toyota Sequoia, 2001 Ford Explorer.

Notable: Rocketed to success on coattails of Speaker Byrd; hired new partner this year, 25-year-old Courtney Bense, daughter of incoming Speaker Allen Bense; says she will not lobby while her father is speaker.

The profession: "I have a friendship with Johnnie (Byrd). You have to develop that in campaigns because you are giving them political advice, and they have to trust you."

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Dempsey
HAYDEN DEMPSEY

Age: 36.

Got started: Volunteered for Gov. Bob Martinez's 1990 re-election campaign; worked other GOP campaigns before attending Nova Southeastern; practiced law in Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, moved back to Tallahassee, 1997; governor's legal counsel for legislative affairs; left to lobby, 2002; works at Greenberg Traurig.

12 clients include: Florida Assisted Living Affiliation, MV Transportation, Florida Medical Association.

Assets include: $500,000 home under construction in Southwood, a St. Joe Co. development south of Tallahassee; 2000 GMC Yukon, 1997 Nissan.

Notable: Born in Tampa, raised in Winter Park; father, former federal prosecutor Bernie Dempsey; stepfather, Orlando lawyer E. Thom Rumberger; wife, Angela, prosecutes toxic waste cases at Department of Environmental Protection.

Why he left government: "It was time. The governor likes having new people with fresh ideas and energy. With family, it's hard to give the kids and the family the time and attention needed."

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Charles Dudley
CHARLES DUDLEY

Age: 35

Got started: Got into politics when father, former Sen. Fred Dudley, campaigned in 1982; began lobbying, 1990, as aide to former Rep. Don Reed, general counsel for Florida Cablevision; Charles Dudley now general counsel for Cablevision, lobbies with Barreto Cunningham May Dudley Maloy.

33 clients include: Aramark Correctional Services, Florida Cable Telecommunications, Florida Insurance Council.

Assets include: $600,000 home, purchased last year in Bobbin Brook, woodsy community north of Tallahassee; $200,000 condo on Jupiter Island; 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe, leased BMW.

Notable: A friend of Senate President Jim King since 1986, when King won House seat and Dudley attended Florida State University; wife, Alison, a former legislative aide, and brother, Chris, also are lobbyists.

The profession: "I love to take the skills of being a lawyer and help solve problems. I like the whole concept of having a frustrated business that can't be as profitable or expand because government is in the way and the challenge of figuring out what the client needs done to be successful."

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Chris Dudley
CHRIS DUDLEY

Age: 32

Got started: Father served in House and Senate, 1982 to 1998; Chris lost his own bid for House in 1994; aide to Rep. Greg Gay, R-Cape Coral; worked for Bush/Brogan campaign, 1998; aide to Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan; legislative adviser to Bush; left to lobby with Southern Strategy Group, October 2000.

39 clients include: BlueCross BlueShield, Caremark, Florida Phosphate Council, Tampa Electric.

Assets include: New $500,000 home in Bobbin Trace, woodsy community north of Tallahassee; 2000 Land Rover, 2001 BMW convertible, 2002 Suzuki motorcycle.

Notable: Lobbying is a Dudley family affair: older brother Charlie, sister-in-law Alison and father, former Sen. Fred Dudley, lobby with other firms; wife, Tara, left lobbying to attend law school.

Why lobby? "I had spent seven years in state government. It was time for me to do something different. I love politics, I love the process. It was an opportunity to take my knowledge and put it to some use out there in the private sector."

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Harrell
MIKE HARRELL

Age: 39

Got started: Left Hattiesburg, Miss., 1988, to work in Washington for hometown congressman, Trent Lott; worked on George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign; moved to Tallahassee, 1991; lobbied for Florida Medical Association and for Steel & Hector law firm; established lobbying business, the Harrell Group, September 2002.

25 clients include: Florida Outdoor Advertising, Gulfstream Park, Sprint, U.S. Sugar, the Staubach Co.

Assets include: Million-dollar home under construction in Rose Hill, gated community north of Tallahassee; 2004 Chevrolet Silverado.

Notable: Governor's friend and frequent golf partner; divorced former Bush staffer Sally Bradshaw, 1998; married Mallory L. Roberts, lawyer at Department of Management Services, in 2001; she's now stay-at-home mom.

The old days: As one of three young lobbyists for the Florida Medical Association in the early '90s: "We were dirt poor. We had one car between us."

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Heffley
RICHARD J. HEFFLEY

Age: 42

Got started: Moved from Illinois to Florida, 1990; behind-the-scenes roles in multiple Republican legislative campaigns; assistant secretary of state, 1995-97.

18 clients include: U.S. Sugar, AT&T, Tampa Electric, St. Joe Co., Florida Medical Association.

Assets include: $700,000 home in Golden Eagle, gated golf course community north of Tallahassee; $500,000 condo at Seagrove Beach in Walton County; Heffley & Associates lobbying firm; Strategic Direction.com, campaign business he shares with former Florida GOP executive director Randy Enwright, has been paid more than $2.2-million since 1996 for work on Republican races.

Notable: Came under fire in 1997 as assistant secretary of state for publicizing his boss, Sandy Mortham, at state expense; started lobbying in 1997; teaches class at FSU on lobbying; shuns publicity.

Camera shy: "I try to keep a low profile and not self-promote."

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Johnson
JON E. JOHNSON

Age: 38

Got started: Worked for Republican political campaigns, Florida Right to Life and the former Department of Professional Regulation; started own lobbying business, 1992.

37 clients include: Flo-Sun Sugar, Florida Power & Light, Florida Cable Telecommunications, Adventist Health Care, Florida Hospital Association.

Assets include: $1-million estate in Ox Bottom, north of Tallahassee; office building near the Capitol; $415,000 cabin in North Carolina mountains; Nissan Altima, 2002 Ford Excursion.

Notable: Wife, Beth, home schools their five adopted children; he runs weekly Bible study group; close to Sen. Dan Webster and future House Speaker Allan Bense, who singles out Johnson for helping him from his earliest days in politics; lobbies with Travis Blanton, 31, another ex-GOP employee.

His low profile: "I like to fly below the radar, I'd rather be underestimated. ... I'd like the lobbyist who works against me to think, "It's only Jon Johnson.' "

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Keller
SCOTT KELLER

Age: 34

Got started: Grew up in Orlando; during high school volunteered for School Board races in Seminole County; worked as House intern while attending FSU; two years on House Insurance Committee payroll; joined Greenberg Traurig lobbying, 1994, now the firm's director of governmental affairs.

16 clients include: Johnson & Johnson, UnitedHealthcare, Power Plant Entertainment, Ford Motor Co.

Assets include: $265,000 home on Meridian Ride in Tallahassee; recently sold $100,000 home in east Tallahassee that he used as rental property; waiting to close on $800,000 townhouse on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.; 1997 BMW 528.

Notable: Lobbies U.S. Congress for housing authorities of Chicago and Indianapolis; lobbied for U.S. Housing and Urban Development in Washington; worked GOP campaigns in Mississippi and Florida; plans to take job this month as deputy chief of staff for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Growing up: "Dinner was a debate every night. If you had an opinion, Dad was going in the opposite direction to make you defend yourself."

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McGee
GENE McGEE

Age: 44

Got started: Hooked on politics working for Citrus County clerk of court candidate in 1980s; ran campaigns for Rep. Paul Hawkes, R-Crystal River, 1988 and 1990; worked for state GOP, House Republicans and Secretary of State Sandy Mortham; opened lobbying business, 1998; four clients in 1999.

30 clients include: Progress Energy, Anheuser-Busch, Florida Cable Telecommunications.

Assets include: $107,000 home in Tallahassee; million-dollar home under construction in Citrus County; 2002 BMW 530i.

Notable: Close to Senate President Jim King, was his staff director in the House in the 1990s; long friendships with Bush administration personnel.

Dad's disappointment: Father was proud when he worked for government, dismayed to hear him fess up to lobbying for gambling and liquor companies. "But I told him I make 10 times as much money."

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Rancourt
DAVID A. RANCOURT

Age: 38

Got started: Ran campaign for U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis of Tarpon Springs, 1992; helped Jim Smith's bid for governor, 1994; director, Division of Elections for Sandy Mortham, 1994-98; joined Bush administration, late 1998, rose to deputy chief of staff, helped select agency heads and key administration personnel.

34 clients include: AT&T, BlueCross BlueShield, Tampa Electric, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, U.S. Sugar, Disney.

Assets include: $2-million home in Tallahassee; barn on $300,000 piece of land outside town; home in Lakeland, for parents; one-third interest in multiple properties purchased by Southern Strategy Group Assets; 2003 Cadillac Deville, Buick Rendezvous, Lincoln Navigator, two motorcycles.

Notable: Left Bush staff late in 1999 to join Southern Strategy Group Inc; low-key style and familiarity with state agencies get him audience with most anyone he wants.

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Turbeville
GREG TURBEVILLE

Age: 33

Got started: Left South Carolina to attend FSU; helped Republican House campaigns, summer 1994; worked for House Rules Committee; chief policy adviser to House Speaker John Thrasher, 1998; joined Gov. Bush's staff, 2001, rose to policy director; left $100,000 job to start lobbying, September 2003.

58 clients include: Florida Beer Wholesalers, Florida Water Services, BP, AT&T, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Lightning.

Assets include: $177,000 home in Tallahassee, purchased in 2001, before joining Smith & Ballard; last October, traded 1996 Toyota Camry for 2004 BMW 530i.

Notable: Aspiring professional musician, majored in classical guitar but developed tendinitis in both arms; still plays guitar.

Why lobby? "I knew I wanted to stay involved in the legislative process, and this was a way to do it."

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Yablonski
BRIAN YABLONSKI

Age: 36

Got started: In 10th grade, friend's father, a congressman, helped him get internship in Washington; staff assistant for President George Bush and met the family; worked for Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future after Bush lost 1994 bid for governor; joined Bush transition team as policy adviser, 1998; left January 2003 to join Poole, McKinley & Blosser lobbyists.

10 clients include: General Motors, Sylvan Education, Universal Studios.

Assets include: $200,000 home in Ox Bottom Manor, north of Tallahassee, purchased 1998; Ford Explorer.

Notable: Bush appointed him to Fish and Wildlife Commission, January 2004; raised in union family in suburban Washington, D.C.; great uncle, Jock Yablonski, his wife and daughter assassinated in 1969 in dispute over election for presidency of United Mine Workers.

Why he didn't grow up a liberal Democrat: "I'm the black sheep. But I was a child of the Reagan years, and I went to work as an intern for a congressman who happened to be a Republican."

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Yaeger
DON YAEGER

Age: 41

Got started: Reporter for the Florida Times Union, covered the Capitol when Jim King won House seat in 1986; left newspaper to write for Sports Illustrated, took up lobbying as sideline; wrote several sports books.

8 clients include: Infinity Software, Flo-Sun Sugar, Enterprise Florida, Wilkes & McHugh.

Assets: $500,000 home on Thomasville Road, north of Tallahassee; $60,000 townhouse in Tallahassee; townhouse on the beach in Gulf County; 2003 GMC Yukon Denali, 2000 Mercedes Benz S500, two motorcycles, Bombardier all terrain vehicle, two small boats.

Notable: Frequent dinner companion of Senate President Jim King, who counts Yaeger one of his closest friends.

Why lobby? "It's not the lobbying I love, it's politics. I love being around it."

[Last modified March 7, 2004, 06:08:14]


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