• Jacksonville government agencies spend tens of thousands on lobbyists

    By: Jenna Bourne , Action News Jax


    Some of the biggest spenders on lobbying firms in Jacksonville are government agencies.

    Action News Jax investigated the Jacksonville government agencies that are paying lobbying firms the most to influence state legislators on their behalf.

    Many are shelling out tens of thousands in tax dollars.

    “Accountability is a key part of this equation,” said Rick Mullaney, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute director.

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    The city of Jacksonville spent as much as $100,000 dollars so far this year on lobbying efforts.

    “The city of Jacksonville last year had a very clear lobbying objective: they wanted to go to Tallahassee and have a statute that would give a local option sales tax for pension reform,” Mullaney said.

    A spokesperson for the city of Jacksonville said the city does not keep a list of which legislators were lobbied. She said lobbyists focused this year on pension reform and securing money for public safety and infrastructure.

    The Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund, which is a department of the city of Jacksonville, spent upwards of an additional $50,000.

    The public defender’s office spent as much as $40,000.

    Duval County Public Schools spent up to $50,000 on lobbyists.

    There are some big things public data does not show you: exactly how much was spent, which legislators were lobbied and what causes that money was spent to support. 

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    “It might be a good investment. But there has to be accountability and you have to know what you’re getting in return,” Mullaney said.

    The public defender’s office did not respond to Action News Jax’s questions about what issues its lobbying firm focused on this year, or how much was actually spent.

    The biggest spender on lobbyists in Jacksonville is cigar company Swisher International, which spent as much as $160,000 so far this year.

    Loop’s Nursery and Greenhouses, which is working to secure a state license to grow and sell medical marijuana, spent up to $40,000.

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