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Southern Strategy Group Brings Large Size As Power Lobbying Firm

June 5, 2014 - 6:00pm

Since its creation in 1999, Southern Strategy Group has risen to the top of the lobbying game -- with five offices in Florida and even more in other Southern states, Southern Strategy Group ranks No. 6 on Sunshine State News list of Top Lobbyists in the Sunshine State.

SSG boasts a colorful collection of prominent figures in Florida politics as part of its staff. Founder Paul Bradshaw served on the campaign teams of many of Floridas most influential politicians, including former Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. Bradshaw also served as chief Cabinet aide to Gov. Bob Martinez.

Other SSG lobbyists are well-versed in the world of Florida politics. Before joining the firm, lobbyist Shawn Foster served as senior legislative staff for former Sen. Mike Fasano and then worked for six years as U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis district director.

Jerry McDaniel served as Floridas state budget director for both Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

[We] are a very different firm than any other in Tallahassee, Bradshaw told Sunshine State News. Bradshaw pointed to several reasons why SSG is distinct from other lobbying shops in the state capital, including teamwork and a strong social media presence.

Just three years before founding SSG, Paul Bradshaw only lobbied for three clients. Seventeen years later, Bradshaws firm has blossomed, serving more than 180 clients.

SSGs top client in 2013 was Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, followed by phosphate and potash giant Mosaic Fertilizer. Other SSG clients include American Traffic Solutions and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians.

Bradshaw explained that having many policy experts is what sets the firm apart from the other lobbying firms in the Sunshine State.

We cover state government at every level on every subject better than anybody else, he said. Weve got a subject-matter expert that can address [any] issue.

In total, SSG raked in $6.1 million in legislative fees last year with an average annual retainer of $34,000. With a team of 26 lobbyists, the firm averaged about $235,000 per lobbyist.

Having a large team of lobbyists helps the firm navigate through an ever-growing state government, says Bradshaw.

Government has gotten so big and so complex that if youre a big company coming into Florida, you need [expansive] coverage everywhere.

In the ever-changing world of politics, staying ahead of the curve is a prime consideration for top lobbying firms like SSG.

You want to continue to innovate, said Bradshaw. You dont want to become complacent. You always want the market reacting to you, rather than you reacting to the market.

Shawn Seipler, executive director of Clean the World, told SSN part of the reason why he chose SSG to lobby for his nonprofit was because the firm could open a lot of doors for his organization by introducing Clean the World to other businesses.

They are diligent, said Seipler. They work tirelessly to advance their partners goals and objectives.

Peter Schorsch of SaintPetersBlog, told Sunshine State News, If theres one lobbying group that has a true statewide presence, its Southern Strategy Group. He pointed to an expansive set of offices as one reason why the firm is among the best in the state.

Schorsch pointed out that SSG remains incredibly competitive with other lobbying shops in Florida.

Southern Strategy is a lot like the New York Yankees, said Schorsch. If they dont win the World Series, its a bad year for them ... theyve gone to a lot of World Series over the last 15 years, but there have been years when they havent gone to the World Series.

SSG has continued to expand its clientele, adding more and more new companies with the flip of the calendar from one year to the next.

Were registered for 207 clients during the first quarter of this year, said Paul Bradshaw. A lot of those clients are the best in breed in Florida ... the proof is in the pudding.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at@AllisonNielsen.

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.

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